Timbuktu's history is a rich and storied one. Sitting at the crossroads of ancient Saharan trade routes, the city was once a thriving center of scholarship and central to the spread of Islam throughout Africa. Though it still retains a stable population, as well as one of the world’s greatest collections of ancient manuscripts, Timbuktu is slowly being overtaken by the encroaching Sahara Desert. Desertification is a major concern here, as great dunes loom over the city and the streets are frequently buried in windswept sand.
Temperatures can also soar here, and have been recorded reaching in excess of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The good news is that the cooling waters of the Niger River are only about 15 miles away.