Photographer's Note

Today I show three photos of a kind I usually don't post. Just doors, but rather special ones. I found them in the dusty streets of Timbuktu, and inside these buildings of grey stones were probably stored some of the treasures from the days when Timbuktu was a centre of science and Islamic culture.

In the late Middle ages Timbuktu in northern Mali was part of the large Songhai empire, which covered a major part of the Sahel area. In the city's universities and mosques hundreds of thousands of documents on art, medicine, philosophy and science were produced over the centuries, as well as of course copies of the Quran.

As Timbuktu's status declined in later centuries, most of these documents survived in private collections and libraries. Safekeeping of the records of the city's past glory was a matter of pride to later generations.

Early European explorers of this region had been astonished to find these documents, that disproved the colonial presumption that Africa was too primitive to have a written culture. But I admit that during my visit in early 1982 I was not aware of the treasures that may have been hidden behind these doors.

Timbuktu was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1980, although most of its medieval glory had been lost. In 2012 the city was hit by disaster when fighting erupted between Tuareg separatists and a militant Islamist militia. About two weeks later the Islamists, calling themselves Ansar al-Din (or Ansar Dine), took control of the city and the surrounding region. Reports of widescale destruction of Timbuktu's cultural and religious heritage, as well as atrocities committed against the civilian population, were spread across the world.

The terrorists were later pushed out by French troops, and today UN troops help the Malian armed forces to keep the peace in the city and its surroundings.

After this uneasy peace (frequently broken by new terrorist attacks) was restored, it was revealed that large numbers of manuscripts had been saved from destruction by being smuggled out of the city and evacuated to the capital Bamako. Eventually they will be sent back to its owners in Timbuktu, provided peace lasts, Inshallah.

Two photos I posted here years ago also remind us of Timbuktu's heritage.

Two more doors can be seen in the WS. All photos were scanned from Kodachrome slides.

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 12416 W: 572 N: 23839] (101988)
  • Genre: Lugares
  • Medium: Cor
  • Date Taken: 1982-02-00
  • Versão da Foto: Versão Original, Workshop
  • Date Submitted: 2020-06-28 0:17
Viewed: 0
Points: 64
  • None
Additional Photos by Gert Holmertz (holmertz) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 12416 W: 572 N: 23839] (101988)
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