It's impossible to determine whether the ancient and crumbling houses of Old Chinguetti is rising out of the Sahara's famous dunes or being consumed by them. For centuries an important caravan stop, a home of Islamic scholars, and the most important gathering place for commencing the Hadj (holy pilgrimage to Mekka) for the desert dwellers in what is now Mauritania. During the 17th-century, more than 32,000 camels passed through the city daily! Citizens here claim that Chinguetti is the seventh most holiest city in Islam, that is, however, not a claim heard outside the city itself. However, once the sea trade of the colonial era replaced caravans, it marked the beginning of Chinguetti's demise. Today the town, founded around 1300, is Mauritania's most valued and visited historical site, with the old city's 16th-centrury mosque being its most recognizable landmark. After Chinguetti (together with three other desert towns, Ouadane, Tichit and Oualata) was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000 a slow process of restoring some of the crumbling building have luckily been initiated.