Timbuktu: the African city known to legend as a land of scholars, splendor and mystery, a golden age in the Sahara Desert. But to many it is a vaguely recognizable name – a flippant tag for “the most remote place on earth.” With this fabled city as his goal, author Rick Antonson began a month-long trek. His initial plan? To get a haircut.
Aided by an adventuresome spirit, Rick endures a forty-five hour train ride, a swindling travel agent, “Third World, three-lane” roads, rivers, and a flat deck ferry boat before finally reaching Timbuktu. Rick narrates the history of this elusive destination through the teachings of his Malian guide Zak, and encounters with stranded tourists, a camel owner, a riverboat captain, and the people who call Timbuktu home.
Antonson’s eloquence and quiet wit highlight the city’s myths—the centuries old capital and traveler’s dream—as well as its realities: A city gripped by poverty, where historic treasures lie close to the sands of destruction. Indeed, some 700,000 ancient manuscripts remain there, endangered. Both a travelogue and a history of a place long forgotten, To Timbuktu for a Haircut emerges as a plea to preserve the past and open cultural dialogues on a global scale.
The second edition of this important book outlines the volatile political situations in Timbuktu following the spring 2012 military coup in Mali and the subsequent capture of the city by Islamic extremists. Literally, it is a race against time to save the city’s irreplaceable artifacts, mosques, and monuments, and to understand why Timbuktu’s past is essential to the future of Africa.