By Madeleine Muzdakis on September 12, 2021
A librarian named Abdel Kader Haidara secretly saved hundreds of thousands of manuscripts from being gone forever.
The fabled ancient city of Timbuktu, Mali, is a center of great learning. The permanent settlement of the city dates back to the 12th century when important caravan trade routes crisscrossed the Sahara and northern Africa. Beginning with the Mali Empire’s rule of the city in the 14th century, it flourished in a Golden Age of early Islamic intellectualism. The thousands of texts produced during and after this period comprise the renowned manuscripts of Timbuktu. When the collections were endangered in the summer of 2012, a librarian named Abdel Kader Haidara mobilized to save the city’s literary legacy.
The manuscripts of Timbuktu may number up to 700,000. These precious texts include early Qurans and topics including astronomy and math. For generations, they were held by private families who passed them down to succeeding generations. Among the librarians with a long family history of safeguarding books is Haidara. Haidara’s rich private collection was housed in his Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library. Haidara told The Wall Street Journal in 2016, “Many of the manuscripts show that Islam is a religion of tolerance.” […]