Meet ‘The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu’

From the Washington Post: Meet ‘The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu’.

In front of you, a mosque built of mud and clay that served as a center of learning in the Middle Ages. Here, scholars once gathered to discuss fine points of jurisprudence and philosophy. Poets set down their verses. Artisans created beautiful manuscripts, original works as well as copies of volumes from faraway times and places.

Now turn around and take in a different scene: a sandy square, where not long ago Islamist extremists meted out severe punishments for playing music and other crimes against Sharia law. Children kick a soccer ball, the dust flies. All around you is an economically depressed, psychologically traumatized city wondering whether it has a future. (…)

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu,” by Joshua Hammer, vividly captures the history and strangeness of this place in a fast-paced narrative that gets us behind today’s headlines of war and terror. This is part reportage and travelogue (there is a great deal of “setting off” in Land Cruisers, camels and small boats along the Niger River), part intellectual history, part geopolitical tract and part out-and-out thriller. [continue]

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