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>> PROJECT WALATA 
© Alfons Rodríguez  
 
The history of muslim wisdom
 
  Mauritania is one of the least well known countries of North Africa. But the history of Mauritania, and of Walata in particular, can be surprising on account of its complexity and its cultural wealth, fruit of the different civilisations that have come and gone from this region of nomadic tradition and spirit.

Visiting the Mauritanian region of Al Hawd, we find important prehistoric remains pre-dating the Soninke domination of the region. This is known as the Dhar Tichitt-Walata culture, a unique neolithic culture dating from between BC 2000 and the third century BC. No less than 400 settlements, some of them complete cities, made up this group of towns.

In all probability the legendary kingdom of Ghana, which for more than five centuries controlled the traffic in gold across the desert from western Sudan to the Mediterranean markets, arose from this civilisation, whose decline was triggered by a deterioration of the climate and the arrival of the Berbers in the region. It is precisely in this context that historians place the earliest references to Birou, a town of Soninke origin which centuries later was to become Walata.

Thanks to its privileged geographical situation, Walata became a crossroads of civilisations within Mauritania, the land of nomads. Traditionally it formed part of the trade route crossing the Sahara towards North Africa and was crossed by Arabs, Berbers and members of black cultures, all of whom left their cultural imprint. The city became an intellectual focus for Islam during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when it was even a refuge for Muslim sages. At that time the city had six Koranic schools and the leading doctors of Islamic law gave their classes there. Each of the narrow streets and the buildings we come across on our visit to Walata are today a living example of the cultural heirloom of past centuries.


 

If you would like more information before travelling to Walata, write to us
Project undertaken by: With the collaboration of:
  FNSAV Fundació Solidaritat UB              
With the support of:
Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional
Generalitat de Catalunya                                  Ajuntament de Sant Feliu de Llobregat
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Esta obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons.