Armed Islamists Destroy Timbuktu’s Mud Architecture

earth architecture, green building, Djinguereber Mosque, Timbuktu, IslamistsRecently I made a tiny film clip to raise awareness about the pollution surrounding the Giza Pyramids. In the comment section of that post, one of my colleagues quipped that Egypt’s newly empowered islamists would probably destroy the iconic Pharaonic structures. He was perhaps responding to a rumor that was circulating on social media at the time.

Quite frankly, I thought he was being ridiculous, and I still doubt that the pyramids are at risk of destruction given their importance to the country’s identity and weakened economy. But in Timbuktu, hardline islamists have destroyed one of the country’s most important buildings – the Djingareyber Mosque.

Timbuktu’s Earthen Mosque

The Djingareyber Mosque designed by Abu Es Haq es Saheli (who received 200kg of gold for his efforts) in 1327 is a famous learning center in northern Mali.

Although less well-known to the international community than the Giza Pyramids, this extraordinary structure was constructed entirely out of fiber, straw and wood. As such it is an excellent example of the benefits and durability of earth construction.

It is also hugely important to Muslim followers and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

Apart from a small facelift, the building remained almost completely intact until June, 2006, when researchers found that encroaching sand could potentially endanger the building. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture then conducted and financed a restoration plan.

Haram Architecture

But earlier this month, armed islamists from the group Ansar Dine (which means defenders of the faith), who consider the site to be idolatrous, destroyed enormously valuable burial sites on the western edge of the mosque.

“Declaring the ancient Muslim shrines “haram“, or forbidden in Islam, Ansar Dine set about destroying seven of Timbuktu’s 16 mausolea of ancient Muslim saints,” according to a short Wikipedia clip.

Residents were outraged, but local imams encouraged everyone to keep the peace in order to avoid provoking the men who smashed the building with pickaxes and shovels.

“We see this as wise advice, because the youths here are unarmed,” one resident told Voices of America. “We’ve got the Sahara Desert on one side and the Niger River on the other – if clashes were to break out the people would have nowhere to run.”

Although the Taliban conducted similar raids on historic Buddhist monuments, and this destruction is not an isolated event, we have to think that the pyramids are safe. But that doesn’t keep us from mourning Timbuktu’s tragic loss.

UNESCO’s world heritage fund committee has discussed plans to help Mali conserve their natural heritage amid the conflict between Ansar Dine and  Tuareg separatist rebels.

About Tafline Laylin

As a tour leader who led “eco-friendly” camping trips throughout North America, Tafline soon realized that she was instead leaving behind a trail of gas fumes, plastic bottles and Pringles. In fact, wherever she traveled – whether it was Viet Nam or South Africa or England – it became clear how inefficiently the mandate to re-think our consumer culture is reaching the general public. Born in Iran, raised in South Africa and the United States, she currently splits her time between Africa and the Middle East. Tafline can be reached at tafline (at) greenprophet (dot) com, @teakettle22,

7 thoughts on “Armed Islamists Destroy Timbuktu’s Mud Architecture

  1. kyle

    muslims at it again, they are vermin creatures like rats, they are viruses of earth that you cant get rid of, constuntly at war, constuntly blowing up planes and blowing themsevles up, shooting rockets into school, centances old ladys to lashes just because a unreleated man delivered her bread …the list goes on

  2. Maurice

    The madness in our world is happening all around us: in Syria, in Bulgaria, in Aurora Colorado, and even in Timbuktu.

    There will never be an end to extremists. We only have to find ways to deal with them.

  3. Huda Abukhoti

    These are crazy people who don’t relate to Islam by any mean! Ugh It’s so frustrating for me as a Muslim to see such stupid extremists destroy the image of our religion like that and talk about these insane ideas of what is “haram” then do whatever they want upon them.

    Thank you for posting this in an objective view of the situation, Tafline.

  4. Michael Lehner

    Regarding the destruction of the mud architecture: what a terrible shame. Regardless of the motive for the act or the current or previous use of the destroyed object, this is an act of violence. I’m glad I got to see it in this blog before the damage occurred, so thank you for reporting on it, even though it is just a heartbreaking thing to learn about.

  5. Tafline Laylin Post author

    I usually refrain from responding to comments like this, and would normally – in the case of such blatant discrimination – stick them in the trash where they belong. But I would like it to be on the record that I consider this to be one of the most ignorant responses I’ve seen to date. Only someone who knows nothing of Islam could be capable of such a simplified and hateful remark. Next time I’ll not only delete comments like this but I’ll ban the person who makes them.

  6. Tony Ruiz

    Screw mosques, hotbeds of islamic war against an otherwise civilized world. Tear them all down, burn ’em and smear the sites with bacon. Screw islam


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

four + 19 =