The Djingareyber Mosque is the largest of three mosques at the World Heritage site and shelters two of the 14 mausoleums destroyed by the groups of armed rebels that occupied the city earlier this year. No maintenance work could be carried out on the earthen structure during the occupation, heightening the risk of serious degradation.
Along with the rendering work on the mosque, a series of architectural studies were started and costs estimated for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of other damaged cultural property in the city. These tasks are being undertaken by Malian architects and technicians employed by the Ministry of Culture, under the National Cultural Heritage Directorate, with financial support from UNESCO. Read more.
Islamic radicals destroyed 4,000 ancient manuscripts during their occupation of Timbuktu, according to the findings of a United Nations expert mission.
The damage amounts to about one-tenth of the manuscripts that were being stored in the fabled northern city. The majority of the documents dating back to the 13th century were saved by the devotion of the library’s Malian custodians, who spirited them out of the occupied city in rice sacks, on donkey carts, by motorcycle, by boat and by 4-by-4.
Officials are currently trying to determine how many of those documents were digitized prior to their destruction or disappearance, said David Stehl, program specialist in the cultural section of UNESCO, the U.N. body that added Timbuktu’s monuments to its list of World Heritage sites in 1988. Read more.
A public appeal has been launched to save the hundreds of thousands of ancient manuscripts smuggled out of Timbuktu during the crisis in Mali, which are now facing a more insidious threat: moisture damage.
Dating back over 700 years, the fragile manuscripts range from poetry to commerce records, and are from Andalusia and Southern Europe, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco,and Arab trading ports on the Indian Ocean as well as the region of Timbuktu itself. Initially reported to have been destroyed by Islamist rebels in a fire, the 300,000 manuscripts were evacuated from Timbuktu by librarians and archivists.
Stored in the metal boxes used for their evacuation, the texts are already showing signs of damage and exposure to moisture, and experts have launched an appeal to raise $100,000 to help preserve them. The IndieGoGo campaign from Libraries in Exile is asking the public to donate money to save the manuscripts: $30 would preserve a single manuscript, while $9,000 would protect an entire footlocker. Read more.
The preservationists of Timbuktu’s centuries-old artifacts have been holding their breath for weeks, waiting for the moment when the French military would seize back Mali’s ancient northern capital from the Islamic militants who have occupied it for 10 months. At stake were the city’s most precious treasures: tens of thousands of centuries-old, priceless calligraphed manuscripts, whose fate under the jihadists’ rule was deeply uncertain.
On Monday, that moment finally came — and by nightfall, the state of Timbuktu’s treasures was as confused as it had been before.
When Malian and French soldiers rolled into town in armored vehicles early Monday, they found what the preservationists had most dreaded: Timbuktu’s new Ahmed Baba Institute, an expensive adobe construction opened in 2010 — the city’s splashiest international project in years — had been torched by militants of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb last Thursday as they prepared to flee the French advance. From Bamako, Timbuktu’s Mayor Hallé Ousmane Cissé, who had fled his city nearly four weeks ago, told journalists that the militants had burned the center’s collection of about 40,000 ancient manuscripts, some of the 300,000 or so historic documents stashed in libraries in Timbuktu and the villages around it, mostly as family heirlooms. “The manuscripts were a part not only of Mali’s heritage but the world’s heritage,” Cissé told the Guardian.
That is not so, according to those who’ve worked for months to keep the documents safe. Read more.
Islamist insurgents retreating from Timbuktu set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts, according to the Saharan town’s mayor, in an incident he described as a “devastating blow” to world heritage.
Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings that held the manuscripts, some of which dated back to the 13th century. They also burned down the town hall, the governor’s office and an MP’s residence, and shot dead a man who was celebrating the arrival of the French military.
French troops and the Malian army reached the gates of Timbuktu on Saturday and secured the town’s airport. But they appear to have got there too late to rescue the leather-bound manuscripts that were a unique record of sub-Saharan Africa’s rich medieval history. The rebels attacked the airport on Sunday, the mayor said. Read more.
UN cultural agency UNESCO on Tuesday urged Malian and French forces fighting in Mali to protect ancient cultural sites during air raids and ground attacks.
"I ask all armed forces to make every effort to protect the cultural heritage of the country, which has already been severely damaged," UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said in a statement.
French warplanes have been hitting targets in various parts of the country since Friday in support of Malian forces seeking to dislodge Islamist rebels who last year seized control of its vast desert north.
The rebels have since fled three key cities in the north, including Timbuktu, a UNESCO World Heritage site at a desert crossroads that was an ancient centre of learning. Read more.
Heavily armed Islamists bulldozed the tombs of three local Sufi saints near Mali’s desert city of Timbuktu on Thursday, residents said, the latest in a series of attacks in the rebel-held north that critics say threaten its cultural heritage.
“They arrived aboard six or seven vehicles, heavily armed,” said Garba Maiga, a resident of Timbuktu, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its ancient shrines. “They flattened everything with a bulldozer and pulled up the skeletal remains.”
Residents said the tombs destroyed included those of local saints Cheick Nouh, Cheick Ousmane el Kabir, and Cheick Mohamed Foulani Macina, several kilometers (miles) outside of the city gates. They said the rebels were from Ansar Dine, one of a mixture of Islamist groups now in control of northern Mali. Read more.
BAMAKO — Members of Timbuktu’s Arab community said Wednesday they have set up an armed brigade to prevent further destruction of the tombs of ancient Muslim saints by Islamists occupying northern Mali.
"Today we have a vigilance brigade so that no one touches the mausolea of Araouane and Gasser-Cheick," said Tahel Ould Sidy, leader of the unit, referring to two tombs in the greater Timbuktu region.
"We are armed and there is the required number of people," he added.
"We are not going to allow people who know nothing about Islam to come and destroy our treasures. I studied in Mauritania and Saudi Arabia, no one tells us in the Koran that we should destroy tombs."
Members of Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith), an Al-Qaeda-linked armed group, have been destroying tombs.
A child holds a gun as he accompanies Islamists who have been destroying ancient sites in Timbuktu. Read more.