Mauritania Journals

Mauritania by Accident

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A January 2006 trip to Mauritania by HELEN001

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Quote: Mauritania had never been on my 'must visit' list. Neither had travelling in pain, and sometimes delirious with a raging fever, ever been on my 'must do' list. By accident, the two coincided and it was for me, a whole new experience. I had a great time.

Mauritania by Accident

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Overview

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Quote:
As we only saw an iron ore train and crossed the minefield my experience of recommended highlights is a tad limited. But this is not a problem because Mauritania is another one of those countries where you can make your own highlights. For some people it could be the vast desert panoramas, for others the surprising variety and beauty of the plants that grow in this seeming wilderness. If not the landscape or flora then what about the sight of hundreds of boys in gleaming white robes heading home from Koranic school or sitting in an internet café where every other cyber-cruiser in the place is not only male, but wearing blue robes and a white headscarf? There are also those encounters with the Mauritan...Read More

Auberges Le Phare du Desert

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Hotel

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Quote:
When you look at a hotel there's loads of different criteria you can use to rate the place - the most obvious being things like convenience, cleanliness, price, water supply and the number of cockroaches. But I now have another criterion that I can apply; is this a hotel I’d be happy to stay in if I were ill? And the answer is most definitely yes as far as the Auberges le Phare du Desert is concerned. Situated on the Nouakchott side of Kiffa it is a veritable oasis of comfort and tranquillity, and frankly I’d have been happy if we’d been held up there for a number of days instead of staying just the one night. Neither am I joking when I call it an oasis although it’s not quite the palm tree type of oa...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 21, 2006

Auberge Menata

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Hotel

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
Having worked out that this place was smack in the centre of town when I looked at the map I was really surprised to find the auberge to be a large house on a quiet, secluded and pretty up-market looking side street. The building was surrounded by a large sandy compound enclosed behind high walls on all sides. Along the front wall was a row of very tall conifer-type trees, and it was really hard to imagine you were actually in the centre of a capital city. To one side of the house was a parking area which, when we arrived, was full of a real motley collection of vehicles, including a couple that looked far more suitable for "doing the school run" rather than hiking across Africa. There...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 22, 2006

Part 1: Borderline Issues

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Yes, I know Nioro is in Mali but the Mauritanian border post is there. I gather it’s been moved some time recently and before, once through the Malian border post, there was a sort of limbo area of some miles before you reached the Mauritanian border post. Of course, like much of the stuff you’re told in this neck of the woods, this could be just another one of those things you hear that may or may not be the case. As both border posts are out in the sticks and in the middle of a particularly uninspiring stretch of scrub, it certainly seems a good idea socially to have the posts within shouting distance. At least the guards can chat loudly to each other until one of the posts gets moved again. Oh and,...Read More

Part 2: The Longest Day

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Story/Tip

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Quote:
So we reached Ayoun el Atrous with Claire hungry enough to eat her own leg and me ready to trade my first-born for a truckload of drugs. I’m not usually one for praying but, as we crawled along the main street all I kept thinking was, please, please God can we find a pharmacy before we find a food shop. I know it was selfish – but she wasn’t going to die, whereas I was. Well, what a funny little place it is. I guess it must’ve been around 5ish in the afternoon so there was that nice warm orangey glow you get at that time of day. The trouble was that it was still too early for the place to be open again after the long midday break. The majority of shops had the shutters pulled down, there was hard...Read More
Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
Well, it was a new day, a new dawn and although I wasn’t exactly feeling like a new woman, I definitely felt better. The night before, Claire had woken me to tell me we were there. I had no idea where there was and it wouldn’t have meant anything to me if Claire had told me. I remember a meal but I’m fairly sure I didn’t actually eat anything. And having a wash. I think I got lost at some point and there seemed to be a lot of tents around. I do remember looking up at the clear night sky before getting in the truck to sleep. The stars were so spectacularly bright it made me want to go round shooting out street lights on return to the UK. I slept like a log, woke up in the morning feeling sort of OK ...Read More

Part 4: Scratching the Surface

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Story/Tip

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Quote:
As we drove out of Boutilimit, groups of boys in their brilliant white Koranic school robes waved enthusiastically at us. We waved back. It was a photograph I wouldn’t let myself take. Including police checkpoints and the occasional pee stop, we’d been on the road for about 7 hours. Before we’d left Kiffa that morning we’d bought bread and tinned milk from the auberge and they’d filled our flask with hot water. We had "Laughing Cow" cheese, a tin of apricot jam and everything we needed to make 3½ cups of tea or coffee. With about 2 hours until we got to Nouakchott, the only things left to eat in the cab were the "sand baguettes" purchased the previous day in Ayoun. Neither of us were that hungry an...Read More

Part 5: Precarious Positions

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Story/Tip

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Quote:
I’d tried it in the truck cab, on a mattress on the floor of a large decorated tent and on a bench in the shade, but it didn’t matter – everywhere was just too hot, uncomfortable or both to read. Not enough room for air to circulate in the cab, the bench was too unsteady and the tent could have turned out to be an unintended act of sexual provocation. We weren’t even supposed to be in Nouakchott any more. Should’ve been half-way to the border at Nouadhibou by then, not wasting time reading. Actually, I didn’t mind the fact that the explosions we’d heard the previous night were New Years Eve fireworks and not another bloodless coup as we had speculated before drifting off to sleep. First thing in ...Read More

Part 6: Wind? What Wind?

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Nouakchott is a very windy place apparently. In fact the name means something like ‘meeting of the winds’ or ‘place of the winds’ in Hassaniya, which is a dialect of Arabic spoken in Mauritania. In 1957 someone decided that the capital of Mauritania had to be situated somewhere where fierce sand storms blow for nearly 250 days a year. The day we spent there fortunately, was not one of them. No, we were there for one of the other 115 days or so that it’s almost too hot to breathe. Not even the hint of a breeze from the sea. I found it really hard to believe that the tribal elders responsible for this decision really couldn’t find somewhere a little less inhospitable to run the country from. But then, w...Read More
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Quote:
At last we were well on the way to Nouadhibou and the border with Western Sahara. Of course we didn’t leave at the crack of dawn-even though we were up then, we didn’t leave until 11:30am. Nouakchott doesn’t open until 9am and that’s it. At least, not the place you go to get the form for the truck that’s been posted to Olivia that she has to collect from the post office to give to Claire because we can’t go anywhere without it. So we breakfasted on coffee and a packet of halal biscuits we’d bought the night before and were now addicted to. Eventually this guy Amadou who worked for Olivia was packed off to the post office at 8:45am. We’d paid up the bill and were ready for off the minute he got back...Read More

Part 8: Mined Over Matter

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Story/Tip

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
So there you are, driving along admiring the beige and enjoying the smooth, new tarmac road when all of a sudden you have to pull out to avoid a row maybe four or five reasonably large rocks. In Mali they tend to use branches cut from scrub whereas in Europe we have to use purpose built, red reflecting hazard warning triangles when a vehicle breaks down or gets a flat and needs to pull over to the side of the road. And in Europe, once the repairs are done, we pack our little triangles away and off we go – and you’d never know we’d been there. This is not the case in Mauritania, or indeed any country where a nifty little red warning triangle is not a legal requirement and rocks are ten a penny. It...Read More