From Wikipedia (Gao)
Gao is a town in eastern Mali on the River Niger lying 320 km (200 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 involved in the trans-Saharan trade. We know from external Arabic sources that by the 9th century Gao was already an important regional power and by the end of the 10th century the local ruler was a Muslim. Towards the end of the 13th century Gao lost its independence and became part of the Mali Empire but in first half of the 15th century the town regained its independence and with the conquests of Sunni Ali (ruled 1464-1492) Gao became the capital of the Songhai Empire. The Empire collapsed after the Moroccan invasion in 1591 and the invaders chose to make Timbuktu their capital. By the time of Heinrich Barth’s visit in 1854, Gao had declined to become a impoverished village with 300 huts constructed from matting.
This is our open thread for Thursday. As usual, I’m seeking your thoughts on this or any other topic you care to discuss.