Timbuktu, Mali, long a trading center linking West Africa with merchants throughout North Africa, and thereby indirectly with European traders, achieved fabled status in Europe, becoming a metaphor for exotic, distant lands. Frenchman Réné Caillié (1799–1838), the first European to visit Timbuktu and return, made this drawing of the city in 1828. In order to reach Timbuktu, Caillié learned Arabic and disguised himself as a Muslim. His feat earned him a prize for gaining exact information about Timbuktu, the Legion of Honor, a pension, and other distinctions. His illustrated travel journal was published by the French government in 1830.