Mauritania

Exploring Mauritania driving through the Adrar Region in the Sahara Desert

Mauritania, located in the Northwest region of Africa, is generally flat and 90% of its land covered by the Sahara Desert. It borders the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara, Mali and Algeria.

Its name derives from the Phoenician word "mahurim" which means "man of the West" and is the link between Arab North Africa and black Africa.

On the mainly desert territory of Mauritania, two models of life at the antipodes meet: the sedentary one and the nomadic tribes. Sand dunes, rocky plateaus, isolated mountains and deep gorges characterize the landscape, which is crossed to the south by the Senegal river, along whose passage oasis and cultivated plains were born.
Despite its impervious and bleak appearance, Mauritania has a unique charm and has many attractions. Along the coast you can devote yourself to surfing and relax on the beaches while entering the hinterland you meet charming caravan towns and the multicolored tents of the nomads. The lunar landscape of its central highlands makes it difficult to believe that Mauritania was once a region rich in lakes, rivers and vegetation.

Spring-fed oases lie at the foot of some of the scarps. Isolated peaks, often rich in minerals, rise above the plateaus; the smaller peaks are called guelbs and the larger ones kedias. The concentric Guelb er Richat is a prominent feature of the north-central region. Kediet ej Jill, near the city of Zouîrât, has an elevation of 1,000 metres and is the highest peak.

Approximately three-fourths of Mauritania is desert or semidesert. As a result of extended, severe drought, the desert has been expanding since the mid-1960s. The plateaus gradually descend toward the northeast to the barren El Djouf, or "Empty Quarter," a vast region of large sand dunes that merges into the Sahara Desert. To the west, between the ocean and the plateaus, are alternating areas of clayey plains (regs) and sand dunes (ergs), some of which shift from place to place, gradually moved by high winds. The dunes generally increase in size and mobility toward the north.

In this land rich in tradition, culture, natural and artistic beauties are just some of the elements that enrich with positive feelings those who visit this country full of unexpected emotions. A country of a many faces in which ten thousand years of history coexist, including mosques, extraordinary archaeological sites like Chinguetti which, without a doubt is the most precious treasure of Mauritania and its major tourist attraction today declared World Heritage by UNESCO .

This itinerary covering 7 days in Mauritania, explores the Adrar Region by 4x4, and the coastal cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Although the main communication routes are in good condition, the rest of the roads are unaccessable if not with a 4x4 vehicle and a local guide. We wouldnt reccoment to drive around yourself unless in a experoenced caravan group of 4x4 cars.

7 day breathtaking adventure in Mauritania exploring the landscapes of the Sahara Desert in the Adrar Region, its remote villages, oasis and nomads camps.

ITINERARY OVERVIEW

DAY 1 / Visit to Nouakchott's beach and port + Minibus to Atar

DAY 2 / 4x4 Tour of the South Adrar Region

DAY 3 / 4x4 Tour of the East Adrar Region

DAY 4 / Minibus to Zouérat + catch the train

DAY 5 / Train ride + arrival in Nouadhibou

DAY 6 / Visit Nouadhibou + beach relax

DAY 7 / Minibus to Nouakchott + flight

INTRODUCTION

Seven days at the beginning of February exploring the unknown lands of Mauritania and its desert landscapes.

This time I was travelling with a new friend, Fedora, traveler and amateur photographer.

Afternoon flight from Italy to Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital.

After a long and draining journey of delays we finally arrived around 2 am at the Nouakchott-Oumtounsy Internation Airport.

Though it was dark, we felt straight away we had landed on another planet; We were the only tourists among the local people who were garbed in traditional dress, and we felt there was an atmosphere of pure and untouched culture waiting for us to discover.
We got out of the Airport and went straight to find a taxi. We spotted one who stood out among the lot; we were drawn to his weathered car and aged face and he instinctively felt honest to us, so we asked him to take us to our pre-booked Airbnb in the capital, Nouakchott.

The airport is new but very small and it is about 30 minutes drive from the actual city center of Nouakchott.

Nouakchott Airport

Very recently the main airport has been moved from the city center to a more isolated and larger area.
The newly paved roads and public lighting also on the long journey to the city are part of a series of recent investments and implementations by the government in an attempt to improve the communication routes and demonstrate commitment to the redevelopment of the territory in some way.

Entering the city our taxi driver helped us find a sim card for our spare phone to use internet and in case of emergency calls. He told us he is also an electronic engineer. How lucky were we! He made sure that the sim was working and everything was fine, we paid ten euros total to be safe for the whole trip.

