I have heard the name since I was small and I always thought it was a magical name of a place that only existed in fables — but later  I realized  that Timbuktu in Mali located in Central Africa was a real place and had been a center for learning starting in the 11th century.  Islamic and pre-Islamic books and documents were kept at libraries — many of which were privately owned or sponsored.  In 2009 the  Ahmed Baba Centre for Documentation and Research was opened to house some 30,000 documents.


At the time this library was destroyed  and burned to the ground — see images before and after — by extreme Islamists — more than 60,000 documents are said to have been brought together. The word in the international press is that over 90% were spirited out of the country in May 2012. This must have been an amazing effort to save the documents not only of religious texts, but astronomy, physics, medicine, music and history. Islamists attack not only women forcing them to wear veils, whipping and stoning citizens if they do not conform to  their version of Islamic law,  but they also attack things that cannot fight back like the Bamyan Buddha statues In Afghanistan and libraries in Timbuktu.


old-220x165Timbuktu was an
important center of Islamic learning and a major trade center  (gold and salt) at the cross roads of the Sahara Desert. Caravans as well as Muslim pilgrims brought wealth to the city as it grew in  importance as a major learning center with a university.The city near the Niger River was founded in the 11th century, was sacked by invaders from Morocco in 1593 and fell to the French in 1894. Before there were universities in Europe there was the medieval University of Timbuktu with a student population of about 25,000, within a city of about 100,000. A wide variety of subjects was taught in addition to religion, including science, mathematics, medicine and history.
Where is the inclusiveness and tolerance that could be found at the empire of Mali in Africa and at the court of Akhbar the Great in India?
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