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Last Updated: Monday, 13 November 2006, 16:19 GMT
Book town on Timbuktu shortlist
Sign for Timbuktu, Mali
Timbuktu is already twinned with five towns and cities
A second hand book town with its own self-proclaimed "king" is in the final of a competition to find a British twin for the African city of Timbuktu.

Hay-on-Wye in Powys, has been shortlisted along with York and Glastonbury. The winner will be named next year.

The twinning idea came from photographer Stuart Redler to mark the start of an exhibition of his work.

More than 50 towns and cities applied to twin with Timbuktu in Mali.

Hay, home to the annual literature festival, was nominated by town bookshop owner Anne Brichto.

Mrs Brichto said there were some similarities between Hay and Timbuktu.

Raise awareness

"We are thrilled. We feel we are in a strong position," she said.

"They have a strong farming culture as we do in Hay. They have a library of ancient manuscripts, we have five million second-hand books.

"They have a history of story telling and we have a literary festival."

Hay-on-Wye book shop sign
The town's literature festival is held every June

Richard Booth is the Powys town's self-proclaimed "king of Hay". He has helped transform it from a sleepy backwater into a thriving second-hand book economy.

Photographer Mr Redler has teamed up with the Cultural Mission of Timbuktu over the twinning project, which he hopes will help raise awareness of the city.

Ali Ould Sidi, head of the mission, will visit the three shortlisted areas next month.

He said: "The three finalists most accurately match the spirit of Timbuktu, and I am very pleased to have found such similarities in Britain.

"The decision of who wins will be a difficult one, indeed."

Timbuktu - also spelt as Tombouctou - is already twinned with a Chemnitz in Germany, Saintes in France, Marrakech in Morocco, Kairouan in Tunisia, and Tempe in the US.

The trading city's name has historically been synonymous with remoteness, in phrases like "from here to Timbuktu".

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