Ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata

Ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata

Founded in the 11th and 12th centuries to serve the caravans crossing the Sahara, these trading and religious centres became focal points of Islamic culture. They have managed to preserve an urban fabric that evolved between the 12th and 16th centuries. Typically, houses with patios crowd along narrow streets around a mosque with a square minaret. They illustrate a traditional way of life centred on the nomadic culture of the people of the western Sahara.

Anciens ksour de Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt et Oualata

Cités fondées aux XIe et XIIe siècles pour répondre aux besoins des caravanes traversant le Sahara, ces centres marchands et religieux devinrent des foyers de la culture islamique. Ils ont remarquablement préservé un tissu urbain élaboré entre le XIIe et le XVIe siècle, avec leurs maisons à patio se serrant en ruelles étroites autour d'une mosquée à minaret carré. Ils témoignent d'un mode de vie traditionnel, centré sur la culture nomade, des populations du Sahara occidental.

قصور وادان وشنقيطي وتشيت ووالاتا القديمة

تأسّست هذه المدن في القرنَيْن الحادي عشر والثاني عشر لتلبية احتياجات القوافل التي تعبر الصحراء. وأصبحت هذه المراكز المتحرّكة والدينية مقرّاتٍ للثقافة الاسلامية. كما حافظت بشكلٍ ملحوظٍ على نسيجها المدنيّ النهائي بين القرنَيْن الثاني عشر والسادس عشر، فكلّ منزل فيها يحتوي على صحن دار وهي تتقارب إلى درجة أنّه لا تفصل بينها سوى أزقّة ضيّقة، وهي تصطفّ حول مسجد يتميّز بمئذنة مربّعة. كما تشهد هذه المدن على طريقة عيشٍ تقليدية وتركّز على الثقافة البدويّة لشعوب الصحراء الغربية.

source: UNESCO/ERI

瓦丹、欣盖提、提希特和瓦拉塔古镇

这些城镇建造于公元11世纪和12世纪,是贸易和宗教的中心,为经过撒哈拉沙漠的商队提供服务,并逐渐发展成为伊斯兰文化的中心。人们设法保存了公元12世纪到16世纪所建的城镇。沿着狭窄的街道是拥挤的带有天井的房子,环绕着一个有正方形尖塔的清真寺。这展示了具有西撒哈拉游牧文化人们的传统生活方式。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Ксары (укрепленные жилища) в Уадане, Шингетти, Тишите и Уалате

Основанные в XI-XII вв. для обслуживания караванов, пересекающих Сахару, эти торговые и религиозные центры стали важными средоточиями исламской культуры. Они сумели сохранить городскую застройку, сложившуюся в XII-XVI вв. Обычно дома с внутренними дворами концентрировались вдоль узких улиц, окружая мечеть с квадратным минаретом. Все это иллюстрирует типичный жизненный уклад, основанный на культуре кочевничества народов западной Сахары.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Antiguos ksurs de Uadane, Chingueti, Tichit y Ualata

Fundados en los siglos XI y XII para responder a las necesidades de las caravanas que atravesaban el Sahara, estos centros comerciales y religiosos se convirtieron en focos de propagación de la cultura islámica. Su tejido urbano, formado entre los siglos XII y XVI, se ha conservado admirablemente, con sus casas provistas de patios que se apiñan a lo largo de callejuelas estrechas en torno a una mezquita de minarete cuadrado. Todos ellos son ilustrativos del modo de vida tradicional de las poblaciones del Sahara Occidental, centrado en la cultura nómada.

source: UNESCO/ERI

ウワダン、シンゲッティ、ティシット及びウワラタの古い集落

source: NFUAJ

Oude Ksour van Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt en Oualata

De oude Ksour (meervoud van Ksar, een groep uit leem opgetrokken huizen) Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt en Oualata werden in de 11e en 12e eeuw gesticht voor de karavanen door de Sahara. Het waren handelssteden en religieuze centra die het middelpunt werden van de islamitische cultuur. Ze hebben hun stedelijke karakter – ontstaan tussen de 12e en 16e eeuw – weten te behouden. Kenmerkend zijn de dicht op elkaar staande huizen met patio’s, die liggen aan smalle straatjes rond een moskee met een vierkante minaret. De vier steden illustreren een traditionele manier van leven gebaseerd op de nomadische cultuur van volken in de westelijke Sahara.

