The Brazen Bibliophiles of Timbuktu: How a team of sneaky librarians duped Al Qaeda

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The Brazen Bibliophiles of Timbuktu How a team of sneaky librarians duped Al Qaeda

One afternoon in March, I walked through Timbuktu’s Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Studies and Islamic Research, stepping around shards of broken glass. Until last year, the modern concrete building with its Moorish-inspired screens and light-filled courtyard was a haven for scholars drawn by the city’s unparalleled collection of medieval manuscripts.

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This vision of a philosophical, scientific Islam means little to the Al Qaeda–linked Islamist group Ansar Dine, which for most of last year ruled Timbuktu through terror, cutting off the hands of thieves, flogging women judged to be dressed immodestly, and destroying centuries-old tombs of local saints.

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How Timbuktu’s manuscripts were saved from jihadists

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In TIMBUKTU, MALI — It was 7 o’clock on a hot night in August, and Hassine Traore was nervous. Behind him were 10 donkeys, each strapped with two large rice bags filled with ancient manuscripts. The bags were covered in plastic to shield them from a light rain.

Radical Islamists had entered Timbuktu four months earlier, and they had set about destroying everything they deemed a sin

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Also: El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Palatial Theater Now a Beautiful Bookstore

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With each incarnation since its inception in 1919—first as a performing arts theater, then as a cinema, and now as a bookstore—the Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has proven itself befitting of its majestic title. Having retained its original frescoed ceilings, ornate theater boxes, elegant rounded balconies, detailed trimmings, and plush red stage curtains, the interior of the building remains as stunning today as when it was first envisioned by architects Peró and Torres Armengol.

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