Timbuktu mausoleums rebuilt after destruction

Fourteen mausoleums in city of Timbuktu in northern Mali have been rebuilt after destroyed by extremists in 2012

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Malian stonemasons have rebuilt 14 mausoleums destroyed by militants that took over the desert city of Timbuktu in 2012. Timbuktu is also known as “the city of 333 saints.”

The entire city of Timbuktu is listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

In 2012, 14 tombs out of 16 were destroyed, leaving heaps of broken stone and mud.

Local stone masons used traditional building methods and cultural knowledge of the area when rebuilding of the mausoleums.

They also used old photographs and footage when carrying out the construction work.

Some of the tombs date back to the 13th century and local people believe that they protected the city from danger.

Timbuktu was the centre of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th Centuries. At the time there were nearly 200 schools and universities that attracted thousands of students from across the Muslim world.

But this practice is considered blasphemous by fundamentalists who occupied the city in 2012. They were later forced out by French forces in January 2013.

During their occupation, the militants vandalised and destroyed mosques and mausoleums, and burnt tens of thousands of ancient manuscripts.

The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, visited Timbuktu on Sunday and said the reconstruction work is “an answer to all extremists whose echo can be heard well beyond the borders of Mali.”

Bokova also said the destruction of cultural heritage is considered a war crime under the UN's 1954 Hague Convention.

She added "UNESCO has involved the International Criminal Court with the destruction of the mausoleums. Two months ago I met the prosecutor and I believe they are progressing rapidly, and I hope they will be ready to present the case to the ICC."

Bokova paid tribute to the stonemasons and said: "Your work is a lesson in tolerance, dialogue and peace... it is an answer to all extremists whose echo can be heard well beyond the borders of Mali."

The reconstruction of the tombs, which formally re-opened over the weekend, has cost $500,000 and construction  continues in other parts of the city.


TRTWorld and agencies