Source: unesco.nl

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Ouadane © John Spooner
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

These four ancient towns, founded in the 11th and 12th centuries, were originally built to serve the important caravan trade routes that began crossing the Sahara. They comprise outstanding examples of settlements and were synonymous with cultural, social and economic life over numerous centuries.  These trading and religious centres became the home of Islamic culture.  

Developed between the 12th and 16th centuries, the towns constitute a series of stages along the trans-Saharan trade route with a remarkably well preserved urban fabric, and houses with patios densely-packed into narrow streets around a mosque with a square minaret.  They bear witness to a traditional lifestyle, centred on the nomadic culture of the populations of Western Sahara.  The medieval towns retain a specific safeguarded urban morphology with narrow and winding lanes, houses built around central courtyards and an original decorative stone architecture. They also illustrate outstanding examples of the adaptation of urban life to the extreme climatic conditions of the desert, both as regards construction methods and the occupation of space and agricultural practices.

The roots of the towns go back for more than seven centuries, resulting in urban ensembles that bear testimony to the intensity of changes linked with the important west-east and north-south trans-Saharan trade.  The four towns were prosperous centres from which radiated an intense religious and cultural life. These ksour are located on the southern limits of the Saho-Sahelan desert and over time became obligatory stages for the caravan routes linking North Africa and the river regions of western Africa, but also the entire savanna zone.

Criterion (iii): The Ksour bear unique witness to a nomadic culture and trade in a desert environment.  Their roots go back to the Middle Ages. Established in a desert environment bordering the Maghreb and the large ensembles of the «bilad es-sudan», they were prosperous centres from which radiated an intense religious and cultural life.

Criterion (iv): The ancient ksour are medieval towns with an outstanding example of the type of architectural ensembles illustrating seven centuries of human history. They contain an original and decorative stone architecture, and present a typical model of habitat of Saharan ksour, particularly well integrated to the environment. Their urban fabric is dense and closely-packed; with narrow and twisting lanes running between the blank outer walls of courtyard houses.

Criterion (v): These living historic towns are an outstanding example of traditional human settlements and the last surviving evidence of an original and traditional mode of occupying space, very representative of the nomadic culture and long-distance trade in a desert environment. Due to these particular characteristics, warehouses were built to safeguard their goods, and the towns evolved to become the brilliant homes of Islamic culture and thought. 

Integrity (2009)

The inscribed area incorporates all the attributes necessary to express Outstanding Universal Value.  The setting of the towns and their relationship with the desert environment, essential in understanding their role, has become vulnerable in recent years due in part to development pressures.

Authenticity (2009)

At the time of inscription, the four towns had preserved their original form and materials to a remarkably high degree, essentially due to gradual deterioration and population migration over a long period when no restoration was undertaken. When restoration work began in the 1980s, the techniques employed were in full conformity with best practices. Recently, the authenticity of the site has become vulnerable to socio-economic and climatic changes, due both to transformations made to houses and the lack of technical competence. 

Management and protection requirements (2009)

Law 46-2005 concerning the protection of tangible cultural heritage constitutes the legal framework for the management and presentation of the Ancient Ksour of Mauritania. The Ministry for Culture is the authority responsible for the enforcement of the laws concerning the protection of cultural properties. The Directorate of Cultural Heritage ensures that standards are being observed and is carrying out an inventory of the cultural properties in these towns. It supervises the work of the National Foundation of Ancient Towns that operates in these towns and ensures its management, conservation, presentation and development of socio-economic activities. The National Foundation for the Ancient Towns has developed a framework to be followed by a management plan once the fund is established for the ancient towns in the property and its buffer zones. The problem of sand drifts and desertification facing the towns as well as socio-economic changes, are all real challenges for the management of these towns in the preservation of these pearls of the Sahara.

