Ancient ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata
Religious, cultural and commercial.
Location and siteIn the middle of an immense desert territory, these four towns are situated on the edge of a fertile valley (oasis). all The towns were important meeting points on the caravan route linking Idjil (known for its rock salt mines) with Timbuktu, and were also on the great trans-Saharan trading routes.
Each ksar is encircled by walls that are fairly well-preserved. Within the walls is the mosque, the centrepoint of the urban fabric. Lanes, blind alleys, covered passages and impenetrable walls fit with the defensive character of the place, and only begin to open out nearer the ramparts. Outside the walls of all the ksars except Oualata stand palm groves, the crop that governs the life of the nomads.
The mosque, whose squat minaret is the cultural and spatial centrepoint of each ksar, recedes modestly into the urban landscape. The roughcast stone or banco (je n’ai pas trouvé ce mot) used in domestic architecture reflect the Arab Muslim norms regarding culture, desert defence and climatic extremes. Decorated with magnifient stone motifs or intricate colour patterns, the houses have no apertures at streetlevel except air vents and arrow slits. A well in the market place for the livestock completes the character of the place.
C (iii, iv, v) To be completed.
- The origins of these towns are linked to the development of the great eleventh century trading routes. In this era Tichitt was one of the chief towns of the Berber kingdom, but became part of the vast Almoravides empire while still under construction during the end of the eleventh century.
- Between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, each enjoyed a period of prosperity, based notably on the Idjil saltmines. As a group they formed the most important commercial centre of the Western Sahara.
- Oualata was very wealthy in the fifteenth century, and also achieved a certain intellectual notoriety by sheltering the elite of Timbuktu who were fleeing Tuareg attacks (1446). Ouadane enjoyed great commerical prosperity, which then diminished under Arab incursions in the fifteenth century. At the height of its influence (seventeenth to nineteenth centuries), the religious and cultural prestige of Chinguetti reached as far as Mecca. Tichitt’s wealth lasted until the eighteenth and nineteeth centuries, when it was consumed by droughts, epidemics, and clan warfare.
- The status quo was upset by several factors: caravan routes shifted, urban centres and European trading posts opened, and Saharan trade was progressively abandoned, as was the nomadic way of life. A decline in salt production, the current serious drought, and the Saharan War (1975 to 1979) have all contributed to depopulation.
|M. Mohammed Ould Amara|
Chinguetti, Wilaya de l'Adrar, Mauritanie