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Chinguetti, Mauritania

Surrounded and sometimes nearly engulfed by the shifting dunes of the western Sahara, Chinguetti was established in the thirteenth century and is considered one of Islam's seven holy cities. A World Heritage Site, the town flourished in the Middle Ages, when it was a key stop for caravans carrying gold, salt, dates, and ivory across the Sahara. Chinguetti is also home to an extraordinary collection of important Islamic manuscripts. Its medieval mosque features a prayer room with four aisles, a double-niched mihrab, and a courtyard. It is best known for its massive square minaret that towers over the town.

Chinguetti is located in the western Sahara and the encroaching desert is a constant concern. In addition, flash flooding and subsequent erosion also pose a danger to the building. Chinguetti Mosque was cited as an example of cultural heritage threatened by climate change in a report to the 30th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2006. The site suffers as a result of the effects of the expanding desert, changing rainfall patterns, vegetation loss, soil erosion, and extreme temperatures.


Last update: 2008