Monday, May 26, 2014

Heroes of the Manuscripts

Back in January of 2013, I blogged about some terrible news I had read regarding Timbuktu. In that post, I wrote about how the Ahmed Baba center, location that housed hundreds of thousands of precious manuscripts (some dating over 800 years ago) had been burned by Islamic fundamentalists. At the time of that writing, it was hoped that at least some of the manuscripts had been saved, but their fate was unknown. This morning, I read with relief a great article entitled The Book Rustlers of Timbuktu. Largely through the proactive and often risky efforts of a librarian, nearly 90% of the over 400,000 documents were saved. Through land and boat, over the Sahara, thousands of small metal lockers - 2 or 3 at a time- containing the books eventually made their way down to the capital. Imagine carrying this out, initially right under the noses of the fundamentalists during afternoon siesta times, facing searches, using public transport including tiny dugout canoes, not having the financial resources, etc.

Amazingly, not one of the documents smuggled down was lost. Efforts are being made to repair the nearly 40% suffering from damage, as well as to digitize the works whose contents range from diaries to medical texts. Just as some successfully hid artwork from the Nazis, dedicated people in Timbuktu saved historical treasures from the wrath of destroyers. They are the heroes of the manuscripts.
one of Timbuktu's beautiful doors
Read about my boat trip up to Timbuktu via traditional pinasse.

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