Zurich, Switzerland: The Founder-President of New7Wonders, Bernard Weber, has condemned the reported destruction by extremists of shrines, mosques and manuscripts in Timbuktu. “The damage being done to the ancient Sufi heritage of Timbuktu by these extremists is very similar to the demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2001,” Bernard Weber said. “The world stood by then, and we must not repeat this mistake.” And he added: “Worse than the destructions of the buildings is the burning of the Arabic manuscripts. Buildings and statues eventually can be rebuilt, but the manuscripts (wisdom) are gone forever.”
Following the destruction of the Bamiyan statues, an international project, initiated by Bernard Weber on behalf of the New7Wonders Foundation, undertook preliminary work on the reconstruction of the larger statue, which once stood 55 metres tall. These efforts resulted in a high resolution 3-D model that designed to serve as the starting point of a serious reconstruction project.
In January 2007, Bernard Weber flew into Timbuktu as part of the man-made New 7 Wonders of the World Finalists World Tour. In a blog post about this unique experience, he recalled the hospitality of the people of Mali and the beauty of Timbuktu’s heritage:
“We were invited by the three Imams of the city to visit their mosques, which are built out of a limestone found near the laces and covered with a sand mortar. The two famous ones, famous for the pyramid-like minarets were designed by an Andalusian architect brought from what is now Spain to Timbuktu by one of their kings. The Arab world at the time, in the 12th century A.D., spread all the way around the southern part of the Mediterranean Sea, from Baghdad to Grenada, whilst to the North, the area that earlier had been blessed with great societies like the Greek and Roman cultures, was buried in the medieval Dark Ages.”
Bernard Weber is appealing to the government of Mali, the African Union, the United Nations and Unesco to do all in their power to save what remains of Timbuktu’s artefacts, architecture and libraries. He is also calling on the global New7Wonders community to raise its voice in support of Timbuktu. “The mosques and shrines of this ancient city confirm its role as a centre of Islamic learning and art,” he said. “They have stood for hundreds of years at the crossroads between Africa, Europe and the Arab world and they must be protected for the sake of Global Memory.”