Reading about Mali: Timbuktu and Beyond…

Life for me has been Large as of late. Some good, some bad. Haven’t even had a chance to process it all yet…

I’ve had to leave quite a bit on the side of the road, just so I could keep moving. One thing I dropped was this blog.

I had a really ambitious schedule set from mid-November to the end of 2012: 3 countries, and then a few weeks reading about Mayan history (just to counterbalance all of the 12/21/12 apocalypse nonsense). So many good meals to cook, so much new stuff to learn…

That did not happen. And that’s just how it goes sometimes.

That said…the slow pace allowed things to be all about Mali. And what an interesting time to be tuning in…

The Hand of Fatima, Hombori, Mali(image by By Timm Guenther (Timm Busshaus) (Own work)  via Wikimedia Commons)
The Hand of Fatima, Hombori, Mali
(image by By Timm Guenther (Timm Busshaus) (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons)

Things have escalated since my last post:  tried to turn its attentions towards Bamako, international troops are now on the ground and fully involved in the conflict, the hostage situation in Algeria (that seemed to be directly connected to events in Mali) ended badly, Timbuktu is back under the control of Malian forces…it’s a fluid situation, to say the least.

It’s been interesting to follow the events while at the same time reading more in-depth books about the country. One that I found really informative was Timbuktu: The Sahara’s Fabled City of Gold by Marq de Villiers and Sheila Hirtle.

A detailed examination of the history of the city, and Mali as a whole (to a lesser degree), it covers a lot of ground – much of which I knew very little about. The salt trade, the Songhai Empire, the dramatic changes to the environment in the area, Timbuktu’s historical standing as a important center of learning, the different ethic and religious heritage of the people, the city’s slow decline…I seriously want to read a separate book on all of the above. Really fascinating stuff and a little more insight into the conflict that’s happening now: a deeper understanding, beyond a 2 minute TV news story or a few articles on-line…which has been the whole point of this blog.

It’s also helped me to remember that there are real people being affected, right now, by the events that I’m just reading about in my spare time.
If you’re interesting in helping the people in Mali, here’s one way to do just that:
Wateraid Mali.

Sankore Mosque(image by  Baz Lecocq via nl.wikipedia)
Sankore Mosque, Timbuktu, Mali(image by Baz Lecocq via nl.wikipedia) 

Country #14 – Mali

Apparently, the Universe wants me to learn about Africa: country #14 is…Mali!

I mentioned in my intro to Guinea-Bissau, that was my first experience highlighting a country that was possibly on the brink of armed conflict; Mali is even closer to the knife’s edge. Smarter voices than mine can give you the details; you should read up on it, because what’s happening there is a big deal.

That said, Mali is an amazing country, and I will not be dwelling too much on the current crisis.

A New Country – unofficially at least

So. There’s a new country in the world:  Azawad.

Azawad in Context (and in French)
(image from Wikimedia Commons)

A breakaway republic from Mali with undefined borders and no international recognition, there’s still a pretty good chance that Azawad will have an big impact on the African, and probably global, stage.

More reading here:

http://www.gadling.com/2012/04/12/azawad-africas-newest-nation/

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/04/05/can_azawad_win_international_recognition

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/04/20124149184982408.html