Nestled in the Sahara, the medieval village of Chinguetti in Mauritania is an incredible jewel of Berber culture. Once an important outpost on trade and pilgrimage routes, the desert village contains wonderful examples of Berber Saharan architecture. It is also an important center of learning thanks to its desert libraries, which are filled with scientific and Qur’anic texts dating to the Middle Ages.The village was established in 777CE and was quickly built up due to the steady stream of traders and pilgrims who passed through on the way to Mecca. This also pushed the creation of the desert libraries, privately-owned book repositories where pilgrims could educate themselves on religion, astronomy, mathematics and law. Until the 1950s, over thirty of these family-owned libraries were open to the public, but a drought dropped that number significantly. Now, the five remaining libraries in Chinguetti contain thousands of texts, which are still preserved and handled according to tradition. Unfortunately, though Chinguetti was named a United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in 1996, these precious texts are at risk. Librarians are constantly battling the sands and dry air of the Sahara Desert, while a lack of tourism due to security concerns has caused three of the libraries to not open on a regular basis. While the state has tried to intervene in the preservation of the manuscripts, they’ve found it difficult to break thousands of years of tradition upon which the libraries are passed from generation to generation.Unfortunately, though Chinguetti was named a United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site in 1996, these precious texts are at risk. Librarians are constantly battling the sands and dry air of the Sahara Desert, while a lack of tourism due to security concerns has caused three of the libraries to not open on a regular basis“The state has been trying to lay its hands on them for years,” Seif Islam, the manager of a local library, told The Guardian. “Would you part with your hand or your foot? It is a part of us.” Luckily, increased security measures in the area mean that some tourists are returning to view these precious materials. Many combine a visit to Chinguetti with the other surrounding UNESCO sites of Ouadane, Tichitt and Oualata in the dunes of the Sahara.Chinguetti is a ksar or a Berber medieval trading centre in northern Mauritania, located on the Adrar Plateau east of Atar. Founded in the 13th Century as the centre of several trans-Saharan trade routes, this small city continues to attract a handful of visitors who admire its spare architecture, scenery and ancient libraries. The city is seriously threatened by the encroaching desert; high sand dunes mark the western boundary and several houses have been abandoned to the sand.The indigenous Berber Saharan architecture of older sectors of the city features houses constructed of reddish dry-stone and mud-brick techniques, with flat roofs timbered from palms. Many of the older houses feature hand-hewn doors cut from massive ancient acacia trees, which have long disappeared from the surrounding area. Many homes include courtyards or patios that crowd along narrow streets leading to the central mosque.Notable buildings in the town include The Friday Mosque of Chinguetti, an ancient structure of dry-stone construction, featuring a square minaret capped with five ostrich egg finials; the former French Foreign Legion fortress; and a tall water tower. The old quarter of the Chinguetti has five important manuscript libraries of scientific and holy Quran texts, with many dating from the later Middle Ages. In recent years, the Mauritanian government, the United States Peace Corps and various non-governmental organisations have attempted to position the city as a centre for adventurous tourists. Visitors may “ski” down its sand dunes, visit the libraries and appreciate the stark beauty of the Sahara.