Two of the World Heritage mausoleums destroyed in Timbuktu, Mali, have now been rebuilt through a partnership with local communities, the UN cultural agency said here Friday.
The rebuilding efforts will need an additional 8 million U.S. dollars to finish the rehabilitation of the site and of libraries that could again store hundreds of thousands of Malian manuscripts, Lazare Eloudou Assomo, representative of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to Mali, said at a press conference.
"We are looking for 11 million U.S. dollars," Assomo said.
The UN agency has been able to gather around 3 million U.S. dollars through bilateral cooperation and other funding, he said, but "if we don't have the 8 million dollars, it would be difficult for us to implement our activities."
Timbuktu was an economic, intellectual and spiritual capital and a center for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa during the city's golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries.
According to UNESCO, the three mosques and the 16 mausoleums comprising the property are part of the fabled city that was once home to 100,000 inhabitants.
The site was heavily destroyed by occupying extremists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between government forces and Tuareg rebels.
The conflict uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Malian government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.
In March, local masons working with UN support laid the first earthen brick to reconstruct two of the mausoleums.
"It's a long and complex task," said Assomo, who spoke alongside Vibeke Jensen, director of the UNESCO Office in New York. "The monuments look very simple in their architecture but they are complex structures."
In addition to their historical significance for the world, the site is entwined with the cultural and social fabric of the city and communities who live there.
Each of the 16 mausoleums is the responsibility of a specific family who serves as its "custodian."
"It is not only about rebuilding stones. It is also about keeping culture significant," he said.
Reconstructing the site has already contributed to "a kind of environment to foster peace reconciliation and social cohesion," he said.
In addition to the mausoleums, the plans include renovations of private libraries and sites to hold the estimated 300,000 manuscripts that were saved and temporarily secured in Bamako, the capital of Mali.