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Recent Discussions Please describe the geography of Gao, Africa. It would also be helpful if someone added a drawing of what Gao (a trading city) looked like with some g... Encyclopedia Gao is a town in eastern Mali on the River Niger lying 320 km (198.8 mi) ESE of Timbuktu . Situated on the left bank of the river at the junction with the Tilemsi valley, it is the capital of the Gao Region and had a population of 86,663 in 2009. For much of its history Gao was an important commercial centre inv
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  Recent Discussions Please describe the geography of Gao, Africa. It would also be helpful if someone added adrawing of what Gao (a trading city) looked like with some g...  EncyclopediaGao is a town in eastern Malion the River Niger lying 320 km (198.8 mi) ESE of  Timbuktu. Situated on the left bank of the river at the junction with the Tilemsi valley, it is the capital of theGao Regionand had a population of 86,663 in 2009.For much of its history Gao was an important commercial centre involved in thetrans-Saharantrade. We know from external Arabic sources that by the 9th century Gao was already an importantregional power and by the end of the 10th century the local ruler was a Muslim. Towards theend of the 13th century Gao lost its independence and became part of theMali Empirebut in first half of the 15th century the town regained its independence and with the conquestsof Sunni Ali (ruled 1464-1492) Gao became the capital of theSonghai Empire. The Empire collapsed after theMoroccaninvasion in 1591 and the invaders chose to make Timbuktutheir capital. By the time of Heinrich Barth's visit in 1854, Gao had declined to become a impoverished village with 300 huts constructedfrom matting. Location Gao is located on the eastern bank of the Niger River at the junction with the Tilemsi Valley. The sprawling town is the largest in eastern Mali. It isconnected to the capital,Bamakoat the western end of Mali, by 1200 km of good paved road. In 2006 the Wabaria bridge wasinaugurated to replace the ferry service across the Niger. The bridge was constructed by theChina State Construction Engineering Corporation and financed by the Islamic DevelopmentBank and the Malian government.The town is strategically placed with road links (unpaved) to the desertKidal Regionto the north and to Niamey, the capital of  Niger , to the south. The road to the south runs along the left bank of the river. The town of Ansongois 103 km from Gao. The border with Niger is just south of the village of Labbezanga, adistance of 204 km.There are also seasonal ferry services on the Niger River. A service between Gao andKoulikoro, a distance of 1380 km, is managed by the Compagnie Malienne de Navigation (COMANAV).It usually operates from the end of July, after the annual rains when there is sufficient water inthe river, until mid November. Smaller boats are able to operate for a longer season betweenBourem  and Ansongo.The town is expanding rapidly. In the 1998 census the population of the urban commune was52,201. By the census in 2009 this had increased to 86,633, a 4.7% annual growth rate. For administrative purposes, the commune is divided into nine quartiers : Gadeye, Farandjiré,Aljanabanbia, Djoulabougou, Saneye, Sosso Koïra, Boulgoundjé, Château and Djidara. Theurban commune is bounded to the north by the commune of Soni Ali Ber , to the east by the commune of  Anchawadiand to the south and west by the commune of Gounzoureye. Climate The climate is typical for the Sahel region. It is hot and dry with the only rainfall occurring between June and September. August isnormally the wettest month. The average annual rainfall is only 220 mm but there are large year to year variations. May is the hottest month with an average maximum temperature of 43 °C.December and January are the coolest months with minimum temperatures of 15 °C. FromOctober to March during the dry period the north-easterly Harmattanwind blows from the Sahara. When it blows strongly the dust-laden wind reduces visibility andcreates a persistent haze.With the low rainfall the vegetation away from the river is sparse and consists mainly of variousspecies of  Acacia(  Acacia raddiana ,   Acacia nilotica ,  Acacia ehrenbergiana ) and   Balanites aegyptiaca . The herbaceous plants are dominated by  Cenchrus biflorus and  Panicum laetum . Annual flood of the Niger River Almost all the local agriculture depends on river water for irrigation. The annual flood of the Niger River is a result of the heavy rainfall in the headwaters of the Niger and Banirivers in Guineaand the northern Ivory Coast. The rainfall in the headwater areas peaks in August but the floodwater takes time to pass down the river system, through the Inner Niger Delta region and arriveat Gao. At Koulikorothe flood peaks in September, while in Gao the flood lasts longer and reaches a maximum inDecember. There is a large year to year variation in the extent of the flooding. The existing and proposed dams upstream of Gao reduce the overall flow of the river and could potentially havea large effect on the local agriculture. When in flood the river is 4 km wide at Gao but duringthe dry season a number of islands appear in the river. There is very little flow, only 5% of themaximum, in June and July. History The history of theGao Empire  precedes that of the Songhay Empire in the region of the Middle Niger. Both empires had thetown of Gao as their capital. Apart from some Arabic epitaphs on tombstones discovered in1939 at the cemetery of Gao-Saney(6 km to the east of the city) there are no surviving indigenous written records that date from before the middle of the 17th century. Our knowledge of the early history of the town relies onthe writings of external Arabic geographers living in Morocco, Egypt