Timbuktu, formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali
situated 15km (9.3mi) 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.Tales of Timbuktu fabulous wealth helped prompt European exploration of the west coast of Africa
. Among the most famous descriptions of Timbuktu are those of Leo Africanus and Shabeni.