We then arrived at the Airbnb, paid the taxi about twenty euros total and went to sleep.

DAY 1  |  NOUAKCHOTT + MINIBUS TO ATAR

We woke up two times: the first time was unintentional because it was pray time around 4 am when some people, walking outside of the building, went to wash themselves to the sinks next to our room.
The second time we woke up to get up and start our long day.
We still felt like we were in another world. The whole energy in the air was different. We went out to explore what was around us and have some breakfast. We found a bakery very quickly that was close to our Airbnb and next to Al Fantasia Restaurant, where we took a traditional tea and sweets and asked for some directions.

Mauritania Nouakchott streets
Mauritania Nouakchott streets Sunrise

We walked a bit around the area and we saw so many contrasts, visually and socially.
When I travel I'm mentally prepared and open to experience any situation and whatever may happen, so even though I get easily excited to see something different, especially when it comes to natural landscapes often slightly different from what I already know, I'm not easily shaken.

Mauritania Nouakchott streets

We kept looking for a solution about how to get deep into the Sahara Desert to the city of Atar, capital of the Adrar Region.
We knew we could just rent out a taxi, but as there were only two of us it would have been pretty expensive to reserve a whole taxi for us only.
We realised we were running out of time, so we started asking some restaurant customers for help when we finally met a very kind man, Youssouf, a member of the Ministry of Petroleum, Energy and Mines, who took us to the minibus stations where all the companies are.
After wondering and jumping from one company to another we stopped by Salima Voyages very close to Carefour Sabah, where the owner welcomed us and treated us very nicely. You can also take the mini-bus from the other station in the Teyarett area, close to the end of the city, on the N1 Autoroute Akjoujt to Atar.

Unfortunately we missed the early morning minibus, so as it was around 11 am, we had plenty of time before the second departure at 3pm.

Nouakchott minibus Salima Voyages

We decided to go visit the traditional fishing boats parked on the beach where the port is, only five minutes away from Crefour Sabah.
We left our heaviest bags at the station under the supervision of the staff because we trusted them, and we took our camera gears and equipment with us.

The owner of Salima Voyages came outside with us to get us a taxi and make sure it would take us where we wanted to go at the right price. It was very kind of him.

Taking a taxi in Mauritania, as in the past in many other western countries, you can end up sharing part of the ride with some strangers, and can always end up meeting interesting people and hearing their stories.
With us towards the coast there were two girls and a boy who were going to school and they were very curious about our presence as tourists.
The taxi driver from Senegal spoke a few words of Italian and we didn't miss the opportunity for a few laughs together.

He dropped us at the entrance of the beach close to Terjit Vacances and we kindly asked him to meet us again at the same place at 2.30 pm to go back to the minibus station. He told us there were no problem, just to be on time.

Nouakchott Terjit Vacances Restaurant

The beach was almost empty the weather not so bad as a breeze was blowing, but the sun was hitting very hard and we immediately felt it.

Mauritania beach coast

We met some young people who skipped school and took some photos with them, but they took them with their phones and we will never seen them again ahah.
In Mauritania is really hard to find people speaking English and only one of these guys could communicate a little with us.

After a little chat and laughs we walked all the way to Port de Pêche and the fishing market along the beach, and a local man and his dogs joined us by offering to show us around under his wing, like a fixer would do. It was good to have him.
We didn't talk much but we felt he was happy about guiding us.

Nouakchott Traditional Boats Beach
Nouakchott Traditional Boats Beach

We finally arrived where all the traditional fishing boats are beached next to the fish market. An explosion of colors and wooden boats where covering the entire beach.

Nouakchott beach traditional fishing boats
Nouakchott beach traditional fishing boats

We pushed our walk further and went to take some photos where the fishermen arrive with their boats to unload their catch and then weigh it and sell it to the market or private customers.

Nouakchott beach fishermen

There, many fishermen and people were very doubtful of our presence and some told us not to photograph them, although we were not photographing particular subjects but documenting the whole situation. We respected their decisions and kept walking with our local guide man. We were very dehydrated, despite having walked only a few hundreds of meters so we grabbed some bottles of water and headed back to the little restaurant/bar on the beach, the Terjit Vacances.

We stopped there for a good lunch sheltered from the baking sun.

Nouakchott Terjit Vacances Restaurant
Nouakchott Terjit Vacances Restaurant

The lunch took a while to arrive, but it arrived, and we spent maybe eight euros total including water.

