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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Abandoned "City of Libraries"

Inside the Abandoned City of Libraries: Stunning Pictures from Crumbling Saharan Town that Houses Some of Islam's Oldest Texts - But May Soon be Swallowed by the Sands

Michael Huniewicz | September 1, 2015

The desert city of Chinguetti, sinking ever-deeper under the sands of the Sahara, is the last place in the world you would expect to find a library. Yet this crumbling outpost in the west-African country of Mauritania is home to around 6,000 rare books and manuscripts, including some of the oldest Koranic texts in existence which date back to the 9th Century. It was once the prosperous and bustling trade centre of several 'trans-Sahara' trade routes. Traders from all over Europe, north-Africa and the Levant would stop in Chinguetti before moving on to sub-Saharan Africa. There, they would rub shoulders with poets, doctors, lawyers and scientists who sought wisdom at the 'City of Libraries'.

Photographer Michael Huniewicz travelled to this oasis of knowledge - home now to just 4,000 people - and heard nothing but silence. The poets, scholars and tradesman are gone, but the library's guardians remain to protect the fragile texts from the harsh Saharan weather. Its cultural past was considered so important that UNESCO granted it World Heritage Site status in 2000. Some experts believe that without help, the sands will bury city and its many relics within 'generations'.

<more at; related links: (The Lost Desert Libraries of Chinguetti. May 14, 2014) and (Endangered Site: Chinguetti, Mauritania. The rapidly expanding Sahara Desert threatens a medieval trading center that also carries importance for Sunni Muslims. March 2009)>

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