Trowels in hand, on their haunches, masons in Timbuktu use traditional techniques to reconstruct precious mausoleums destroyed in an Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012. Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents wrecked 16 of the fabled desert city’s shrines to Muslim saints that date back to Timbuktu’s 15th and 16th century golden age as an economic, intellectual and spiritual centre. After a 2013 French-led military operation drove the jihadists out of the city, the UN cultural body UNESCO began the rebuilding process with the Malian government and other international organisations. The reconstruction started last year and relies heavily on traditional building methods and cultural knowledge of the area, generating around 140 local jobs in the process. ‘What’s nice is that UNESCO did not look for masons elsewhere,’ said one of the workers at the reconstruction site, around

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