For some reason, unknown to us, at times a flood of dragonflies would rise into the air. Maybe it was the very fast changing weather, as a huge sand cloud coming from the hinterland at a high speed was about to hit the coast. But luckily there was time for us to go back to our pick up point leaving behind the lovely camping buildings of Terjit Vacances.

Nouakchott Terjit Vacances Hotel Restaurant
Nouakchott Terjit Vacances Hotel Restaurant
Nouakchott Terjit Vacances Hotel Restaurant
Nouakchott Terjit Vacances Hotel Restaurant

Our taxi driver kept his word and was there waiting for us, so we went back to the minibus station.

The minibus was meant to leave at 3 pm but we waited till 4.30 before actually departing. After not even 15 minutes we stopped again at the second station, I went to look for the toilet and they sent me on the back of the station, where a whole world was hiding behind it.

Nouakchott area

Then a little scene coming out of a Giovanni Fattori's painting happened.

Nouakchott streets

But the best was about to come, I followed a man going to the toilet, because I had no idea where it was. No signs. So here you go the toilet. An empty building without a roof and a little room where to do your businesses.

Nouakchott wild toilet
Nouakchott wild toilet

Back to the station, where so many people were waiting to take their bus, Fedora came back to me shocked but also smiling. I asked her what was going on, and I found out that we had to change minibus's and the one we arrived with just left with some of our bags. I kind of laughed because it was surreal, everything happened so quickly. We didn't panic much, we warned the manager of the station who promptly called the driver that came back after few minutes, laughing, with our bags.

We were finally ready to officially leave Nouakchott and depart straight to Atar. Nouakchott and Atar are connected by one straight road, the N1, crossing the Sahara desert for about 440 km, driven in 6 hours if you are lucky.

Each minibus can carry about fifteen people, and their luggage on top of it. Yes, heavy loads on the minibus.
The minibus's often make stops for the moments of prayer, which seemed to be more than those dictated by the religion, but maybe we were just very exhausted, and we also stopped to buy some water and food or toilet needs.

Mauritania Sahara Desert pray
Mauritania Atar minibus Salima Voyages

The moments of prayer alternated between stopping and praying in the desert or stopping by one of the mosques along the way.

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Mauritania-Atar-Sahara-Desert-Mosque

The long road that traveled through the desert made us reflect on our smallness and on the vastness of nature, its strength as its harshness.

Sahara Desert Mauritania

We encounter some small villages, almost swallowed up by the sand and some almost surreal scenes.

Sahara Desert Mauritania
Sahara Desert Mauritania

And apparently abandoned places.

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Nouakchott-Minibus-Atar-Sahara-Desert 6

After hours of driving, the sun set leaving us in the complete darkness and in the hands of our mini-bus driver.

Mauritania Sahara Deser Sunset

Around 9 in the evening we finally arrived at the bus station of Atar.
Abdul, the manager of our accommodation, told us that a friend was coming to pick us up. We grab our stuff from the minibus and we spot straight away the man. Very kindly He helped us get our bags in the trunk of his car. The car looked pretty fine from the outside, as soon as we opened the door it felt as it was about to disassemble. His wife was sitting next to him.

We asked him if we could stop anywhere to get some food, as we needed to eat our dinner meal. He brought us the main square where the only restaurant is. We ordered to sandwiches.

Meantime Abdul messaged us asking where we were as his friend didn't found us, and then we realised we got picked up by a random stranger who got nothing to do with us. We started laughing so much. I felt there was something wrong, it went everything too smooth to be right.

I couldn't believe what just happened and this man's wife started to raise her voice with him. We started thinking that maybe that wasn't the first time He was picking random people up at the bus station. We were laughing so much.

Finally Abdul arrived himself to get us, we met at the main square and we started laughing together about the whole situation.
What an end of the night.

We arrived at the accommodation and went straight to sleep, after a good hot shower.

DAY 2  |  4X4 ATAR TOUR ERG AMATLICH

Our second day we woke up early after a good sleep, had a good breakfast, and meet with our driver/guide who was already informed of the plans.

We also found out where we actually were staying, a little paradise called O'dar Kanawal runned by Abdul

STAY
TRAVEL

O'dar Kanawal | Atar
Nouakchott to Atar: 5 hours and 30 minutes

O'dar Kanawal

Chikali, our guide's name, who speaks Hassaniya, Arabic and French, is a native berber of Atar and he knows everything about the area.

We loaded our bags and water on the Toyota 4x4, wheels depressurised ready for the journey and left.

