The place name is said to come from a Tuareg woman named Buktu who dug a well in the area where the city stands today; hence "Timbuktu", which means "Buktu's well".
 Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta (1304-1368) was a Moroccan Berber traveller born in Tangier. He spent 30 years travelling the Muslim world from Timbuktu to Turkey, Central Asia, China and India. He was probably the first outsider to document his visit to Timbuktu:
Timbuktu...is four miles from the Nile. Most of its inhabitants are Massufa, people of the veil. Its governor...called Farba Musa...appointed one of the Massufa as amir over a company...placed on him a garment, a turban and trousers, all of them of dyed material. He then seated him on a shield and he was lifted up by the elders of his tribe on their heads...At Timbuktu I embarked on the Nile (Niger) in a small vessel carved from one piece of wood. We used to come ashore every night in a village to buy what we needed of food and ghee in exchange for salt and perfumes and glass ornaments.
 Leo Africanus
Perhaps most famous among the tales written about Timbuktu is that by Leo Africanus aka "Leo the African". As a captured renegade who later converted back to Islam from Christianity, following a trip in 1512, when the Songhai empire was at its height he wrote the following:
The rich king of Tombuto hath many plates and sceptres of gold, some whereof weigh 1300 pounds. ... He hath always 3000 horsemen ... (and) a great store of doctors, judges, priests, and other learned men, that are bountifully maintained at the king's expense. 
At the time of Leo Africanus' visit, grass was abundant, providing plentiful milk and butter in the local cuisine, though there were neither gardens nor orchards surrounding the city.
Shabeni was a merchant from Tetuan who was captured and ended up in England where he told his story of how as a child of 14, around 1787, he had gone with his father to Timbuktu. A version of his story is related by James Grey Jackson in his book An Account of Timbuctoo and Hausa, 1820:
On the east side of the city of Timbuctoo, there is a large forest, in which are a great many elephants. The timber here is very large. The trees on the outside of the forest are remarkable...they are of such a size that the largest cannot be girded by two men. They bear a kind of berry about the size of a walnut, in clusters consisting of from ten to twenty berries. Shabeeny cannot say what is the extent of this forest, but it is very large.
Great Mosque in Mali
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