I'm descending to bribery to keep Hamoun, my camel, sweet. Here I've found this massive block of salt, which must have come down from the north, through the city, and all its way over here to Bamako. In the past, caravans would be guided by highly paid Berbers who navigated by the sun, the stars, and the shape of the dunes, and acted as security to keep the merchants safe from raiders. Yacouba is the chief's cousin and the mine's foreman. Eventually, I find a small collection of them in a corner. So, my great-grandfather, they gave him a gift, like a woman, from Ethiopia because she's she's a slave and he married her.
It's a lost city, which was once a great trading post, a sanctuary for merchants arriving after the long trek across the Sahara from Timbuktu. This is Bamako, the capital of Mali, and one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. It attacks the buildings too, wind and sand eroding the walls. On the other side of the Atlas, Alice discovers ancient caves of salt, the commodity which gave the salt roads their name. And these guys here are weighing it and pushing it out. When I say I found it, me and 30 excited miners found it. Today, 60,000 people live in Timbuktu, a mix of the different tribes who have made their mark on this city throughout its history.
Standing at the crossroads between north and sub-Saharan Africa, and straddling the vast Sahara Desert and the great River Niger, the legendary trading post of Timbuktu, now one of the most dangerous places on earth, was founded over a thousand years ago, and its wealth was built on two precious commodities - gold and salt. I'm actually standing on a crossroads for two roads that go to Timbuktu. Traditions are a central part of everyday life in the region, and Morrison encounters women doing Henna. Everything good smells horrible 0:19:00 0:19:03 -at some point. They help her on her way to the ancient city of Sijilmasa, whose amazing forgotten ruins sit on the edge of the great Sahara Desert. Very surprising to find that here in such a small remote place.
It looks so simple on the map, a short plane ride away, but while once all routes led to the city, recent events have changed that. We rattle to a halt at what I'm told is the mine. For the traders of old it was a 50-day journey, across the seemingly endless sands of the Sahara, all the way to Timbuktu. He knew that he might die, but he still did it in the interests of finding out about this great city. Probably the most dangerous stage of the journey.
The women's dance was very, very gentle. In Morocco there are whole villages of people descended from the slaves who were forced along the salt roads from West Africa. So once you got yourself into a fortified area, 0:39:28 0:39:31 into a kasbah, you knew that your goods were safe 0:39:31 0:39:33 and that you weren't going to get robbed, 0:39:33 0:39:35 because there were a load of robbers and thieves on this highway, 0:39:35 0:39:39 and the only downside, I guess, is that, of course, 0:39:39 0:39:42 you had to pay for it. Apparently God designed the camel with the desert in mind, so I hope He's a good designer. Jbel Saghro to Sijilmasa 08:32 Sijilmasa has been an important trade city for centuries. I wish I had half that courage. I'm just getting everything ready.
The kasbah was the fortress, 0:39:18 0:39:21 and typically had four big towers, one on each corner, 0:39:21 0:39:25 tiny little windows and each one of those towers would have soldiers 0:39:25 0:39:28 guarding it. They help her on her way to the ancient city of Sijilmasa, whose amazing forgotten ruins sit on the edge of the great Sahara Desert. Everything that's sort of unusual, or is it calm or not? El Bukhari bin al-Suyuti is in charge of maintaining the city's cultural heritage, which includes fighting off the scouring effects of the weather. No, because in every corner you can feel the legacy of its magnificent past. I've been invited to join the family for lunch, which Muhammad's wife, Maya, is preparing. Haidera and the librarians managed to smuggle out almost all of the collection.
Timbuktu - a place so mysterious, mythical and far, far away that it has become a legendary destination. On every corner, I see people battling to keep the sand at bay. They brought out a box of the remaining books and set fire to it. It wasn't very far away, just 20th century. I feel like I'm getting a taste of what life would have been like.
I'm in the heart of West Africa and everything's going at ten times the pace of normal. This sanctuary is a Zaouia, a centre of Islamic learning, which houses a library of 4,000 ancient books. Timbuktu is no longer El Dorado. He used to travel it himself to buy fabrics in Mauritania. And I'll come face-to-face with some frightening modern-day realities. And some of the best- quality leather was produced here at 0:23:15 0:23:19 Marrakech's oldest tannery.