Steven and I lived in Timbuktu for a brief stretch in 2007 when I was doing a Fulbright on the role of Islam in the education system in the country of Mali. We wound up writing a book about those two years that we spent living and working abroad called To Timbuktu: Nine Countries, Two People, One True Story.
Needless to say, we've been really heart broken by the news coming from Timbuktu nowadays. This past April, rebels took over the town when the rest of the country was wrapped up in the chaos of the military coup in the capital, Bamako. An Al Queda supported group called Ansar Dine (meaning Defenders of the Faith) has taken control and is imposing sharia, strict Islamic law.