When foreign correspondent and author Joshua Hammer first met Timbuktu librarian Abdel Kader Haidara, the reluctant librarian was on a ten-year mission traveling the deserts of Mali to salvage and preserve thousands of valuable Islamic and secular manuscripts.
“[Abdel Kader Haidara] said he wanted to make money, wanted to be a businessman and then was reluctantly dragged into this other career and ended up finding out that he actually loved this and it became his life,” explained Hammer.
Joshua Hammer: Saving the World’s Precious ManuscriptsAuthor Joshua Hammer discusses the badass librarians of Timbuktu with Full Frame's Mike Walter.
But in 2012, these precious cultural treasures were under serious threat as terrorists backed by al-Qaeda seized control of Timbuktu. Fearing these rare manuscripts would be destroyed, Haidara and a group of local librarians risked life and limb to smuggle 350,000 volumes out of Timbuktu to safe houses hundreds of miles away.
“They didn’t overtly threaten to destroy them in the beginning, but there was a growing fear that at some point they would and something had to be done to protect them because it represented the entire history of the country,” said Hammer.
Joshua Hammer eventually completed a lengthy expose for The Wall Street Journal and then wrote about Haidara’s heroic rescue efforts in his book, The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu and Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts.
Mike Walter sat down with Hammer to discuss his extraordinary tales from Timbuktu.
Connect with Joshua Hammer on Facebook