National Geographic : 2011 Jan
began to read in Arabic with the salt merchant translating: "Do men think they will be left alone on saying, 'We believe,' and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false." I wondered what this had to do with the French- man. "Notice how fine the script is," the giant said, indicating the delicate swirls of faded red and black ink on the yellowing page. He paused, "I will give it to you for a good price." At this point I fell into the excuses that I regularly used with the men and boys hawking silver jewelry near the mosque. I thanked him for showing me the book and told him that it was far too beautiful to leave Timbuktu. e giant nodded politely, gathered the parchment, and found his way down the stone stairs. The salt merchant lit a cigarette. He had a habit of holding the smoke in his mouth until he spoke so that little pu s would tumble out along with his words. He explained that the giant Imam Cha inspects his family's manuscripts, some over 400 years old, a er rains collapsed his roof. Dozens of Timbuktu families receive aid to preserve their libraries, covering expenses such as roof repairs.