Wednesday, February 6, 2013


"In this Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 file photo, Abdoulaye Cisse, who lives in the Timbuktu area, holds open a book at the Hamed Baba book repository, one of the world's most precious collections of ancient manuscripts, in Timbuktu, Mali. Islamists claimed they burned most of the holy books there, and for eight days the fire alarm blared inside the repository. But because of the ingenuity of the people of Timbuktu, who hid manuscripts in millet bags, the al-Qaida-linked extremists succeeded in destroying only 5 percent of the collection." (Harouna Traore/AP Photo)
People of Timbuktu Save Manuscripts from Invaders
By Rukmini Callimachi
Associated Press dispatch, February 4, 2013
"For eight days after the Islamists set fire to one of the world's most precious collections of ancient manuscripts, the alarm inside the building blared. It was an eerie, repetitive beeping, a cry from the innards of the injured library that echoed around the world. The al-Qaida-linked extremists who ransacked the institute wanted to deal a final blow to Mali, whose northern half they had held for 10 months before retreating in the face of a French-led military advance. They also wanted to deal a blow to the world, especially France, whose capital houses the headquarters of UNESCO, the organization which recognized and elevated Timbuktu's monuments to its list of World Heritage sites. So as they left, they torched the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, aiming to destroy a heritage of 30,000 manuscripts that date back to the 13th century.'These manuscripts are our identity,' said Abdoulaye Cisse, the library's acting director. 'It's through these manuscripts that we have been able to reconstruct our own history, the history of Africa. People think that our history is only oral, not written. What proves that we had a written history are these documents.' The first people who spotted the column of black smoke on Jan. 23 were the residents whose homes surround the library, and they ran to tell the center's employees. The bookbinders, manuscript restorers and security guards who work for the institute broke down and cried. Just about the only person who didn't was Cisse, the acting director, who for months had harbored a secret. Starting last year, he and a handful of associates had conspired to save the documents so crucial to this 1,000-year-old town. In April, when the rebels preaching a radical version of Islam first rolled into this city swirling with sand, the institute was in the process of moving its collection into a new, state-of-the-art building. The fighters commandeered the new center, turning it into a dormitory for one of their units of foreign fighters, Cisse said. They didn't realize only about 2,000 manuscripts had been moved there, the bulk of the collection remaining at the old library, he said.

Monday, February 4, 2013

WORK (Egypt)

"A man leaves an exchange office in Cairo last month after changing foreign currency. At the heart of the discontent in Egypt is the public anger over the battered economy." (Nasser Nasser/Associated Press)
Under Egypt's Political Unrest Seethes the Rising Anger of the Poor
By Jeffrey Fleishman
The Los Angeles Times, Februarhy 2, 2013
"Hands caked in plaster, hammers scattered at his side, Yousry Abdelaziz toils away almost forgotten in a workshop at the edge of a shantytown that echoes with gunshots and the hollers of boys peddling cabbages in the middle of the night. The car mechanic next door is faring no better, even with his new marketing gimmick, a sculpture of mufflers and silver pipes twisting like fingers into the sky. A man has to try something to call attention to his business as the inflation rate rises, the Egyptian pound tumbles and sparse ingredients make subsidized bread as thin as paper. 'We open at 8 a.m., but by the time we close we still sell nothing,' said Abdelaziz, who chisels plaster cornices and ceiling decorations for houses that aren't being built. He looked to a clump of plaster not yet shaped. 'I had to fire three of my six workers. I couldn't pay them anymore.' Nationwide riots protesting President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-linked party have swept Egypt in recent days, killing more than 50 people, most of them in the coastal city of Port Said. Since its revolution two years ago, the country has been overwhelmed by ideological battles between liberals and Islamists, its ambitions obscured by clouds of tear gas and flashes of gasoline bombs. But at the heart of the discontent is public anger over the battered economy, specifically the president's failure to improve the lives of millions of people like Abdelaziz who voted for him last year. ... Desperation radiates through this neighborhood that borders a centuries-old cemetery, where mechanics, plumbers, vegetable vendors and fix-it men move in angry rhythms. Sometimes a man in a pressed suit hurries through the alleys like a preening bird, hops onto a falling-apart minibus and heads out looking for work he probably won't find. It's always been poor along these quarried cliffs, where Cairo stretches out all the way to the pyramids. Laborers, fishermen and farmers from the southern provinces and the northern delta began arriving decades ago, nailing up wood and corrugated tin, replacing it later with bricks and mortar.