There is a need to reinforce conditions concerning protection, planning and management in order to respond to the challenges being faced, particularly, to ensure that the buildings conserve their distinctive structures, decoration, form and configuration.  

Long Description

These four ancient cities constitute exceptional examples of settlements built to serve the important trade routes of the Sahara, which were witness to cultural, social and economic contacts for many centuries. They are the only surviving places in Mauritania to have been inhabited since the Middle Ages. They were built originally to serve the caravan routes that began in the 11th century AD to cross the Sahara from north to south and from east to west. Sited on the outskirts of a fertile valley or oasis, their original function was to provide religious instruction, and so they developed around mosques, accompanied by houses for teachers and students. Warehouses were built to safeguard their goods by traders, who needed accommodation for themselves, while inns were provided for those passing through on business. From these elements grew the characteristic form of settlement known as the ksar (plural ksour ), with stone architecture and an urban form suited to extreme climatic conditions.

According to tradition, Ouadane was founded by three holy men in 1141-42 on the ruins of earlier settlements dating back to the 8th century CE, which had been destroyed or abandoned in savage local wars. It was to become the most important commercial centre of the west Saharan region. A bitter struggle between two clans in 1450 led to the destruction of the first mosque. The town centre moved a short way to the east and flourished again within its fortifications, becoming very prosperous between the 14th and 18th centuries owing to its commercially strategic location. An attempt by the Portuguese to set up a trading post failed in the 16th century but Moroccan incursion in the same century had more effect, and Ouadane declined as Chinguetti prospered. Following the arrival of French troops in 1909 the town developed an extra-mural settlement towards the east.

Chinguetti was founded in the 12th century close to a small 7th-century oasis settlement now submerged in sand. It grew up round its mosque, with two powerful clans occupying the sectors on either side, and became celebrated as the gathering point for pilgrims en route for Mecca. Chinguetti also benefited from the production and export of salt from Idjil, a short distance to the north. Its zenith was attained in the 17th-19th centuries, principally because of its religious and scholarly eminence, which in turn helped to augment its trading role. Like Ouadane, Chinguetti suffered from Moroccan raids, but not to the same extent. The attraction of mining developments at Zouerate-Nouadhibou, followed by the Sahara war (1975-79) led to the depopulation of both Chinguetti and Ouadane.

Tradition has it that seven towns lie superimposed at Tichitt, which is borne out by the tel (artificial mound) on which the present settlement is sited. In the 11th century it was one of the main towns of the Berber Empire, and in the following century it became an Almoravid town. It lay on the outskirts of the Sudanese empires of the Niger region and profited from lying on the trade route between Ouadane and Oualata. It became of greater importance under the Oualad Bella tribe in the 16th century, but the 18th and 19th centuries saw savage clan wars during which part of Tichitt was destroyed. Despite these setbacks, it was one of the largest towns in the western Sahara at the end of the 19th century, with some 6,000 inhabitants. With the decline in the importance of salt production at Idjil, however, it declined in the 20th century.

Some sources claim that Oualata was founded in the 5th century CE; others date it to the Arab conquest. Five main tribes live there, each in their own quarter of the town. Two important trade routes, one from Marrakesh, Idjil, Chinguetti and Tichitt, and the other from Sijilmassa, Teghasa and Taoudeni, converge there and provide the economic stimulus for the town's existence. It became celebrated when elite refugees from Tumbuktu, 40 km to the east, settled there in 1446 to escape the Touareg invaders, and gave it a high intellectual renown. However, as the trans-Saharan routes moved towards the east and the intellectual families moved back to Timbuktu, the importance of Oualata diminished. It lost much of its autonomy with the arrival of Arab tribes in the 17th century, and drought and raids from the north put an end to its role as a provincial capital at the end of the 19th century.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

