Mauritania was for many centuries a hub of culture in which the acquisition and spread of knowledge was an activity of fundamental importance. The remains of cities like Chinguetti, Ouadane, Tichit and Oualata, classified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, are one of the visible expressions of this rich culture. Situated in the heart of the western Sahara, these ancient oases grew to serve the caravan routes linked to trans-Saharan commerce. Soon they became centres of religious instruction, where mosques and madrassas, the Koranic schools, flourished.
We set out to discover these ancient library cities and sound the alarm for a civilisation under siege from the desert.