Timbuktu, formerly also spelled Timbuctoo and Timbuktoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated 15_km (9.3_mi) north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali. It had a population of 54,453 in the 2009 census. Starting out as a seasonal settlement, Timbuktu became a permanent settlement early in the 12th century. After a shift in trading routes, Timbuktu flourished from the trade in salt, gold, ivory and slaves, and it became part of the Mali Empire early in the 13th century. In the first half of the 15th century the Tuareg tribes took control of the city for a short period until the expanding Songhay Empire absorbed the city in 1468. A Moroccan army defeated the Songhay in 1591, and made Timbuktu, rather than Gao, their stronghold. The invaders established a new ruling class, the arma, who after 1612 became independent of Morocco.
Contributions by DavidWBrooks, FayssalF, and Johnbibby.