The University of Sankoré, or Sankore Masjid is one of three ancient centers of learning located in TimbuktuMaliWest Africa. The three mosques of Sankoré, Djinguereber Mosque and Sidi Yahya compose the famous University of Timbuktu. During the 14th -16th century, Sankore University enrolled more foreigen students than New York University today. 

The Mali Empire gained direct control over the city of Timbuktu in 1324 during the reign of Mansa Kankou Musa also known as Musa I “King of Kings”. He designed and saw the construction of one of Sankore’s first great mosques and the Jingeray Ber Masjid in 1327.The foundations of the previous structure were laid around 988 A.D. on the orders of the city’s chief judge Al-Qadi Aqib ibn Mahmud ibn Umar. A local mandinka lady, esteemed for her wealth, financed his plans to turn Sankoré into a world class learning institution. 

By the end of Mansa Musa’s reign (early 14th century CE), the Sankoré Masjid had been converted into a fully staffed Madrassa (Islamic school or in this case university) with the largest collections of books in Africa since the Library of Alexandria. The level of learning at Timbuktu’s Sankoré University was superior to that of all other Islamic centers in the world. The Sankoré Masjid was capable of housing 25,000 students and had one of the largest libraries in the world with between 400,000 to 700,000 manuscripts.

Today, the intellectual legacy of Timbuktu is neglected in historical discours. These pages of WORLD history tend to get ripped out.   . 

Mr Birling: What. Is. Going. On?
Arthur: Nothing! Nothing’s going on! We’re in Timbuktu, and everything’s totally normal and you can get pizzas anywhere these days, and camels are really shy actually and it’s nothing like Sardinia, which I’ve never been to, and I’m not going to, and I’m definitely not in now!

concerto4art-and-education asked:

Hi. Quick question about those manuscripts in Mali. What language are they written in? And what exactly is in it? Because from the info provided, it sounds a lot like texts we already knew exisisted. They're from the Islamic Empire right? I'm guessing they're written in some form of arabic, or persian? Idk exactly when some of these date from but they all seem to be from Islamic influence in the area.

So do they contain wirtten records of these african tribes? Are they written in an African tribal language? Cause those weren’t facts included in the write ups and those facts would make them extremely significant. If they’re islamic texts like ones from Istanbul and Babylon, then all they show are the extent of the Islamic empire’s reach. The university of timbuktu isn;t the achievement of Africans, it’s the achievement of the Islamic Empire. Am I confused?

Alright, we’ll answer these questions for the last one to the first one, with some facts you apparently are in dire need of.

1. Only you can decide if you’re confused or not but if you need someone to tell you if you are or not, yes.

2. Which “Islamic Empire”? If you mean “any area ever ruled by an officially Muslim Government” then we’re talking:

3.  You seem extremely invested in taking achievements away from people you are calling “Africans”, who you seem to be under the impression are separate from “Islamic Empire”, are composed of “tribes” (WTF???), and speak “an African tribal language” (???).

So, all of that^ is really weird and racist and simplistic and just…wrong.

I get that you were probably weaned on The Single Story as so beautifully elucidated here by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but you’re obviously very intent on imagining that somehow any achievements originating in an entire continent of humans, the LARGEST continent, in fact, can and should be attributed to someone else.

If you have a mental sliding scale that associates cultural achievements in direct correlation with the skin color you image the creators of these documents to have had, that is a problem that YOU have, and does not in any way reflect reality. And that is honestly the only way I can imagine anyone could have brought themselves to say any of what you have just said.

Saying that African medieval manuscripts “all seem to be from Islamic influence in the area” is directly equivalent to saying that European medieval manuscripts are “due to Christian influence in the area”. It’s neither right or wrong, it’s just a random statement with no point.

4. “Do they contain written records of African tribes?” Considering they are still in the process of being cataloged and digitized, there is very little they probably don’t contain, considering the sheer volume of manuscripts found. Also, see above.

5. You seem very concerned about what languages and scripts there are written in. Firstly, I’m going to point out that the majority of Medieval European manuscripts are written in Latin, not English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, and so on.

Secondly, here is a portion of the indexing at Tombouctumanuscripts.org:

You can read an enhanced version of one of the manuscripts here in an interactive digital format:

This volume delineates the obligations of various parties to commercial exchanges and contracts. The author focuses on sales and protection for individuals loaning money in such transactions. Poetic verse is used to aid in memorizing the text.

Annotations placed between the lines of poetry clearly indicate that this document was used as a “textbook” to train students. The teacher first read the text to the student. The student, who sat facing the teacher, then annotated the text, thus the annotations are upside down when compared to the primary text of the document.

Rotating the text on the screen allows the viewer to see the document from the position of either the teacher or the student.

Honestly it’s a a little ironic to say “they sound like manuscripts we already know about”…who is “we”? Because you apparently know very little about them.

If anyone’s curious to read more about this library and the amazing librarians who guard them, you can read a news article here about the incredible bravery and courageous defense of these incredible manuscripts by their hereditary guardians:

When Abdel Kader Haidara was 17 years old, he took a vow. Among the families of Timbuktu with manuscript collections (and the Haidaras had one of the largest), it’s traditional for one family member from each generation to swear publicly that he will protect the library for as long as he lives. The families revere their manuscripts, even honoring them once a year through a holiday called Maouloud, on which imams and family elders perform a reading from the ancient prayer books to mark the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. “Those manuscripts were my father’s life,” Haidara told me. “They became my life as well.”


“If you [lose] a manuscript, it’s gone forever,” he told me. “Each one is unique, with its own story. It can’t be replaced.”

Toward the end of our time together, Haidara asked if I’d ever seen any of the documents. I said no, just scraps, and he looked surprised and took out his cell phone. With the expression of a proud parent scrolling through baby photos, he showed me images from his former collections, now all boxed up and hidden. But his smile did not fade as he kept scrolling through photo after photo after photo.

Read More

Now if THAT doesn’t steal the breath of any bibliophile who reads it, I don’t know what on earth could.


Watch the new trailer for Abderrahmane Sissako’s TIMBUKTU, Mauritania’s official entry for the 2015 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.

Coming to cinemas in 2015!

Some facts you didn’t know about Ancient Mali

In the 14th Century the city of Timbuktu, Mali was five times bigger than the city of London and was the richest city in the world

Malian sailors got to America in 1311 AD, 181 years before Columbus

In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for 150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it



Preserving ancient teachings in Timbuktu

Boubacar Sadeck, the youngest of Timbuktu’s scribes at 38, is a master of an ancient art - one that ties him closely to the historical writings that he spends his days transcribing and preserving.

“My weakness, my love, is calligraphy,” said the scribe, who fled Timbuktu, famed for its collection of centuries-old manuscripts, when Islamist militias invaded last year. “If I go a day without writing, I feel as if something is missing or strange. When I sit down with my paper and my pen, I feel wonderful. I feel at ease.”

Many of Timbuktu’s ancient scripts are now refugees separated from their former home in Ahmed Baba Institute after Islamist militias invaded. The rest have been either lost or destroyed in the chaos caused by the successful fight to drive the militias out of the city. Now, the future of these artifacts from the past is up in the air.

Read more in reporter Robyn Dixon’s story here

Photos: Evan Schneide / UN, Eric Feferberg / AFP/Getty Images