The sands and the sacred texts

It’s deeply saddening to discover that in Mali, militants seem to have systematically destroyed much of West Africa’s Islamic heritage by ransacking and torching the libraries that hold priceless Korans and Hadiths.

Some years ago I made a story in nearby Mauritania about the wind destroying the desert cities of Chinguetti and Oudane, both significant repositories of similar ancient manuscripts. I wrote:

“Once upon a time, the Wind grew jealous of the prosperous cities and resolved to bury them beneath the sands so that the only traces were old men and dusty books. So it was that the wind crashed against the purple stone mass of the Adrar, the mountain range that crosses Mauritania in West Africa. It blew until the rocks were carved into sculptures of fearful complexity. It blew until the dunes advanced and Chinguetti and Ouadane, two once mighty cities of scholars and traders of the Sahara, began to choke under the ocean of sand. Today they are almost gone…”

 

Mauritania - Chinguetti - A librarian reads a traditional Koran outside the Chinguetti Mosque

Mauritania – Chinguetti – A librarian reads an ancient Koran outside the Chinguetti Mosque

 

Mauritania - Chinguetti -

Mauritania – Chinguetti – Ancient books, Korans and lahs inside a traditional library

 

Mauritania - Chinguetti - A man hold a wooden lah covered in Koranic inscriptions

Mauritania – Chinguetti – A man hold a wooden lah covered in Koranic inscriptions

 

Mauritania - Chinguetti - A pile of priceless manuscripts in a desert library

Mauritania – Chinguetti – A pile of priceless manuscripts in a desert library

 

Mauritania - Chinguetti - A priceless Koran

Mauritania – Chinguetti – A priceless Koran

 

 

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