The Sad Fate of Many Postcards from Timbuktu

I've long joked about trying to put some kind of GPS tracking device on our postcards. Arrival times are incredibly erratic. One card going to Frankfurt may take two weeks and another may take two months (to be fair, the German post is fairly consistent. Italy on the other hand?). 

We also have cards that disappear entirely. Where do they go? Are they sitting in a drawer somewhere in a French post office? Have they been stolen? Destroyed? Do people sabotage postcards? 

Whatever the case may be, we guarantee delivery and sometimes this involves sending multiple cards to make sure the...

A Postcard From Chinguetti to Timbuktu

A Postcard From Chinguetti to Timbuktu

Back in 2021, my friend and collaborator Matt sent Ali, who co-founded Postcards from Timbuktu, a postcard from Chinguetti, the ancient Saharan trading town in Mauritania. Chinguetti and Timbuktu both played critical roles in the trade between Europe, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. 

While never as robust a trading and cultural center as Timbuktu, Chinguetti was the crossroads of trading routes for the Sanhaja Confederation of Berber Tribes, which would eventually merge with the Almoravids, forming a Berber Muslim dynasty. 

There is a sign in Chinguetti pointing to Timbuktu. It says 45 days by Camel. Using the Mauri post, this...

Likewise you have no idea

The post below is a copy of the most recent email we sent out to the email list: 

That may seem like a strange subject line. It was the stand-alone message on a postcard that someone sent through the project. I don't know the who or the why, but the message struck me and I took a picture of it.

Over the past month or so, I have been really discouraged with the project. We have a lot of cards in the wilderness. It's clear that the ECOWAS sanctions and the suspension of Air France flights led to a...

Your Postcard's Travels

Your Postcard's Travels

This was a popular email that we sent out to the mailing list, so I have decided to share it here. It provides a frame of reference on the journey that every postcard from Timbuktu takes before it arrives in your mailbox.

1. Your postcard begins its journey in Timbuktu. If all goes well, the post office has enough stamps on hand and the postcard will be transported on a United Nations flight down to Bamako. The post office itself advised us that if we did not transport the cards ourselves, they would take several weeks to arrive in Bamako...

The COVID19 Outbreak in Timbuktu

The COVID19 Outbreak in Timbuktu

While much of the Malian government's coronavirus response was focused on the capital, Bamako, Timbuktu quietly became the city with the worst outbreak in the country.

There was no testing equipment in Timbuktu itself. Test samples had to be sent to Bamako, a process that took at least a week and often longer. Meanwhile sick patients were arriving in the local clinics and family members were allowed to visit them -- no one was isolated and in town, no one was taking any measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. It may seem easy to blame the population, but...