and Andalusia, most of whom never visited the region. These authors referred to the town as Kawkaw or Kuku. Thetwo key 17th century chronicles, the Tarikh al-Sudan and the Tarikh al-fattash , provide information on the town at the time of the Songhay Empire but they contain relativelylittle on the social and economic history. The chronicles do not, in general, acknowledge their sources. Their accounts for the earlier periods are almost certainly based on oral tradition andfor events before the second half of the 15th century they are likely to be less reliable. For theseearlier periods the two chronicles sometimes provide conflicting information.The earliest mention of Gao is by al-Khuwarizmi who wrote in the first half of the 9th century.In the 9th century Gao was already an important regional power.Al-Yaqubiwrote in his Tarikh in around 872:There is the kingdom of the Kawkaw, which is the greatest of the realms of the Sūdān, the mostimportant and most powerful. All the kingdoms obey its king. Al-Kawkaw is the name of thetown. Besides this there are a number of kingdoms of which the rulers pay allegiance to himand acknowledge his sovereignty, although they are kings in their own lands.Ibn al-Faqih(writing c. 903) mentions a caravan route from Egypt toancient Ghanavia Kawkaw, butIbn Hawqal(writing c. 988) states that the old route from Egypt to the Sudan was abandoned in the reign of the Egyptian ruler Ibn Tulun(ruled 868-884) as some of the caravans were attacked by bandits while others wereoverwhelmed by the wind-blown sand. The more direct route was replaced by one that went toSijilmasabefore heading south across the Sahara.In the 10th century Gao is already Muslim and is described as consisting of two separate towns.Al-Muhallabi, who died in 990, wrote in a lost work quoted in the biographical dictionarycompiled by Yaqut:Their king pretends before his subject to be a Muslim and most of them pretend to be Muslimstoo. He has a town on the Nile [Niger], on the eastern bank, which is called Sarnāh, where thereare markets and trading houses and to which there is continuous traffic from all parts. He hasanother town to the west of the Nile [Niger] where he and his men and those who have hisconfidence live. There is a mosque there where he prays but the communal prayer ground is between the two towns.The archaeological evidence suggests that there were two settlements on the eastern bank of the Niger: Gao Ancien situated within the modern town, to the east of the Tomb of Askia, and thearchaeological site of  Gao-Saney(Sané in French) situated around 4 km to the east. The bed of the Wadi Gangaber passes to thesouth of the Gao-Saney occupation mound (tell  ) but to the north of Gao Ancien. The imported pottery and glass recovered from Gao-Saneysuggest that the site was occupied between the 10th and 13th centuries. It is possible that Gao-Saney corresponds to Sarnāh of al-Muhallabi. Al-Bakri writing in 1068 also records theexistence of two towns, but al-Idrisi writing in around 1154 does not. Both al-Muhallabi (seequote above) and al-Bakri situate Gao on the west (or right bank) of the Niger. The 17th century Tarikh al-fattash also states that in the 10th century Gao was situated on the Gourma side (i.e. the west bank) of the river. A large sand dune,  La Dune Rose , lies on the west bank opposite Gao, but at Koima,on the edge of the dune at a site 4 km north of Gao, surface deposits indicate a pre 9th centurysettlement. This could be the west bank Gao mentioned by 10th and 11th century authors. Thesite has not been excavated.Al-Sadi in his Tarikh al-Sudan gives a slightly later date for the introduction of Islam. He lists32 rulers of the Zuwa dynastyand states that in 1009-1010 A.D. the 15th ruler, Zuwa Kusoy, was the first to convert to Islam.He does not actually specify where they lived except for the legendary founder of the dynasty,Zuwa Alayman who he claims came from the Yemen to Kukiya.Towards the end of the 13th century Gao lost its independence and became part of theexpandingMali Empire. What happened to the Zuwa rulers is not recorded.Ibn Battutavisited Gao in 1353 when the town formed part of the Mali Empire. He arrived by boat fromTimbuktu on his return journey from visiting the capital of the Empire:Then I travelled to the town of Kawkaw, which is a great town on the Nīl [Niger], one of thefinest, biggest, and most fertile cities of the Sūdān. There is much rice there, and milk, andchickens, and fish, and the cucumber, which has no like. Its people conduct their buying andselling with cowries, like the people of Mālī.After staying a month in the town, Ibn Battuta left with a caravan for Takeddaand from there headed north back across the Sahara to an oasis in Tuatwith a large caravan that included 600 slave girls.Sometime in the 14th century, Ali Kulun, the first ruler of the Sunni dynasty, rebelled against the Malian hegemony but the Malians were able to regain control. It was notuntil the first half of the 15th century that Sunni Sulayman Dama was able to throw off theMalian yoke. His successor,Sunni Ali Ber (1464–1492), greatly expanded the territory under Songhay control and established theSonghay Empire. He made Gao his capital.Leo Africanusvisited Gao sometime between 1506 and 1510 when the town was ruled by Askiya MuhammadI, the first ruler of theAskiya dynasty. He observed that the large town lacked a surrounding wall and was full of rich merchants.The town is very civilized compared to Timbuktu. Bread and meat are abundant, though youcannot find wine or fruits. Actually, melons, cucumbers, and excellent squash are plentiful, andthere are enormous quantities of rice. There are many sweet water wells. There is a squarewhere on market days huge numbers of slaves are sold, both male and female. A young girl of 
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