I hate warnings so I chose to post this here. The Tauregs are the local indigenous people in the region. The are a nomadic people but like in other parts of the world they are not happy with the way the land has been divided up and want their own land/country. The land they want stretches from upper Mail to lower Algeria and from Mauritania in the West to Chad in the East. Wether or not they get it is another story. The fact that oil has been discovered North of Timbuktu further complicates the matter. While not openly hostile to Americans or Europeans the American Govt is providing military assistance in the form of training to the Maliian army to help put down any Taureg (or Al Qaeda to be PC) issues and keep Mali in one piece. This is what the State Department warning is about so to speak. Good news is that the locals are smart enough to know the US Govt and it's actions separate from it's people. Keep in mind that this may change should a battle occure and Tauregs are killed. There is a noticable police presence in Timbuktu and the locals to rely on tourism as a source of income, in fact it is one of the only sources.
Fondest memory: The locals are very kind and many people will approach you to practice their English if they find out you speak it. Aside from the constant sales pitches Timbuktu is a great place to visit as it is one of a few great cities from the past that has survived and remains fuctioning abet in a diminished capacity from it's glory days of the past. Check the local papers if you are treking up here on your own. If something should happen it will most likely be covered in one of the local papers. Things here are no where near the level that they are at in Mauritania and Mali/Timbuktu remains one of the safest places in Africa...which I tend to attribute to it's Islamic background.
Favorite thing: Not my favorite so to speak but after my Hemorroid swelled up to the size of an orange wedge, walking became a bit fun not to mention sleeping and sitting. I am not slouching in my pics due to being lazy. Anyway there is a decent hosiptal in town. While I would not want to visit for an extended stay you can find French speaking doctors who can help you out with basic things as I was able to get my lump looked at an get a script written for the local pharmacy. The dortor here was nice and was clean rubber gloves etc.....While I would not trust the needles eveything else seemed clean as this was one place where there we no flies. For payment they will ask for a donation that you can handle...no set fee. I gave the Dr. 20,000 CFA for the visit and his time and he seemed happy with that. Most of the medicines are either French or Spanish brands so again be prepared to translate but they do not charge western prices for them.
Timbuktu has long been a mythical city. It's location has made it a difficult place to reach. Many Europeans in the 18th and 19th centuries did not believe it even existed. Today, many Europeans and Americans alike still only think of Timbuktu as a legendary place. In 1824, the Paris-based Société de Géographie (Geographical Society) offered a 10,000 franc prize to the first non-Muslim to reach the town and return with information about it. Scot Gordon Laing arrived in September 1826 but was killed 3 days after leaving the city by local Muslims who were fearful of European discovery and intervention. The Frenchman René Caillié arrived in 1828 traveling alone disguised as Muslim; he was able to safely return and claim the prize.
Fondest memory: Timbuktu is situated right in the desert. From the patio of the hotel we stayed in, you could look one direction and see into the city streets. Turn your head and you see sand dunes and a Tuareg with his camel.
Timbuktu (or Tombouctou in French) is almost entirely rurrounded by desert or semi desert. So one of the most popular activities for tourists there is go to a camel trek.
There are plenty of guides and will-be-guides which want to take you with them to excursion from half a day till a week or more.
Be sure that you make clear what you want to do and what you don`t want to do, so that you wont be disappointed about that what is offered.
Like this a camel trip in the neighbouhood of the town can be a nice experience. And fore sure it will be very hot...
Favorite thing: Everywhere in Timbuktu you find beautiful wooden doors with metal handles and decoration, a souvenir of Timbuktu's glorious past....
Favorite thing: Timbuktu is all surrounded by Sahara. If you walk a little out of town you will soon find the touareg tents. It's not pure sand dunes, there are little bushes here and there, but it's nice...