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By Alex Duval Smith

Timbuktu’s clay-built Djinguereber mosque, commissioned in 1327 by emperor Musa I, is one of the most precious religious buildings in the world. Amid the extreme heat and sandstorms, its upkeep is an art in itself.

The muezzin of Djinguereber is also its chief builder, a role inherited from his father. Mahamane “Bania” Mahanmoudou, 76, has access to a team of 20 builders – all volunteers and members of Timbuktu’s builders’ corporation – who take part in annual restoration work on the 14th-century mosque.

“We mainly replace or repair wooden beams and fill cracks in the mosque’s walls,” Bania explains. “Of course, during the [2012] crisis we did not manage to carry out our annual restoration work, but we have now dealt with the cracks that appeared during that time.” [Read more…]