A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa
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A true story that rivals the travels of Burton or Stanley for excitement, and surpasses them in scientific achievements.
In 1849 Heinrich Barth joined a small British expedition into unexplored regions of Islamic North and Central Africa. One by one his companions died, but he carried on alone, eventually reaching the fabled city of gold, Timbuktu. His five-and-a-half-year, 10,000-mile adventure ranks among the greatest journeys in the annals of exploration, and his discoveries are considered indispensable by modern scholars of Africa.
Yet because of shifting politics, European preconceptions about Africa, and his own thorny personality, Barth has been almost forgotten. The general public has never heard of him, his epic journey, or his still-pertinent observations about Africa and Islam; and his monumental five-volume Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa is rare even in libraries. Though he made his journey for the British government, he has never had a biography in English. Barth and his achievements have fallen through a crack in history.
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retorted that the second option was more likely. Events again seemed to be coming to a head. Barth went home “to refresh myself with a cup of tea, and then made preparations for the eventual defense of my house, and for hiding the more valuable of my effects.” He returned to al-Bakkay’s around midnight and found the sheikh holding a double-barreled gun, surrounded by 40 men armed with spears and muskets. For the rest of the night the sheikh entertained the group with stories about Moses and the
relished his new position partly because it left him free to write and travel. He published two more volumes of his work on African languages, and books about his newest travels. In 1864 he climbed in Italy’s Apennines. “Travelling was Barth’s real element,” wrote von Schubert. “Following his own instincts, not subject to others’ will, able to give his research ideas complete freedom, he always came back from these trips and resumed his day-to-day work refreshed, full of strength and vitality.”
of the many books that treat him: The Quest for Timbuctoo, by Brian Gardner (Harcourt, 1968); Africa Explored: Europeans in the Dark Continent, 1769–1889, by Christopher Hibbert (Norton, 1982); The Slaves of Timbuktu, by Robin Maugham (Harper & Brothers, 1961); The Race for Timbuktu, by Frank T. Kryza (HarperCollins, 2006); Hearts of Darkness, by Frank McLynn (Carroll & Graf, 1992). Chapter 24: Golden City In addition to the books cited above for Caillié, see also Bovill; Briggs; Saad; Hunwick
Fugo Ali, 217–18 Fulani people, x, 66, 93, 96, 106, 110–12, 125, 142, 153, 162, 177, 182, 191, 199, 226, 228, 246–47, 260, 269, 288 fanaticism of, 250 jihads of, 262 raids of, 188, 227, 270 subdivisions of, 213, 238, 239 wars of, 233 women of, 145, 156 Fulfulde language, 112, 153, 154, 242, 252, 261, 273, 381 Gaglignani’s Messengers, 299 Gagliuffi, G. B., 45–46, 47–48, 50, 117, 125, 138, 206–7, 216, 221, 232, 295, 322, 360, 373 Barth accused by, 337–38 Galton, Francis, 347, 352
and table, which he piled with blankets. At a place called Wadi Telisaghe, Barth discovered some remarkably skilled bas-reliefs cut into the blocks of sandstone that littered the valley. The most striking depicted two godlike figures with human torsos, one with the head of a long-horned bull, the other with the head of a bird, perhaps an ibis, which reminded Barth of Egyptian motifs. The figures carried bows and were fighting over a bullock standing between them. Other carvings also portrayed