Timbuktu: the name conjures images of a welcome oasis in the desert, an exotic city in the middle of nowhere. Located in Mali along the Niger River at the edge of the Sahara, this city began life as a settlement for trade. Established in the 5th century and peaking at the beginning of the 16th, Timbuktu attracted Muslim scholars. Manuscripts were collected, copied, and sold; books and the trading thereof became part of the local culture.
As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Timbuktu continues to celebrate its history. But over the past year, militants took control, and were shockingly bent on destruction. On purpose, half of the city’s 16 mausoleums were damaged as well as tombs and mosques, one of which has stood since 1325. The manuscripts were also in peril.
At times prosperous, at others desolate, this city has seen it all before and her people knew what to do – they hid the 30,000 to 40,000 manuscripts. Praise God they are now free again.
The people of Timbuktu risked their lives to save their heritage and culture. Preserving and protecting these valuable artifacts is a centuries-old tradition, one they intend to keep no matter who rolls into town.
Perhaps they are not warriors in the traditional sense, but they inspire none the less.