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The Ahmed Baba Institute, officially the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, is a library and research centre in Timbuktu. The centre was founded in 1973, with financing primarily from Kuwait.[1] It was named after 17th-century Timbuktu scholar Ahmad Baba al Massufi.[2]

Ahmed Baba Institute
CEDRHAB Timbuktu.jpg
The old building of the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research
General information
Town or cityTimbuktu
Completed2009 (2009)
Cost5.8 million euros
Design and construction
ArchitectSouth-African architect



The current building was designed by a South-African architect and finished in 2009, costing around 5.8 million euros.[3] It has an area of 4,600 sq metres and includes an air conditioning system for the proper preservation of the manuscripts housed in it, as well as an automatic fire-fighting system. It replaced a 40-year-old crumbling building.[3]


The centre holds approximately 20,000 manuscripts covering Mali's history, including the Tarikh al-Sudan. The majority of the manuscripts are from the 14th to 16th centuries, and most are written in Arabic but others are in local languages, such as Songhai, Tamashek and Bamanankan, or even in more distant ones, one each in Turkish and Hebrew, with topics covering medicine, astronomy, poetry, literature and Islamic law.[2][3]

A program to digitize the manuscripts is under way, run by Norway and Luxembourg under UNESCO supervision, with only a fraction of them having been scanned as of January 2013.[2][3]


On January 28, 2013, as French-led Malian troops captured the airport of Timbuktu, fleeing Tuareg Islamists set fire to the building which they had been using as sleeping quarters.[2] Before and during the occupation, more than 300,000 Timbuktu Manuscripts from the Institute and from private libraries were saved and moved to more secure locations. In July 2014 UNESCO joined the Ahmed Baba Institute in an urgent appeal for financial assistance to preserve, restore, and digitize the manuscripts.[4]


  1. ^ Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research (IHERI-AB)
  2. ^ a b c d Harding, Luke (January 28, 2013). "Timbuktu mayor: Mali rebels torched library of historic manuscripts". The Guardian. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Walker, Peter (January 28, 2013). "Timbuktu library is treasure house of centuries of Malian history". The Guardian. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
  4. ^ HSRC Press (July 28, 2014). "The Ahmed Baba Institute and UNESCO Appeal for Assistance in Helping to Preserve the Timbuktu Manuscripts". Books Live. Retrieved August 23, 2014.

Coordinates: 16°46′35″N 3°0′19″W / 16.77639°N 3.00528°W / 16.77639; -3.00528