UIG contributing photographer Giovanni Merghetti sees the African nation of Mauritania as the last frontier, a place he has visited multiple times and a country he has discovered and explored by automobile. His haunting and striking images of the people and places of Mauritania illuminate a nation seldom visited, discussed or otherwise known about.
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania, located in Northwest Africa, is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on its west coast and by the Western Sahara Desert to its east. Mereghetti’s travels through Mauritania have brought him from the coastal capital of Nouakchatt through the Saharan sands to the northern towns of Chinguetti and Choum.
A holy city of Islam, nestled in western Adrar, in northwestern Mauritania, Chinguetti was once a ksar (fortified village) and an important oasis where the ancient caravan routes of the Sahara converged. Chinguetti is believed to have been founded in the mid-700s and over time became known for its many mosques and Koranic schools. The town’s “libraries of the desert” were once frequented by erudite travelers of the sands, and still host thousands of manuscripts and Koranic texts. In recognition for its place in culture and history, Chinguetti was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
When you reach Choum, the last outpost before “nowhere” begins, the nomadic heart faces the decision between continuing north towards the border of Western Sahara or turning back towards Nouakchatt. In the “square” of the village, where the harsh frontier animates everyday life, a rusty fuel pump suggests refueling, when available. If you do run out of fuel, you can also catch a ride on the Mauritania Railway, one of the longest and heaviest trains in the world, which will lead you from Choum either back towards the coast or onward to the iron mines of Mauritania.
Look for new images of Mauritania from Giovanni Mereghetti, who returned last month from yet another drive across the last frontier.
All photos by Giovanni Mereghetti. Text also sourced from Giovanni Mereghetti.
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