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  • Wolfgang Fobo


Far out in the Mauritanian desert, Chinguetti is a mystical place. Details about this oasis you can google, let me just state that Chinguetti is considered the 7th most holy place in islam, a place where some hundred years ago scholars met, and you will find there many old libraries, full of old scripts, dealing with religion or science.

The actual Chinguetti (where the guesthouses are located, and which is populated)

For reaching Chinguetti, you will need a 4x4, and also you will not drive yourself, as, taking the direct way from Atar, there is no road in the sense that we understand to be a road, but you will have to master sand, lots of sand, and without a 4x4 and an experienced driver you simply will get stuck, and where there is no road, and no network, road assistance does not exist (even not where there is a road). Alright, we did what the ordinary tourist did, which is, booking our tour with a tour operator, and they have the cars and the equipment. As for the car, practically every desert car is a Toyota Hilux pickup, and our driver Brahim was a true master of the sand dunes.

Our Toyota has a flat tyre, and this (luckily) while still on the asphalted road. So the spare tyre had to do its job, a tyre without any profile

While the flat tyre being fixed, we take a tea break

While waiting for the flat tyre being fixed, we took a tea break in one of the many tea houses, in our case in Star, a town that luckily has the capacity to fix tyre. (our spare tyre looked so old and without any profile, so I was wondering how many km we could make without being really stranded, with the spare tyre also going broke). By the way, the tea ceremony in Mauritania is something special: you always get 3 cups, and each cup is prepared in a lengthy ceremony.

On the road to Chinguetti,

In Chinguetti, we stayed in the „La Gueila Guesthouse“, a home away from home, with WiFi and super clean bathrooms

The "new" Chinguetti, seen from the rooftop of La Guila guesthouse

Some of the old scripts we were shown

A caretaker of one library showing us some old scripts. In total we visited 3 or 4 libraries. Chinguetti is a WHS site.

Sunset on the dunes with a view to the new Chinguetti

A beautiful sunset without a sundowner (no alcohol in Mauritania). Later we were invited to a barbecue party, under starlight.

No way out: I had to perform

I did not ask for, but this camel ride was apparently part of the show, and so I had to demonstrate a stiff upper lip and accept the 2 hours ride from our picknick place to the sand dunes. Not exactly something comfortable, but ok, it was an experience.

The old Chinguetti. It took me some courage to make this foto from the top of my camel, shaky as it was up there

Riding on the camel, we passed by old Chinguetti (nicknamed Chinguetti 1), which is now abandoned, or can I say, swallowed by the sand, with only the old Mosque still stubbornly withstanding. As a matter of fact, the old town of Chinguetti where the libraries are located is nicknamed Chinguetti 2, while the few thousand people who still live there have moved onward to Chinguetti 3 (caused by the sand which gradually covers Chinguetti 2), and in Chinguetti3 also the guesthouses are located.

Apart from Chinguetti, Mauritania has many more wonders to show. We moved on to Ouadane, another oasis town, and, among others, also picnicked at the second biggest monolith in the world, the Ben Amira. All in all, a round trip of about 9 days.

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