The Story


For centuries, the greatest explorers of their age were dispatched from the power-houses of Europe — London, Paris and Berlin — on a quest unlike any other: To be the first white Christian to visit, and then to sack, the fabled metropolis of Timbuctoo.

Most of them never returned alive.

At the height of the Timbuctoo mania, two hundred years ago, it was widely believed that the elusive Saharan city was fashioned in entirety from the purest gold — everything from the buildings to the cobble- stones, from the buckets to the bedsteads was said to be made from it.

One winter night in 1815, a young illiterate American seaman named Robert Adams was discovered half-naked and starving on the snow- bound streets of London. His skin seared from years in the African desert, he claimed to have been a guest of the King of Timbuctoo.

At a time when anything American was less than popular, the loss of the colony still fresh in British minds, the thought of an American claiming anything — let alone the greatest prize in exploration — was abhorrent in the extreme.

Closing ranks against their unwelcome American guest, the British Establishment lampooned his tale, and began a campaign of discrediting him, one that continues even today.

An astonishing tale based on true-life endurance, Timbuctoo vividly recreates the obsessions of the time, as a backdrop for one of the greatest love stories ever told.