Timbuktu, a city classed as a world heritage site since only 1988, was founded around a thousand years ago by Tuareg nomads. Later it became part of the Mali Empire. Its illustrious mosques and shrines – Djinguereber, Sidi Yahya and Sankore – are among the treasures of Timbuktu.
What has happened to this repository of historic knowledge, or will happen, is very worrying to guardians of scholarship the world over.
When the Ansar Dine Islamists took control of the city last year, they destroyed tombs of Sufi saints which the hardliners condemned as structures of idolatry.
Shortly before this, UNESCO had warned against it, yet to no avail. It sounded the alarm over the sack of Timbuktu.
Last July, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said: “We are very concerned about what happens in Mali. We are extremely concerned about the destruction; it’s a World Heritage Site. There are mausoleums, mosques and manuscripts which represent an enormous value for humanity.”
Estimates of the number of manuscripts vary, but some sources say as many as 700,000 were collected in Timbuktu over centuries – Islamic and pre-Islamic – kept by families over many generations, and covering a vast variety of knowledge, including astronomy, law, medicine, mathematics and religion.
Twenty kilometres north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, Timbuktu thrived on salt, spices, gold, ivory and slave trading routes.
While priceless cargoes were caravanned to and from all points of the compass, little by little the inestimable records of culture concentrated.
Ali Ould Sidi of the Timbuktu Cultural Mission in 2008 said: “The nomads had moving libraries. When a camp struck, they buried manuscripts in leather sacks, and the people went on their way. Coming back months later, they knew the land and would dig up their library again. Some of them still have them, but in pitiful condition.”
Humidity and parasites are age-old enemies of the ancient writings, and now war. Army sources say fleeing militants targeted a building housing manuscripts and set in on fire.
- 1Flight MH17: was shot down by a BUK missile fired from Eastern Ukraine – Dutch report
- 2Netanyahu vows ‘knife terror’ won’t beat Israel as stabbings multiply
- 3Germany: PEGIDA slams Merkel over refugee influx
- 4YPG militia alliance set to attack ISIL stronghold Raqqa “within weeks”
- 5ISIL training children to kill
- 1Putin adds diplomatic strand to bolster Syrian air strikes
- 2Russian cruise missiles strikes prompt global aviation officials to issue safety alerts
- 3Russia tries to reassure Saudi Arabia over Syria air strikes
- 4Iraqi military claims to have killed several senior ISIL members including leader al – Baghdadi
- 5Belarus election: Lukashenko wins landslide of more than 80 percent – exit polls
- 1euronews live TV - News | euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 2NASA discovers evidence of “liquid briny water” flowing on Mars
- 3Latest News Bulletin
- 4At least 220 dead in stampede outside Mecca, Saudi Arabia reports
- 5Why aren’t rich Gulf states welcoming Syrian refugees…or are they?
- 6[Live] All the Rugby World Cup news in one place
- 7International news | euronews, latest international news
- 8International breaking news | euronews online world breaking news in video
- 9Why aren’t rich Gulf states welcoming Syrian refugees… or are they?
- 10Syrian refugee tripped by shamed camera woman is named
- 11Spain: Catalan President faces ‘civil disobedience’ charges over breakaway vote
- 12Banzai back in the vocabulary as Japan passes law allowing combat deployments
- 13Exclusive: shipwatchers chart Russian hardware heading into Med
- 14Which European countries offer the most social benefits to migrants?
- 15[Live] Catalonia: separatists heading for clear win in crucial elections
- 16Israel agents ‘incite’ stone-throwing in West Bank
- 17Fifa suspends Blatter, Platini and Valcke
- 18Kicked down in Hungary, saved by Spain
- 19Catalan president Artur Mas charged with organising illegal independence referendum
- 20Hungary’s army can shoot rubber bullets and tear gas at refugees
Wires > News
- 23:06 CET Exclusive – India battles big pharma over cough syrup abuse…
- 23:01 CET Exclusive – Jeb Bush says Putin’s Russia should face consequences…
- 22:47 CET Islamic State urges jihad against Russians, Americans – audio
- 22:40 CET Britain and China to hail ‘golden’ ties during Xi visit
- 22:36 CET Dozens of Tunisians freed in Libya a day after being kidnapped
- 22:14 CET Portugal centre-right, Socialists fail to reach deal on government
- 22:01 CET Most U.S. voters not aware of Democratic debate – Reuters/Ipsos…
- 21:58 CET ICC prosecutor to investigate Russia, Georgia over 2008 conflict