Timbuktu is a Tuareg city on the Niger River in the country of Mali.Its long history as a trading outpost that linked black Africa below the Sahara Desert with Berber and Islamic traders throughout north Africa, and thereby indirectly with traders from Europe, has given it a fabled status. Combined with its relative inaccessibility, "Timbuktu" has come to be used as a metaphor for exotic, distant lands.
Today, Timbuktu is an impoverished town, although its reputation makes it a tourist attraction, and it has an airport. It is one of the eight regions of Mali, home to the local governor. It is the sister city to Djenne (also in Mali).
Timbuktu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. In 1990, it was added to the list of world heritage sites in danger, due to the threat of desert sands. A program was set up to preserve the site and in 2005, it was taken off the list of endangered sites only to suffer immeasurable damage at the hands of Islamist militants in 2012 and early 2013, destroying an undetermined amount of the area's cultural heritage. Fourteen of the Sufi mausoleums smashed by extremists were reconstructed by 2015, but much of the city remains damaged.