Charlie English

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Restoration and cataloging of the manuscripts of Timbuktu. Thousands of historical manuscripts were said to have been saved during the jihadist occupation of 2012. Credit Thomas Imo/Photothek, via Getty Images

On Jan. 28, 2013, news broke of an epic cultural catastrophe. That morning, the mayor of Timbuktu, Halle Ousmane Cissé, told journalists that the jihadist occupiers of the town had destroyed its famous literary heritage.

“They torched all the important ancient manuscripts,” Mr. Cissé told The Associated Press. “The ancient books of geography and science. It is the history of Timbuktu, of its people.”

Within hours, the internet was reverberating with paeans to these priceless documents of Islamic scholarship, some of which are said to date to the 12th century. Experts declared it to be a disaster of incalculable proportions, the greatest loss of the written word in Africa since the destruction of the library of Alexandria.…  Seguir leyendo »