A Quest Worthy of a Legendary Storied City
Timbuktu often evokes images of a distant land, a fairy tale setting with genie and wizards and quests to search for hidden treasures. While certainly parts of the whimsical images are a result of exotification and orientalism, Timbuktu is indeed a land full of treasures: a medieval centre of learning, it was home to tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts, on subjects ranging from religion to poetry, law to history, pharmacology, and astronomy. Compared to that, gold is simply a meaningless trinket. But how did the city came to house so many priceless manuscripts?
Charlie English’s book explores the history behind the accumulation of the precious knowledges of the world in this city, and running parallel this history is the modern time struggles to save these valuable artefacts. As al-Qaeda–linked jihadists surged across Mali in 2012, destroying anything deemed “blasphemous” in their path, a team of librarians and archivists joined forces to spirit the manuscripts into hiding.
Book Smugglers of Timbuktu is both a historical account of an amazing city and its treasures, as well as a true account on how precious these gifts are, and the men and women who will stop at nothing to protect them for future generations.
– Review by Huda
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