Chinguetti - Old Town 2

A labyrinth of rooms with evidence of yet to be finished restoration. The original ancient wooden roof beams used to be cut from Acacia trees, which were once prolific throughout the area .. but due to years of desertification and deforestation, they are no longer found here.

Many of the walls surrounding the 13th century mosque and its shapely minaret, are restored.

A closer view of the minaret which is constructed of yellow and rose-colored stone, shows that on the four corners at the top are small tapered towers with clay sculptures of ostrich eggs on poles. These ostrich eggs are said to represent a time when Chinguetti was abundantly green and ostriches thrived there. In the past, travellers would give offerings of eggs at the mosque.

The towers represent the four cardinal points: north, south, east and west.

A fifth egg sits in the centre of the roof, which when seen from the west shows the direction towards Mecca and serves as a guide for the faithful to be able to pray facing the correct way.

To be able to see the mosque from ground level, we walked down on spotlessly clean sand.

Chinguetti's Friday Mosque is a sight worth seeing. Restored in 1970s by UNESCO, it and its minaret are considered to be the national emblem of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

The minaret is said to be the second oldest in continuous use anywhere in the Muslim world.