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Home to some of the world’s most important medieval Quranic texts, this desert oasis was once an intellectual hub. But after more than 1,200 years, it may soon vanish.

Rising like a mirage on the edge of Mauritania’s vast Erg Warane sand dunes, the ancient city of Chinguetti has welcomed travellers seeking shelter from the blistering Saharan heat for more than 1,200 years. Founded in the 8th Century as a caravan stop for pilgrims en route to Mecca, this red-stone desert oasis eventually blossomed into one of the biggest centres of science, religion and mathematics in West Africa.

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Africa Mauritania Chinguetti