TIMBUKTU, MALI — No one came to the airport to say good-bye when we left Timbuktu after three days. But a whole crowd of folks, mostly poor people, showed up to wave off Eddie Lockard, an American from Detroit, who was leaving on the same plane. Mr. Lockard's eyes were misty as he hugged his new friends, then walked to the plane.
An experienced cyclist, Lockard arrived here by plane on a land-air tour of parts of Mali. But, low on cash, he discovered credit cards don't work in Timbuktu.
So until money could be cabled from his family in the United States, he was a rarity here: a dependent American, penniless and not knowing the local language or French, which is widely spoken in this former colony.
Broke and in a vulnerable position, he needed the kindness of strangers. The young tourist guides befriended him. The hotel owner extended credit. And even a local two-table restaurant owner gave him free meals.
It was a long time before Lockard stopped looking out the window, as we left Timbuktu behind.