Update from Djenne

7 February 2013

In the midst of Mali’s sudden emergence in the world ‘s focus, the Unesco World Heritage city of Djenne sits tranquil in the heart of the Niger delta, just 120 km South of Sevaré, the launching pad for the continued French air strikes into the North of Mali, where pockets of Islamist rebels are still present.

Why does Timbuktu matter?

31 January 2013

Timbuktu sits on the edge of Saharan desert. It was a trading entrepôt in the age when the camel was the only means of transport and it became a centre of commerce in the region; trade in books come to be part of that exchange network. The city and its desert environs are an archive of handwritten texts in Arabic and in African languages in the Arabic script (mainly, Fulani and Songhay), produced, it appears, between the 13th and the 20th centuries. The earliest date of written heritage is still speculation for no scientific tests have been done on inks and paper.

Is Destroying Timbuktu’s Heritage Un-Islamic?

17 July 2012

From the moment the followers of Muhammad came roaring out of Arabia, in A.D. 633, they’ve cherished beautiful things. An exhibition that just closed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York showed how the first Muslims were inspired by glorious works from the Greek-speaking world, and their descendants never stopped being art-friendly.

333 Saints: A Life of Scholarship Under Threat

16 July 2012

The photographs in the following video were taken in 2007 in the region of Timbuktu, Mali, a landlocked country in West Africa. At that time, Mali was one of Africa’s most stable democracies. Timbuktu had regained its ancient fame as a center of Islamic scholarship. Political chaos has now over-taken the north and south of Mali.

The Taking of Timbuktu

26 June 2012

Near the banks of the Niger, where old men hawk slabs of salt carved from the Sahara and sent by boat from the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, Abdul Moussa explains how his tranquil life has been turned upside down.
First, the rebels looted the office of the local charity he runs, taking vehicles, furniture and air conditioners. Then they told the 56-year-old Muslim that the laws he had grown up with had changed.