Ancient manuscripts draw visitors to the desert city of Chinguetti in Mauritania

Published on : Monday, January 10, 2022

The oasis city of Chinguetti, is located deep in the Sahara desert, in the North West African nation of Mauritania.

Chinguetti was discovered in the eleventh century. The city stood at the cross roads of the old trans-Saharan trade routes.

The desert is well-known for its camel caravans, which in their bygone days used to transport goods across North Africa.

In addition to commerce, manuscripts from the Arab world were also traded here, turning this place a centre of learning.

Around this trade, cultural and social development in Chinguetti took place, most importantly a large collection of manuscripts originating from Mauritania and across the Middle East.

Currently, the trans-Saharan trade routes of olden times don’t exist, and the desert is doing its best to regain this city.
The manuscripts are under threat from the elements. These manuscripts are part of the town and Mauritania’s rich cultural heritage,

Saif Ahmed Mamoud is the proprietor of the Ahmed Mamoud family library.

In 1699, the library collection work began, and comprises more than 700 manuscripts today.

This rich literary cultural heritage originates from around the Arab world, the manuscripts covering subjects as diverse as religion, mathematics, literature and astronomy.

“Chinguetti has many books, many manuscripts, the most important thing about these books is the most religious part of the manuscripts,” he explains.

The leaders from five West African nations and France, In February 2021, decided to step up the fight against Islamic extremists in the Sahel region, which included Mauritania as well.

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