In its heyday, Timbuktu was one of the world's most important centres of learning. I'm an Arabist and explorer. If anyone knows the going rate for a camel, it's him. I'm driving towards the city of Guelmim. Alice relives the city's glorious past with a visit to its world famous mosques, meets the Tuaregs - desert nomads who have sought refuge in there - and celebrates at a party with her newfound friends. Major Alexander Gordon Laing's house.
I'm going south towards the town of Zag, 115 miles away. An estimated 13 million slaves were transported north across the Sahara, a similar number to those shipped to America. Which camel is the nicest camel? Throughout history, men have burned books, fearing the knowledge they contain. So that seems the logical way to try next. So, when you patrol, are you looking out for anything in particular? The charred remains of the manuscripts have become part of the collection, fragments of Africa's golden past.
Alice's adventure reveals the extraordinary history, anthropology and landscapes of some of the most mysterious, beautiful and ancient cities in the world. It's a place where the Sahara, which brought untold wealth to its gates, has been both a blessing and a curse. Ibrahim tells me that Saharan salt is still highly prized. This man was incredibly courageous. And how far away is it from here? Her expertise is going to help me on what was the most perilous part of the traders' journey. We get up with the dawn like the traders who had to beat the heat of the day.
I was expecting a modern, hi-tech operation, but instead I'm greeted by the sight of people busily wielding picks and shovels. This Malian scholar left behind rare manuscripts, which, as an Arabist, I'm dying to get my hands on. It looks so simple on the map, a short plane ride away, but while once all routes led to the city, recent events have changed that. And then night-time, food, hot tea and the time to just socialise with everyone around you. It's a lost city, which was once a great trading post, a sanctuary for merchants arriving after the long trek across the Sahara from Timbuktu. All I can see is a series of holes in the ground, but it turns out all of them are mine shafts with people working down them.
Somehow I thought it would be in big rocks and you wouldn't actually be able to see that it's real gold, which it obviously is. And it doesn't last as long as you think. And I'll come face-to-face with some frightening modern-day realities. Its greatest king changed the route of the Niger just so his wife could have a bath. This is where he stayed in Timbuktu when he was here and it's one of the places I've really, really wanted to come to. Follow Following Arabist, writer, explorer and Marrakech resident Alice Morrison follows the Salt Roads - once one of the world's richest trading networks to the fabled sandstone city of Timbuktu.
In the oldest of them, the Djinguereber mosque, she hears the tale of Mansa Musa, Mali's greatest king and the richest man in history. It explores of one of the most dangerous routes in history which brought gold, salt and slaves across the Sahara and up to Europe. Sometimes you can find a camel and it's 20,000 dirhams. Setting off from Tangier, Europe's gateway to Africa, Alice learns how gold was in high demand in north Africa, to be minted into coins and adorn palaces. Now I'm searching for the other prized commodity of these trade routes - gold.
I already found my own little nugget, I dug it up myself, and it makes me realise that Timbuktu, this mythical city of gold, may actually be a reality. Now it's a gourmet item, and after all these centuries it's still an important part of Timbuktu's trade. To me, it's incredible that he could be born a slave in modern Morocco. The security situation means flights are strictly limited. There's a huge variety of merchandise including a whole consignment of motorbikes. And it's a constant fight to keep those mud-built mosques from crumbling back into the dust. Riding the famous Marrakech express, crossing the vast Sahara on camel back and trekking on foot through snowstorms, Morrison takes a centuries-old journey through unforgettable destinations.
I feel like I'm getting a taste of what life would have been like. Finally, a local cloth trader, Mansour Hamadi, agrees to take me down the road south of Zag towards the border. I think that's going to pay for me to get all the way to Timbuktu. This is a fantastic livestock market, full of noise and colour and smell. Travelling by any means possible - camel, donkey and sometimes just on foot - it's a journey that takes her deep into the history, culture and civilisation of both ancient and modern North Africa. Tuaregs had fractured his jaw and nearly cut off his right hand, and he had a musket ball in his hip. Forbidden under Islamist rule, music now flows freely in Timbuktu.
Hitching a ride in a crowded taxi of locals, Alice passes through the Islamic city of Fes, home to the world's oldest university, where she stays in a caravanserai, the ancient traders' version of a motel with mule and camel parking, and helps prepare the merchant's dish of the day, camel meatballs. A city of legends and myths hidden in the heart of Africa. There are only three miles of the Sahara between me and Timbuktu. Now, the irrepressible spirit of these desert people is free to express itself again in the song and dance that the Sahara has been witness to for centuries. The men's dance is incredibly energetic. That's more than £75,000 in today's money. I'll pass through some magical places that time has barely touched.