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Why It's Easy — And Hard — To Get A Postcard All The Way From Timbuktu

When tourism to the fabled city took a downturn, two guys came up with an idea to bring in a little income for the local tour guides.
A message on a postcard addressed to a school in the United States. Source: Clair MacDougall for NPR

These days, not many tourists go to the legendary city of Timbuktu.

Indeed, the U.S. State Department advises: "Do not travel to Mali due to crime and terrorism."

But you can still send a postcard to a family member, a friend or even yourself, all the way from the fabled, mud-walled city.

Postcards from Timbuktu was established in 2016 by Phil Paoletta, an American hotel owner from Cleveland, and Ali Nialy, a 29-year-old guide from Timbuktu.

The goal was to make up for some of the income lost by tour guides after the devastation of the tourist industry, which once brought an estimated 200,000 people a year from all over the world to Mali. Many of them came to visit the city of Timbuktu, a World Heritage site known for its spectacular mud mosque and ancient

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