Restoration work on Timbuktu’s historic tombs to finish this month
BONNA project to restore 14 historic mausoleums destroyed in Timbuktu three years ago by hardline Islamists is due to finish at the end of July, the Art Newspaper has reported. The news was announced in Bonn, Germany, at the 39th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which is scheduled to end today.
Extremist groups targeted the tombs of Muslim saints as well as the city’s vast libraries when rebels occupied northern Mali following a military coup in March 2012.
Located at the crossroads of several Trans-Saharan trade routes, Timbuktu grew to become a major center of Quranic culture in the 15th century. Known as “the city of 333 saints,” it has 16 mausoleums inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
UNESCO, the Malian government and various international organizations are behind the effort to restore the mud-brick shrines, the earliest of which dates back to the 13th century. Local craftsmen used traditional materials and techniques in the reconstruction process, which contributed to the local economy by creating around 140 jobs.
World Heritage Committee Chairwoman Maria Böhmer said: “At a time when heritage is coming under attack by armed groups, the reconstruction of the mausoleums of Timbuktu gives us grounds for optimism.”
The organization’s assistant director-general for culture, Alfredo Pérez Armiñán, said: “Timbuktu is the symbol of a country that is recovering and regaining its self-confidence. It is the best answer we can give to violent extremists and a remarkable success story for the international community.”