Honestly, I am not much for the reading of romances. I worked as an editor before joining the Navy and, because I had to edit romance novels, I asked a friend which romance writer was the best. She told me of Nora Roberts and I read one (uno, un, onesies) of her books. Not bad, but not my style. Still reading this story of Salaka Djicke tugged at my heartstrings. (And I thought I did not have any!)
The love story in this fabled desert outpost began over the phone, when he dialed the wrong number. It nearly ended with the couple’s death at the hands of Islamic extremists who considered their romance “haram” — forbidden.
What happened in between is a study in how al-Qaida-linked militants terrorized a population, whipping women and girls innorthern Mali almost every day for not adhering to their interpretation of the strict moral code known as Shariah. It is also a testament to the violent clash between the brutal, unyielding Islam of the invaders and the moderate version of the religion that has long prevailed in Timbuktu, once a center for Islamic learning.
Salaka Djicke is a round-faced, big-boned girl with the wide thighs still fashionable in the desert, an unforgiving terrain that leaves many women without curves. Until the Islamists came and upended her world, the 24-year-old lived a relatively free life.
Timbuktu is certainly in the news a lot these days. It used to be the Timbuktu of cities.