Published: February 04. 2013 4:00AM PST
Abdoulaye Cisse, interim director at the Ahmed Baba Institute, displays an ancient manuscript in Timbuktu, Mali, that was among those saved from an attack by Islamists.
The residents of Timbuktu suffered grievously under Islamic militant rule. Almost all of life’s pleasures, even the seemingly innocent ones like listening to music and dancing, were forbidden. With the arrival of French and Malian troops here on Jan. 28, life is slowly returning to normal.
But the city’s rich historical patrimony suffered terrible losses. Timbuktu is known as the City of 333 Saints, a reference to the Sufi preachers and scholars who are venerated by Muslims here. The Islamic rebels destroyed several earthen tombs of those saints, claiming such shrines were forbidden.
During their hasty departure from Timbuktu last weekend, Islamist fighters set fire to dozens of ancient manuscripts at the Ahmed Baba Institute, the city’s biggest and most important library.
Tyler Hicks / New York Times News Service