Tichit is a small village located in the Tagant Plateau in the central part of Mauritania.
The settlement is located at the foot of the dahr Tichitt on a small promontory, nestled to the north between the cliffs range whose altitude exceeds 300 m and to the south with dunes of the Aouker, a vast geological depression.
Located 170 m above sea level the town is connected with a single 250 km sand track to Tidjikja making it extremely hard to access and justify the the isolation in which it is left.
COORDINATES 18°26’30" N 9°29’30" W
The Dhar Tichitt Neolithic site was settled by agropastoral communities around 2000 BC. These communities built stone settlements, which are the oldest surviving archaeological settlements in West Africa. The exact origins of Tichitt are unknown, but it is believed to have been founded by the proto-Mande peoples around 2000 BCE. They built their settlements on the cliffs of the Dhar Tichitt massif, which provided them with protection from the desert and a source of water.
The site was abandoned around 500 BC, when the area became more arid. Hundreds of rock art images have been found at the site, depicting animals and hunting scenes.
According to the Chronicles, the birth of Tichit dates back to the XII century:
Tichit came under the influence of the Almoravid Empire, which was a Muslim Berber dynasty that ruled over a large part of North Africa and Spain. The Almoravids established Islam as the dominant religion of the region and built several mosques, madrasas, and libraries in Tichit. They also brought with them new ideas, technology, and architecture, which transformed the town into a thriving center of Islamic learning and culture.
During the XIII century the Mali Empire took control over Tichit. The Mali Empire brought new wealth and prosperity to Tichit, which became one of the most important trading posts in the region. The town's merchants traded with the Mali Empire, as well as other West African states, such as Ghana and Songhai.
At the beginning of the XVI century, it represented a fundamental stage for the salt trade and in the mid XVII century it was so rich and prosperous that it became the capital of Tagant. The salt was mined from the nearby salt flats and transported by camel caravan to Tichit, where it was sold to merchants who then transported it to other parts of Africa.
The town was a crossroads for many cultures, and its people were exposed to different ideas, languages, and beliefs.
In the 15th century, Tichit was conquered by the Moroccan Saadi dynasty, which was a Muslim Berber dynasty that ruled over Morocco and parts of Algeria and Mauritania. The Saadi dynasty introduced new administrative and legal systems to Tichit, which improved governance and trade relations. They also built several new buildings and monuments, such as the Great Mosque of Tichit, which still stands today as a testament to their architectural prowess.
Tichit's decline began in the 19th century, when European powers started to colonize Africa. The trade routes that had made Tichit prosperous were disrupted by European merchants who had access to faster and more efficient modes of transportation, such as steamships and railways.
Moreover, the discovery of rock salt deposits in other parts of Mauritania and neighboring countries made the salt trade less profitable for Tichit. The town lost its economic importance, and its population declined. Many of its buildings and monuments fell into ruin, and the town became a forgotten relic of the past.
Today, Tichit is a small and isolated town that retains much of its traditional charm and cultural heritage. It has a population of around 5,000 people who live in simple homes made of mud and stone.
The town's economy is based mainly on herding and cultivation and salt mining.
The city is supplied with basic goods via a truck of basic necessities about once a month
Locked in the sands, Tichitt is practically a prisoner. The only relations it can have with the rest of Mauritania are made possible thanks to the importance of the camel herd which makes it possible to constitute caravans whose loads are the unique external contribution in provisioning of this region.
Just outside of Tichit a scattered palm grove spreads between the sand.
It is one of the few green spots in the otherwise barren desert landscape of the Tagant Plateau.
The palm grove covers an area of approximately 100 hectares and contains over 5,000 date palm trees.
The palm grove of Tichit has been an important source of food, shelter, and income for the town's inhabitants for centuries. The date palm trees provide shade from the scorching sun, and their fruit is a staple food in the local diet. The palm fronds are used to make baskets, mats, and other household items. The palm wood is used for fuel, construction, and carving.
In recent years, the palm grove of Tichit has faced several challenges, including drought, climate change, and overgrazing by livestock. These factors have led to a decline in the number of date palm trees and a reduction in the quality of the fruit. However, efforts are being made to preserve and restore the palm grove, including the establishment of a palm tree nursery and the introduction of new irrigation techniques.
Each year, in rotation, the caravan cities of Tichitt, Oualata, Chinguetti and Ouadane become the site of the traveling festival set up in 2011 to promote the Mauritanian economy and spread its culture through tourism: a whole week of dromedary races , parades of caravans, theatrical performances, musical events, poetry competitions and guided tours, but also conferences during which to reflect on the historical past and exhibitions of traditional crafts.
A festival to not forget the centuries-old culture of these cities that are in danger of disappearing, swallowed by the sand.