In 2013, Charlie English, then international news editor of The Guardian, became obsessed with the news coming out of Timbuktu. Jihadists were destroying the city’s religious monuments because they were not properly Islamic and librarians were smuggling medieval books out of the city in order to preserve them from the jihadists. He was not the…

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In the eighth century CE, after camels were introduced into North Africa, Muslim merchants of North Africa began to organize regular camel caravans across the western Sahara. North African merchants carried luxury goods from across the Islamic world and salt purchased from the desert salt mines to the great trading cities of the Sudan: Timbuktu,…

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Unlike the classic blue-tiled mosques of the Middle East, the mosques of West Africa are made from mud brick. That doesn’t mean they are simple mud huts. They are complicated and beautiful buildings that combine traditional West African building techniques with the ritual requirements of Islamic worship to make uniquely West African religious spaces. The…

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