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 postcard took a hair over two months to arrive in Timbuktu, nearly double the supposed duration if it had gone by camel. 

Side note: we have said this here and elsewhere, but it never ceases to amaze us. All you need to do to send Ali a postcard is to address it to Ali Nialy, Timbuktu, Mali. It will take its time. But it will arrive. Well, there is a good chance it will arrive. We don't know how many attempts there have been, but we have received many cards (just see our instagram page).

Now back to camel treks from Chinguetti to Timbuktu. There is a bizarre, at times annoying, documentary that was made by an Englishman in 1983 who walked for 19 days with two camels from Timbuktu to Walatah. This is a bit more than a third of the way to Chinguetti. He nearly died. So he says. He is a bit full of himself. But he made it. 

Anyways, presumably a capable nomad would outpace a not-exactly-fit Englishman, and 45 days seems like a very good bet for the whole journey. 

As for why Matt was in Mauritania sending a postcard from Chinguetti, he was running one of our scooter trips in the region. We hope one day we can be running these trips to Timbuktu. 

Share this post

Leave a comment

1 comment

  • Hi Phil, I used the postcard service last year to send a card to a friend who was ill in the UK, and it worked! I am actually based in Senegal, in Dakar, and now I read you are in the land of Teranga too! I work in a school, would love to meet you and perhaps you share your story? :) Best wishes, Marion

    • Marion van Engelen