To Timbuktu for a Haircut


Although Timbuktu exists, there is a common belief that it is, in fact, nowhere.

Short-listed for the Oklahoma Book Awards, 2013

Timbuktu: the African city known to legend as a land of scholars, splendour and mystery, a golden age in the Sahara Desert. But to many it is a vaguely recognizable name. With this fabled city as his goal, author Rick Antonson began a month-long trek. His initial plan? To get a haircut.

Rick narrates the history of this elusive destination through the teachings of his Malian guide Zak, and encounters with stranded tourists, a camel owner, a riverboat captain, and the people who call Timbuktu home.

The second edition of this important book outlines the volatile political situations in Timbuktu following the spring 2012 military coup in Mali and the subsequent capture of the city by Islamic extremists. Literally, it is a race against time to save the city’s irreplaceable artifacts, mosques, and monuments, and to understand why Timbuktu’s past is essential to the future of Africa.


Oklahoma Book Awards


…the height of [Rick Antonson’s] journey is a visit to the fabled libraries holding ancient manuscripts in the city that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In this second edition of his 2008 book, Antonson updates readers on the volatility in the region that threatens the safety of irreplaceable artifacts and manuscripts. Photos and maps enhance this beautifully written narrative of travel and the endangered ancient heritage of a city famous for scholarship, salt, and gold.

Booklist (June, 2013)

As with all great travel memoirs, Antonson’s journey is about self-discovery and arrival at the final destination; that is, it is part personal odyssey and part social history.

Chicago Tribune

About the Author

Rick Antonson

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
Rick Antonson photo

Rick Antonson

Rick Antonson was president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver. Author of To Timbuktu for a Haircut and Route 66 Still Kicks, he entwines travel, history, and memoir in books about extraordinary places, the lands around them, and the people who call them home. He lives in Vancouver.