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A new project: Postcards from Timbuktu


I haven’t been to Timbuktu since 2012, but I still have regular contact with a number of people there. I send a bit of money to Fatoumata’s family (I wrote about staying with them here) each month. They lost all of their livestock during the upheaval of 2012-13.

I also regularly run into a former guide from Timbuktu named Ali. I have known Ali since 2012. He was always one of the most dependable and trustworthy guys in a line of work that attracts its fair share of hustlers.

Ali has been traveling between Timbuktu and Bamako. Every now and then he snags a short-term contract as a fixer for a UN agency or an NGO, but work has been hard to come by. Many other guides find themselves in the same boat. There are no tourists, and if you don’t get in with the UN/NGO world, good luck.

So we’ve decided to start a little side project: Postcards from Timbuktu.

You can now send a postcard from Timbuktu to yourself or anyone else with a custom message. Me and Bintou are handling the logistics from Bamako, while Ali is coordinating a team of out-of-work guides in Timbuktu. Should be good for a laugh, and if we can make a few bucks from it, sweet. I would also be amused if the lone Timbuktu Post Office clerk was suddenly inundated with postcards. Click here to check it out.

Oh, and Happy New Year!! I am hoping the best for West Africa, and specifically the Sahel, this year. Unfortunately, 2016 is off to a poor start in that regard. Thoughts to all in Burkina…

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{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Klaas Tjoelker January 20, 2016, 5:12 am

    Hi Phil, nice and funny project, good luck with it! It would be nice if some people who lost their jobs in the tourism trade could earn some money in this – and you yourself at the same time.
    And of course a good, happy new year in peace and good health for you and your beloved ones.
    Cheerio! Klaas

    • phil February 10, 2016, 12:51 pm

      Thanks a lot, Klaas. Happy new year to you, too. Hope all is well chez toi.

  • Chris Smith January 20, 2016, 8:44 pm

    Hi, Phil, this is really great. Would it be possible to add one more Timbuktu guide to the list? A friend of mine, a guy named Bamoye Dicko, has a pretty similar story: no guide work for years, shuttling back and forth between Bamako and Timbuktu, etc. I can provide more info if you think it’s a possibility.


    • phil February 10, 2016, 12:48 pm

      Hey Chris, for sure. Just send me an email through the contact page.

  • Mohamed January 24, 2016, 7:54 pm

    That really nice Phil! wish you all the best for this project!

    • phil February 10, 2016, 12:50 pm

      Cheers, Mohamed.

  • Zenobia February 1, 2016, 2:29 am

    Hahaha, I might have to send my mum one of those for her birthday.

  • Lee August 7, 2016, 1:32 pm

    I shared your great idea on my Facebook page as well as on a motorcycle/traveller forum. Pretty sure that a little bit of money can go a long way in Timbuktu.


    • phil August 11, 2016, 5:51 am

      Thanks a lot, Lee!! Yes indeed, a bit of money can go a long way in Timbuktu.

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