TIMBUKTU, MALI— |
Timbuktu's post office lacks both windows and doors. The only furniture inside the low brick building is a desk for the city's only postman, Ousmane Aliou Maiga.
Mail piles up in the adjoining room – letters, bills, debt collection demands. So many residents fled when conflict began in the north during 2012.
"We have been abandoned by the state," said Maiga. "For a long time I didn't even bother to open the office. No one was sending any letters anymore. Then a couple of months ago, Ali came by with his postcards. Since then, things are looking up."
Ali Nialy is a former tour guide. He and other tour guides can no longer find work guiding visitors along the city's sandy streets. The radical Islamist occupation in 2012 and continued threats put a stop to tourism in northern Mali.
But last year, Nialy partnered with an American hostel owner in Bamako, Phil Paoletta, to launch the web site, Postcards from Timbuktu.
"For a lot of people, especially in the United States, it's a place that's basically imaginary," said Paoletta. "It's like this imaginary town on the frontier of the desert from some ancient time. They don't know it's actually a real town and that people live there."
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