Sites & cities that bear the name of Taghaza


Today in : Mali
First trace of activity : ca. 11th century C.E
Last trace of activity : ca. 16th century C.E
Recorded names : Teghaza, Teghazza

Description : Taghaza (also Teghaza) is an abandoned salt-mining centre located in a salt pan in the desert region of northern Mali. It was an important source of rock salt for West Africa up to the end of the 16th century when it was abandoned and replaced by the salt-pan at Taoudenni which lies 150 km (93 mi) to the southeast. Salt from the Taghaza mines formed an important part of the long distance trans-Saharan trade. The Taghaza mines are first mentioned by name (as Taghara) in around 1275 by the geographer al Qazwini who spent most of his life in Iraq but obtained information from a traveller who had visited the Sudan. He wrote that the town was situated south of the Maghreb near the ocean and that the ramparts, walls and roofs of the buildings were made of salt which was mined by slaves of the Masufa, a Berber tribe, and exported to the Sudan by a caravan that came once a year. A similar description had been given earlier by Al-Bakri in 1068 for the salt mines at a place that he called Tantatal, situated twenty days from Sijilmasa. It is possible these were the same mines. In 1352 the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta arrived in Taghaza after a 25-day journey from Sijilmasa on his way across the Sahara to Oualata to visit the Mali Empire. According to Ibn Battuta, there were no trees, only sand and the salt mines. Nobody lived in the village other than the Musafa slaves who dug for the salt and lived on dates imported from Sijilmasa and the Dar'a valley, camel meat and millet imported from the Sudan. The buildings were constructed from slabs of salt and roofed with camel skins. The salt was dug from the ground and cut into thick slabs, two of which were loaded onto each camel. The salt was taken south across the desert to Oualata and sold. The value of the salt was chiefly determined by the transport costs. Ibn Battuta mentions that the value increased fourfold when transported between Oualata and the Malian capital. In spite of the meanness of the village, it was awash in Malian gold. Ibn Battuta did not enjoy his visit; he found the water brackish and the village full of flies. He goes on to say, "For all its squalor, qintars of qintars of gold dust are traded in Taghaza." The salt mines became known in Europe not long after Ibn Battuta's visit as Taghaza was shown on the Catalan Atlas of 1375 on the trans-Saharan trade route linking Sijilmasa and Timbuktu. Alvise Cadamosto learned in 1455 that Taghaza salt was taken to Timbuktu and then onto Mali. It was then carried "a great distance" to be bartered for gold. In around 1510 Leo Africanus spent 3 days in Taghaza. In his Descrittione dell’Africa he mentions that the location of the mines, 20 days journey from a source of food, meant that there was a risk of starvation. At the time of Leo's visit, Oualata was no longer an important terminus for the trans-Saharan trade and salt was instead taken south to Timbuktu. Like Ibn Battuta before him, Leo complained about the brackish well water.

See on map »