The city is essentially the home to the Kel Tamasheq, Songhay and Arabs. These are the main ethnic groups who are the original settlers of Timbuktu.
The Kel Tamasheq are nomadic people and desert dwellers. Their ancestors are the Messufa, Lamtuna, and Judaala. These are the Sanhaja groups who crossed the Sahara desert to find themselves in Sub Sahara Africa. The Sanhaja trace their lineage back to the King Himyar who is from southern Arabia or Yeman. The Kel Tamasheq are the founders of the city of Timbuktu. They contributed scholarly and commercially to the legacy of Timbuktu. Today, the Kel Tamasheq live in Mali and Niger.
The Songhay people are sedentary, farmers and fishermen. Their original capitol was Kukya on the bank of the Niger River. They are the founders of the Songhai Empire and have brought a lot of prosperity, prestige and reputation to the black people. They have spread Islam in West Africa. They are generous, noble, hardworking, excellent and courageous warriors. The Songhay Empire was one of the most democratic social entity of its time.
The Arabs arrived in Northern Africa in the 7th century. They carried the noble message of Islam to Africa. From North Africa, they reached Sub-Sahara Africa where the Emperor of Ghana was impressed by their moral character and decided to hire them as administrators in his government. They managed his affairs so well that he decided to embrace Islam. They have reached Timbuktu through the Trans-Saharan caravan trade. In Timbuktu, they settled in Sankore around the 13th and 14th centuries. They are excellent traders and Islamic scholars. Their presence in Timbuktu has added more flavor to the already flourishing intellectual life.