Endangered Libraries In Timbuktu (EAP1094)

Aims and objectives

The manuscripts of the legendary desert City of Timbuktu have received world-wide attention since the wilful destruction of more than 4000 manuscripts at the Institute Ahmed Baba in 2013, the last act of the fleeing Jihadists at the liberation of Timbuktu by the French and Malian armies.

Already during the occupation a rescue operation had been put in place when hundreds of thousands of Timbuktu manuscripts were removed clandestinely to Bamako SAVAMA, an association of Timbuktu libraries led by Abdel Kader Haidara, who has found worldwide fame as many documentaries and articles have been made about this romantic rescue operation, including the best-selling book ‘The Bad-Assed Librarian of Timbuktu’.

Although by far the majority of the Timbuktu manuscripts have been removed from the beleaguered city, there are several manuscript libraries that chose to hide their treasures in Timbuktu. These libraries are amongst the foremost of Timbuktu. Nevertheless they have not been able to find any sponsorship for the digitisation of their manuscripts since all efforts have been concentrated on the manuscripts that were removed to Bamako by SAVAMA where they are now receiving intensive treatment: digitisation, conservation etc. by a large number of international sponsors.

UNESCO has initiated a restoration and building programme in Timbuktu and these three libraries have been chosen for attention.

1. The Djingarey Ber Mosque built in 1327 by the Emperor Mansa Moussa I. It  is the oldest, perhaps the most famous, and its library is the Imam Ben Essayouti.

2. The Sankore Mosque was also built in the fourteenth century, by an architect from Granada: Abu Ishaq al –Sahili. Its library is the Al Aquib.

3. The fifteenth century Sidi Yahia Mosque has also agreed to take part and its library is the Al Wangara.

This project is co-funded by the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, which provides equipment, technical support, and salaries for local workers.

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