As head of the Mamma Haidara Library in Timbuktu, Abdel Kader Haidara became greatly concerned about his library in 2013 when militant extremists backed by al-Qaida ransacked a local government library, destroying ancient manuscripts in physics, chemistry, and mathematics. Located in the Western Africa nation of Mali, Timbuktu flourished as a center of Islamic culture and scholarship during the 13th through 16th centuries. And now extremists wanted to destroy anything that the West considered valuable, and that was culturally and historically cherished by the citizens of Timbuktu.
Mr. Haidara felt that his library, filled with ancient manuscripts, was next and soon fixated on the endeavor of his life – to save these treasured books. The librarian reached out to the international community and eventually raised $700,000 for the stealth mission. He then enlisted a group of brave volunteers to help smuggle nearly 400,000 ancient manuscripts out of Timbuktu to Bamako, 606 miles to the south.
This was no easy mission. Volunteers made more than 30 round trips, encountering bandits, military checkpoints, bribes, more bribes, and even temporary imprisonment…. And then, more adventure on the Niger River.
Emily Brady, a scholar from Washington state, says of the success of the undertaking, “We kept thinking that we had to lose some manuscripts—theft, bandits, belligerents … combat, books in canoes on the Niger River—we had to lose some, right? Well, we didn’t. Not a single manuscript was compromised during the evacuation—nada, zero. They all made it.”
Amazing. This is a must read!