These four ancient towns are the only surviving places in Mauritania to have been inhabited since the Middle Ages. They were built originally to serve the caravan routes that began in the 11th century CE to cross the Sahara form north to south and from east to west. Sited on the outskirts of a fertile valley or oasis, their Original function was to provide religious instruction, and so they developed around mosques, accompanied by houses for the teachers and students. warehouses were built to safeguard their goods by traders, who needed accommodation for themselves, whilst inns were provided for those passing through on business. From these elements grew the characteristic form of settlement known as the ksar (plural ksoun, with a stone architecture and an urban form suited to extreme climatic conditions.

According to tradition, Ouadane was founded by three holy men in 1141-42 (536) on the ruins of earlier settlements dating back to the 8th century CE, which had been destroyed or abandoned in savage local wars. It was to become the most important commercial centre of the west Saharan region. A bitter struggle between two clans in 1450 led to the destruction of the first mosque. The town centre moved a short way to the east and flourished again within its fortifications. It was very prosperous between the 14th and 18th centuries owing to its commercially strategic location. An attempt by Portuguese to set up a trading post failed in the 16th century, but Moroccan incursions in the same century had more effect, and Ouadane declined as Chinguetti prospered. Following the arrival of French troops in 1909 the town developed an extra-mural settlement towards the east.

Chinguetti (lit. "the spring of the horses'') was founded in the 12th century close to a small 7th century oasis settlement now submerged in sand. It grew up round its mosque, with two powerful clans occupying the sectors on either side. It became celebrated as the gathering point for pilgrims en route for Mecca. Chinguetti also benefited from the production and export of salt from Idjil, some kilometres to the north. Its zenith was attained in the 17th-19th centuries, principally because of its religious and scholarly eminence, which in turn help to augment its trading role. Like Ouadane, Chinguetti suffered from Moroccan raids, but not to the same extent. French troops built a fort on the northern edge of the town, and this led to its expansion in that direction. However, the attraction of mining developments at Zoueraté-Nouadhibou, followed by the Sahara war (1975-79) led to the depopulation of both Chinguetti and Ouadane.

Tradition has it that seven towns lie superimposed at Tiehitt, which is borne out by the tell (artificial mound) on which the present settlement is sited. In the 11th century it was one of the main towns of the vast Berber empire on the edges of the Sahara, and in the following century it became an Almoravid town, founded by members Of the Chorfa clan. It lay on the outskirts of the Sudanese empires of the Niger region and profited from lying on the important trade route between Ouadane and Oualata, and it became of greater importance under Almohad rule in the 13th century because of its crucial situation on the salt route. It was fortified when it came under the control of the Oulad Bella tribe in the 16th century, but the 18th and 19th centuries saw savage clan wars during which part of Tichitt was destroyed by fire. Despite these setbacks it was one of the largest towns in the western Sahara at the end of the 19th century, with some six thousand inhabitants. With the decline in the importance Of salt production at Idjil, however, it has declined during the 20th century.

Some sources claim that oualata (whose Berber name means "Shady place") was founded in the 5th century CE; others date it to the Arab conquest. Five main tribes live there, each in their own quarter of the town. Two important trade routes, one from Marrakech, Idjil, Chinguetti, and lichitt and the other from Sijilmassa, Teghasa, and Taoudeni, converge there and provide the economic stimulus for the town's existence. It became celebrated when elite refugees from Tombouctou, 40 km to the east, settled there in 1446 to escape the Touareg invaders, and gave it a high intellectual renown. However, as the trans-Saharan routes moved towards the east and the intellectual families moved baCk to Tombouctou, the importance of Oualata diminished. It lost much of its autonomy with the arrival of Arab tribes in the 17th century, and drought and raids from the north put an end to its role as a provincial capital at the end of the 19th century.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation