In a remote desert region of Mauritania, one of Islam’s holiest cities, Chinguetti, is home to families guarding thousands of ancient manuscripts dating back to the 13th century.
They are known as librarians of the desert. Over the last 50 years a changing climate has brought Saharan sands into the heart of the city, gradually consuming entire buildings.
The Mauritanian government has made an effort to preserve the priceless texts—including Quranic studies and scientific and legal documents—but for the families of Chinguetti, to surrender their heirlooms is anathema. Once a major draw for tourists, the city is now threatened by Islamist attacks, which has driven most outsiders away.
Panos photographer Alfredo Caliz offers a rare look inside the Unesco World Heritage Site.
Photographs by Alfredo Caliz/PANOS
Source: Bloomberg News