Ouadane Mosque – Ouadane, Mauritania - Atlas Obscura
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Ouadane Mosque

Ouadane, Mauritania

This remarkably well-preserved mosque stands amid an 11th-century caravansary. 

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When Ouadane was founded is a matter of contention, but it’s generally agreed the city rose to prominence in the 11th century. Alongside Chinguetti, Tichitt, and Oualata, Ouadane became an important trading and religious center along one of the most important trans-Saharan routes. The walls surrounding old Ouadane suggest it was a ksar, or fortified village.

Buildings in the ksar that have not already crumbled to the ground are in a precarious state of disrepair, with one notable exception: the old mosque. Built in the 15th century, the mosque received some restoration attention without detracting from its ancient charm. The structure itself is relatively small, but the uncovered rounded rows of horseshoe arches create an intriguing and at times disorienting architectural feature. 

Like all mosques, the old mosque in Ouadane has a minaret, but unlike most mosques, this minaret is neither tall nor narrow. With a square base of 4 or 5 meters on each side, and no higher than a two-story house, this minaret is reminiscent of a turret built for military purposes. Yet, the shape and size of this structure may be the reason why it lasted so long. 

The arches, yard, and minaret are all built with stones found locally, with traces of clay plastering that was applied to fortify the structure in the 19th century.