Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the

Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts Timbuktu often considered to be a metaphor for any faraway place is actually a very fascinating city rich in history and culture Located between the Sahara Desert and the Niger River in the West African nation of Mali it dates back to 200 BC It was one of the greatest academic centers in the world for religion arts math and sciences Abdel Kader Haidara has spent much of his life searching for centuries old books and manuscripts written by these early scholars He located 337000 in all Then in 2012 Islamic Militants invaded Timbuktu and began the destruction of monuments and tombs Knowing that the precious and valuable books and manuscripts would be next Haidara with contacts in Europe and America began soliciting money to move and preserve them He organized fellow librarians teenagers donkey carts and small boats to smuggle metal lockers full of books out of the libraries during the dark of night through town to the river load them on the boats and send them to Bamako which was 555 miles away Always in fear of being caught This is the story of that heroic endeavor the people involved and the horrors perpetrated by the Jihadis What a read In the 1980s a young adventurer and collector for a government library Abdel Kader Haidara journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara a mild mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu later became one of the world's greatest and most brazen smugglersIn 2012 thousands of Al aeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali including Timbuktu They imposed Sharia law chopped off the hands of accused thieves stoned to death unmarried couples and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern MaliOver the past 20 years journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniuely ualified to tell the story of Haidara's heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al aeda and preserve Mali's and the world's literary patrimony Hammer explores the city's manuscript heritage and offers never before reported details about the militants' march into northwest Africa But above all The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism In the 1980s a young adventurer and collector for a government library Abdel Kader Haidara journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara a mild mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu later became one of the world's greatest and most brazen smugglers In 2012 thousands of Al aeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali including Timbuktu They imposed Sharia law chopped off the hands of accused thieves stoned to death unmarried couples and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali Over the past 20 years journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniuely ualified to tell the story of Haidara's heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al aeda and preserve Mali's and the world's literary patrimony Hammer explores the city's manuscript heritage and offers never before reported details about the militants' march into northwest Africa But above all The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism In the 1980s a young adventurer and collector for a government library Abdel Kader Haidara journeyed across the Sahara Desert and along the Niger River tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that had fallen into obscurity The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara a mild mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu later became one of the world's greatest and most brazen smugglers In 2012 thousands of Al aeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali including Timbuktu They imposed Sharia law chopped off the hands of accused thieves stoned to death unmarried couples and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali Over the past 20 years journalist Joshua Hammer visited Timbuktu numerous times and is uniuely ualified to tell the story of Haidara's heroic and ultimately successful effort to outwit Al aeda and preserve Mali's and the world's literary patrimony Hammer explores the city's manuscript heritage and offers never before reported details about the militants' march into northwest Africa But above all The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu is an inspiring account of the victory of art and literature over extremism Having lived in Mali and having visited the libraries of Timbuktu I can say the book is an accurate retelling of an amazing effort by the people of Timbuktu to maintain and preserve an international treasure The book was informative well written and exciting because it happened in one of the least well known but very famous cities on Earth I've walked the streets and talked with the people involved and enjoyed all the memories the narrative brought back Their courage in the face of death dealing terrorists was remarkable; their communal silence about the treasures they were protecting is inspirational The core story is fascinating A window into an ancient world I never imagined and the fascinating story of a person who first helped to reveal the scope and intellectual fervor of that world and then at great personal risk managed to save most of its treasures from modern barbarians A 5 star tale if there ever was one But the author looses his narrative skills when he describes the Islamic terrorists who wanted to destroy the past He fills chapters with small details only tangentially related to the core story totally submerging the core He apparently was just driven to publish every little thing he had learned about the bad guyswhatever its relevance In the end I am not sure what has happened to the library because I was exhausted trying to hold on to the thread of the story amongst all of his learned irrelevances Having spent 37 years as a professional librarian they had me at the title In the middle of the book the author takes a lengthy excursion through north African history but you need a little background on Mali and its neighbors to appreciate the project carried out by this librarian They may have over done that part Nonetheless his work was much challenging than anything I did in library acuisitions in the US and the Bahamas If you have no interest in libraries or Africa or Islam or history you probably aren't reading this review anyway The interest you have in any or all of those subjects the you'll enjoy this book If this were a tale it would be a good one That these are recent events is just astounding I remember following the terrorist invasion into the north of Niger and Mali but nothing related to the preservation of the people's cultural treasures While Hollywood makes movies of improbable and unimaginative heros performing essentially meaningless tasks The Bad Ass Librarians performed truly heroic work and without weapons or violence Organized and led by Mr Haidara they used their wits and their cultural patrimony not just books but whole libraries under the noses of some of the most ruthless killers roaming the world today I found myself wondering if I would have the courage to do the same These are real heroes and everyone should know and praise them A fine book and an excellent read; it was just too short This book tells a terrific story that is freuently ignored or overlooked in western media Sometimes it gets a bit complicated but the author does a good job of explaining the players Downside it really could have done a better job with the actual movement of the materials from Timbuktu to Bamako not in terms of details don't want to give away the trade secrets but the drama and emotion was muted Muted is not bad ass I hated this book but managed to finish for my reading group because I was allowed to skip the part I hated which was about all the recent fighting and jihad business in and around Timbuktu That was ½ the book The rest was interesting and the writing was good The first part gave the history leading up to the manuscripts and the uest to collect as many manuscripts as possible The last part was about the actual transfer of most of the manuscripts from the museum to a place of safety From the first part I gained a better understanding of how important the city of Timbuktu is and an understanding of the rich culture science Astronomy and Medicine and life occurring well before Europe was involved in such things A major failing was the total lack of any pictures of the manuscripts or the museum I enjoyed this book It was a nicely paced story clearly related of the saving of the old manuscripts of Timbuktu The events and characters were easy to picture and follow and I was uickly drawn into the storyI would have loved details on the gathering of the manuscripts in the first place a few years ago there was a chapter related to this but it seems that this is another whole interesting story I also would have loved some photos of the manuscripts to be able to see what was being described in detailI would recommend reading this interesting book Fascinating and inspiring story of how one man tracked down thousands of rare and ancient manuscripts many of them hidden in the desert in Mali and then had to launch a rescue mission to save them from Islamic militantsVery readable and informative it reads like a story Hammer has an extensive knowledge of the area and has spoken to diplomats military figures and ordinary people involved in rescuing the manuscripts There is enough political and military detail to give context but the focus remains on the cultural heritage and the impact of the jihadi takeover on the libraries The mission to save the manuscripts has heartstopping moments as exciting as any thrillerThought provoking exciting and poignant and very topical with the current wave of iconoclastic destruction Well worth a read

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