From Saudi Aramco World
By Louis Werner
One could easily lose something precious in Mauritania’s million square kilometers (398,000 sq mi) of dune fields and rocky steppes, stretching north from the Senegal River and east from the Atlantic into the Sahara’s most desolate corners. Nomadic encampments are few, villages are far between, and the wind blows inexorably from the west, scattering all that comes before it.
But Ahmad Ould Mohamed Yahya, director of manuscripts at the Institut Mauritanien de Recherche Scientifique (IRMS) in Nouakchott, believes it is not a fluke that something precious should recently have been found in the small town of Boutilimit, some 150 kilometers (95 mi) east of the capital city of Nouakchott: the world’s only known complete manuscript of a work on grammar by the great Spanish-Arab physician and philosopher Ibn Rushd, known in the West as Averroës. This find, so far from the Mediterranean basin, means that historians must rethink just how far Ibn Rushd’s writings and influence extended into the Arab hinterland.