Mauritania, over a million square kilometres in size and situated in the West of Africa, is almost 80% uninhabited desert. Not only geographically but also culturally it marks the transition from Arab North Africa to black African Sudan. Its inhabitants have to struggle to preserve the ancient habitats and ways of life that dates from the days of the great trans-Saharan caravan trade.
The final decline of Saharan trade in the first century was the beginning of the end for the old Mauritanian cities, which had achieved great wealth and prestige as trading posts in the Middle Ages. The catastrophic drought in the Sahel at the beginning of the seventies set in motion the mass exodus from the desert. The ancient oasis towns of Chinguetti, Ouadane, Tichit, and Oualata were left to be taken over by the sands of the Sahara.
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