Seven hundred years ago, Timbuktu was a dream destination for scholars, traders, and religious men. At the southern edge of the Sahara desert in what is now Mali, travelers from Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt, and Morocco met in the bygone metropolis to exchange gold, salt, and ideas. According to a description of Timbuktu in 1526 by the diplomat Leo Africanus, “more profit is to be made there from the sale of books than from any other branch of trade.”
Bundled in camel skin, goat skin, and calf leather, the manuscripts remaining from Timbuktu’s heyday come in an array of sizes. Words from Arabic and African languages, inscribed in gold, red, and jet-black ink, line their pages. Sometimes the text assembles into triangles, or surrounds intricate, geometric designs. I stared at a few ornate pages in late 2013 as they were being photographed in an eroded cement building in Mali’s capital, Bamako. Rain pummeled the streets that day, creating pond-size puddles in the dirt road that people would wade through, ankle-deep, without flinching.
Read more – Dated: June 27, 2017