Located in the Adrar region, it is one the oldest and best-known Mauritanian towns. It is a holy city of Islam housing invaluable, centuries-old manuscripts, and it is struggling to preserve them while becoming slowly engulfed by moving sand. Chinguetti's three major and several private libraries are estimated to contain up to 10,000 manuscripts, some of them unique in the Islamic world. Chinguetti was built in the third century A.D. as an important caravan stop and commercial center by the Sanhaja Confederation, which controlled much of Mauritania until the Almoravid conquest in 1076. Under the Almoravids, it remained an important trade center and also acquired a reputation as a preeminent center of Islamic learning, so much so that it came to be viewed, by the 16th century, as the 17th holiest location in all Islam. With the encroachment of European powers and the reorientation of trade routes away from the town and toward European-controlled coastal areas of North Africa, Chinguetti suffered a commercial setback, although as one the major religious center it continued to host a substantial collection of Quranic manuscripts as well as other writings dating back to the founding of the town. At the beginning of French occupation, a fort was built there to serve the French Foreign Legion. By the mid-20th century, the decline continued and desertification threatened the viability of the town and its people. Consequently, Chinguetti's population dropped from 40,000 in the 14th century to about 5,000 today.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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