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Mali: the mausoleums of Timbuktu come to life

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                Almost nine years after the sacking of the mausoleums of Timbuktu, and five years after their reconstruction, the inhabitants have reappropriated these religious treasures, inseparable from the very identity of the “City of 333 saints”.

                                    <p><em>From our special correspondent in Timbuktu,</em>

A few steps from the Great Mosque of Djingareyber, the gates of a cemetery. On the sandy ground, sober signs indicate the locations of the graves. In the middle, three mausoleums of light stone of about two meters rise.

Alpha Ibrahim Ben Essayouti, deputy imam of the Great Mosque of Djingareyber, is present at the scene. ” Those who are buried are great personalities who have marked the ages by their erudition and their moral probity », Says the imam. Then he continues: ” The ritual practice around the mausoleums consists of coming to meditate there. Not to come and make a request to the holy man, but to ask that Allah pour out His mercy and forgiveness on him. No one prostrates himself before a mausoleum. The sacred formulas of the holy book are recited there. »

► To read also: Timbuktu: the symbol of rehabilitated and sacred mausoleums

Chilling memory of destruction

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An explanation held by the imam, because it is because they reproached the Timbuktans for idolizing them that the jihadists of Ansar Dine destroyed 24 of the city’s mausoleums.

Abdoulaye Cissé, trader, witnessed it. ” I saw with my own eyes. I have my store in front of “The Door Which Doesn’t Open”. Sanda (a leading member of Ansar Dine, editor’s note) came to see me and he said “today we will open it and we will see if the world will end”. A week later they came back with money, pickaxes, pickaxes, and they destroyed it. It’s a very bad memory that we don’t want to see coming back … », Says the trader.

Reclaiming the mausoleums

More than 700 years after the construction of the oldest, and three years after their destruction, the mausoleums of Timbuktu have been rebuilt using traditional methods. Since then, the inhabitants have reappropriated their mausoleums, like Sandi Ben Sidi and Mahamane Abdou, met on the market.

► To read also: Mali, Unesco restores the mausoleums of Timbuktu

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« Every Friday, if I leave the mosque, I go there, next to the Kounta tribe guard camps. All Muslims born in Timbuktu did this “, Says Sandi Ben Sidi, who appreciates the reconstruction of the mausoleums:” Before it was old, now it’s just as well, they have been well rebuilt. There is no difference “. Mahamane Abdou, he can pay tribute. ” Just recently on Friday I prayed, not for the saint, but for all the Muslims buried in the cemetery. I go to the mausoleum of Sheikh Sid Mahmoud ben Amar and others. »

The transitional authorities and the International Criminal Court are organizing a symbolic reparation ceremony on Tuesday, March 30, in the case of the mausoleums of Timbuktu. It follows the conviction by the ICC, in 2016, of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, an executive of Ansar Dine who had ordered the destruction of the mausoleums in 2012. A first in a case of destruction of cultural heritage.


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