The heritage of Timbuktu in jeopardy

The first European travelers to reach Timbuktu thought they'd find streets lined with gold. Instead, they found a city made of mud rising out of the Sahara. Timbuktu has always been legendary-home to a centuries-old mud mosque and hundreds-of-thousands of ancient manuscripts. But the mythic city is now in turmoil, its North African desert sands swirling in a geopolitical mix of Mali's armed independence movement and Islamic radicals. History itself, hangs in the balance.

Part Three of The Current

The heritage of Timbuktu in jeopardy - AP Correspondent

For centuries, Timbuktu has been an oasis of culture and civilization. But even the mayor doesn't know who's in charge today.

The Mali city of Timbuktu is under the control of Tuareg rebels who've seized a vast northern section of the country and declared a separate state. The insurrection has been catastrophic. Mali was admired for being relatively well-governed with strong democratic standards.

But some of its soldiers revolted last month, angry with the president's inability to control the rebellion. Under pressure from neighbouring countries, the coup leader agreed to let Mali return to civilian rule.We aired a clip of Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo interviewed by al-Jazeera.

A new interim president will have 40 days to organize a presidential election. But there are complications. The northern rebellion has 200,000 refugees desperate to escape the fighting. And Mali's neighbours are growing anxious.

To bring us up to date, we were joined by Michelle Faul. She's the Chief Africa Correspondent with the Associated Press, and she was in Dakar, Senegal today.

The heritage of Timbuktu in jeopardy - UNESCO

The mayor of Timbuktu is not only concerned with his city's present. Both he and UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - worry as much for the city's past. Timbuktu is a World Heritage Site.

Lazare Eloundou is Chief of the Africa Unit at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, and we reached him today in Tanzania.

The heritage of Timbuktu in jeopardy - Historian

We started this segment some music from the late Malian musician Ali Farka Toure collaborating with Ry Cooder, in Talking Timbuktu.

And it's worth talking more about Timbuktu. It's a name to conjure by and many bold travellers have been enticed by its magic. The caravans, the gold, the camels and the sand are all true and part of the city's exotic heritage; a place made legend by hardy, and sometimes foolhardy, explorers.

Anthony Sattin is a travel writer and historian who's spent a lot of time in Timbuktu. His books include A Winter on the Nile and The Gates of Africa: Death, Discovery and the Search for Timbuktu. We reached Anthony Sattin at his home in London, England.

This segment was produced by The Current's Chris Wodskou.

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Last Word - Bagpipe Ban

We played a little Malian music this morning, a sound many might find exotic. In Vancouver, exotic sounds apparently wear a kilt. The city was fed up with buskers who play bagpipes, and brought in a rule ordering them to pipe down -- as in stop.

But yesterday afternoon, the mayor, Gregor Robertson overturned the bagpipe ban. It was a tumultuous few days and its left the city divided as some of the world's most accomplished pipers live in British Columbia and a ban would have really knocked the wind out of them.

Kyle Banta is a student who's piped on city's streets for the past two summers. For today's last word, producer Josh Bloch caught up with him in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Other segments from today's show:

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