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Geographical Notes

Nature volume 31, pages 251253 | Download Citation



A SO-CALLED “envoy” of the Mayor of Timbuktu, lately arrived in Paris, has been received by the French President, and introduced to the Geographical Society at its last meeting. On this occasion it was stated that there is no Sultan or military authority in this famous metropolis of Negroland, but only a body of merchants who yearly elect a kind of mayor from amongst themselves. This statement is not quite correct, and, as little is known regarding the internal affairs of the city, the following facts will be acceptable:—For over 200 years Timbuktu has been administered by a “Kahia,” a kind of burgomaster, originally appointed by the Emperor of Marocco from the Moorish Andalusian family of Er-Rami some time after the expulsion of the Arabs from Spain. The office became hereditary in this family, and the present Kahia, or “Amir,” as he now affects to call himself, is Muhammed Er-Rami, whose Negroid features are the result of long alliances with the surrounding Souhray population. He commands little influence, and is practically a mere puppet in the hands of whichever of the rival Arab, Imosharh (Berber) or Fulani (Fulah), factions happens for the time being to have the upper hand. The Imosharhs command the whole district between Timbuktu and Arawán, and their Sheikh or “Sultan,” Eg-Tandagumu, seems to draw his chief supplies from the plundered caravans passing through his territory. The Arabs, as in the time of Barth, are still ruled by the head of the illustrious El-Bekay family, a branch of the Kuntza tribe, whose present chief is Sheikh Abadin. His policy has long been to side with the Fulani, whose power here, as elsewhere in the Western Sudán, is constantly on the increase, and who threaten to become absolute masters of Timbuktu unless this place falls into the hands of some European power advancing from the west or penetrating up the Niger valley from the south.

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