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…”