Jonathan May: La Vie, L’Amour, La Mort (2012)
"Mauritania is considered to be one of the least visited places in the world. The country’s only real exposure to photography is through journalism, and unfortunately after many Al-Qaeda kidnappings of tourists the media has ruined any potential travelers’ plans by painting it as an extremely dangerous place to visit. This in turn makes photography in the country extremely difficult. Journalists spreading fear have ruined the tourism industry, and many people’s livelihoods.
Chinguetti, established in the 13th century as a trans-Saharan trade route is considered to be the 7th holiest city of Islam. Sunni pilgrims en route to Mecca gathered here annually to trade, gossip, and say their prayers in the mosque built from stone. Desert caravans were the source of Chinguetti’s economic prosperity, with as many as 30,000 camels gathering there at the same time. The animals, which took refreshment at the oasis retreat, carried wool, barley, dates and millet to the south and returned with ivory, ostrich feathers, gold and slaves.
Today’s Chinguetti is a shadow of the prosperous metropolis it once was, and with the tourism industry basically dead the town and a lot of its workers have fled to larger cities like Nouakchott to survive.
When drinking tea with a nomad in the desert you must drink three glasses: the first glass is for life, the second glass is for love, and the third glass is for death.”