Chinguetti, Mauritania

One of the more attractive of the ancient caravan towns in the Sahara, Chinguetti is shrouded with a palpable historic aura. It was once famous for its Islamic scholars, and was the ancient capital of the Moors; some of the buildings date from the 13th century. Chinguetti butts up against Erg Warane, Mauritania’s biggest stretch of dunes, and more than enough to meet expectations of the great Saharan sand ocean.

The highlight of any visit is a wander through the labyrinthine lanes of Le Ksar (Old Town). The principal attraction is the 16th-century stone mosque (no entry to non-Muslims). Also of great interest are the five old libraries, which house the fragile-as-dust ancient Islamic manuscripts of Chinguetti.

The best way to see the fascinating dunes around Chinguetti is by camel. Numerous méharées (camel trips) are available.  If you don’t want to sweat it out, you can hire a 4WD and driver.

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