In the past, Chinguetti was not only a major trading post in the Sahara Desert, but a major stop on the pilgrimage path to Mecca. It is also considered the seventh holiest Muslim city in the world.
There are 5 ancient libraries in Chinguetti, but only one that regularly opens to the public and gives tours. There are thousands of books in the care of the families that built these desert libraries so long ago. Most of them are religious, but many cover subjects like astronomy and mathematics. Muslim scholars from every field are represented here.
Conservationists are concerned because the sands of the Sahara are slowly swallowing Chinguetti and the books are not necessarily being kept in optimal conditions in these private libraries, but organizations like UNESCO and various museums have also failed to come up with terms the library owners can be content with. Thus, the collections remain private and in Chinguetti.
The video here covers the first story the Curator of the Library told us. There are plenty more.
In fact, have a look at the entire Mauritania Series:
Part 3 – Camel Trekking in the Sahara Desert
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