“He had rescued it once from the hands of jihadis in Timbuktu, and again from a waterlogged basement in Bamko.”

the-bad-ass-librarians-of-timbuktu-9781476777405_hrThe Brown Baggers delved into The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer on May 17. This book told the story of how historian Abdel Kader Haidara, saved thousands of priceless manuscripts from destruction.

In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law, chopped off the hands of suspected thieves, stoned to death unmarried couples, and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. Haidara was an archivist from Timbuktu- he organized an operation to smuggle over 350,000 volumes out of the city into much-safer southern Mali. Over the course of two decades, Haidara and other dedicated antiquarians scoured the region, buying up ancient texts from remote villages and getting them to safety.

Some Brown Baggers liked the book, others found it hard to finish, but most enjoyed learning more about African history and the Islamic culture. All agreed that it was wonderful to learn that people from all over the world wanted to help save and protect these manuscripts. The scrolls proved that this population was cultured and had a rich history. The manuscripts contained information on math, astronomy, and medicine, and the Timbuktu was a thriving center of knowledge, much earlier than other parts of the world.

Many readers mentioned that they did not like Hammer’s actual writing style. Others commented that they didn’t like how the story jumped back and forth in time, as this was a little confusing for readers and made the story harder to follow. Some others were interested in what was actually written on the scrolls, and would have liked more detail about what information was contained in the scrolls.

As one Brown Bagger said: Read the first 100 pages, then skip to the epilogue.

Abdel Kader Haidara

Books mentioned:
The Storied City by Charlie English
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Islamic Society of Central Virginia offers Arabic Calligraphy classes
Article from the Smithsonian Magazine by Joshua Hammer
From NPR
From the Washington Post
Hobby Lobby scandal 

The next meeting will be on June 21 at 12pm and we will be discussing I was Told to Come Alone  by Souad Mekhennet.

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