Located south-west of the city of Atar, Erg Amatlich is a vast dune barrier of small dimensions (130 km x 5 km to 8 km) trapped between the mountains of the Adrar plateau. The erg, stretching from NW to SE, originates at the cliffs of the Tifoujar Pass and extends to the Akjoujt area where it takes the name of Dkhaïna extending to the Atlantic Ocean.

In addition to endless dunes, Erg Amatlich gathers a great variety of Saharan landscapes such as canyons, cliffs, cultivable basins and palm groves like Azoueïga, located on the west side of the erg.

There are many Neolithic sites, such as the Khatt Lemaiteg

We drove the main road, the N1, going south towards Nouckhott passing through the D'Hamdoun Pass overlooking the little village of Ain Ehel Taya, and then continued until, after 48 km from Atar, we took the dirt road towards Erg Amatlich; so descending from Atar, we turned left

Passe D'Hamdoun 1942-1943 - Compagnie de Pionniers de Mauritanie
Ain Ehel Taya Village Mauritania
Ain Ehel Taya Village Mauritania

Just before entering the dirt road we saw a huge crowd of camels walking along the side of the road.

Mauritania Camels Adrar

After a few hundred meters on the dirt road, we stopped at a nomad camp where we met some lovely people spent a couple of minutes trying to have a conversation. The only information we have been able to clearly understand is that the family of this camp had been living there for more than 15 years.

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Mauritania-Momads-Camp-Adrar-Region3

We continued driving inland, where the desert alternated in different colors and terrains.

Mauritania Adrar Region
Mauritania Adrar Region
Mauritania Adrar Region
Mauritania Adrar Region

We finally arrived at a sort of a pass, which crosses the low but imposing rock formations. From there another landscape opened up. We saw the first village that looked like a primitive lunar settlement.

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Immediately after the village a green area, probably more humid, there was a palm plantation that opened the way to the desert of dunes.
From this photo you can see the different backgrounds. In the distance an impressive rock formation emerges from the dunes that I have renamed as the backbone of the desert, keep reading and you will discover why.

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Mauritania-erg-amatlich-Adrar-Region-4x4-8

We stopped to admire this bizarre transition and decided to give the drone its first flight. As we were at the border with the open desert winds were extremely strong.

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Mauritania-erg-amatlich-Adrar-Region-4x4-8

After the quick stop, we kept marching in the sand and through the dunes for about 500 mt
On our left a barrier of palm trees on the right the dunes and the sand desert.
We finally get the to the "backbone" of the desert.

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Mauritania Adrar Region Desert Backbone

After a few kilometers we return inland, to the left, entering the palm groves.
There were many villages along the way, they all looked kind of abandoned but they surely were not. The inhabitants tend to stay inside their huts and shelters.

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We stopped at one of them here. As soon as we stopped a dozens of kids and womens came towards us trying to communicate with us. These people came out from nowhere all of a sudden we were surrounded. The girls were trying to take me as a husband apparently.

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I started flying the drone to take some photos of the landscape, and many of the youngsters were very curious, I showed them their village from the sky.
They were trying to communicate with us but only one guy could speak french. the others could only speak Hassānīya.

I don't know how, but somehow we ended up taking some photos together, although they wanted to take a picture but at the same time they were shy.
I generally don't like taking photos with locals unless they ask for it, so why not, I did it.

I have to say people of Mauritania are extremely nice and friendly, but most of all they were rightly surprised and incredulous to see tourists in their country. Several times they asked us in amazement what we were really doing in Mauritania. I was more than happy to tell them the truth, their country, despite the enormous social differences and injustices and poverty, is a country with great tourist potential and beyond and that certainly deserves to be explored and visited.

It is interesting how life is made up of perspectives and simple, but infinite, points of view. It happened that I have been told, not only in Mauritania, that the desert is just a mass of sand that has no value. These statements, in my opinion, do not come from wanting to belittle one's country but I believe from a condition of social unease linked to these extreme and harsh environments and from the fact that there is no will of the institutions to allow a decent living condition in these areas with local projects to help these remote places to survive and make a solid living out of tourism or any other sort of possibility.

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While I was trying to retrieve the drone that had to make an emergency landing, somewhere far on the rocky terrain, we were wondering where Chikhali had disappeared. The young people standing there with us were surprised to see the drone and were very kind to help me find it. It was like a little treasure hunt.

Finally Chikhali appeared from the nowhere, we jumped on the car said goodbye and left for our next spot.

We drove out of the village to the right, again towards the dunes.

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As soon as we hit the desert we started riding up and down to get to this place.
The White Dunes, that's how I named this place.
As soon as we turned off the engine and got out of the 4x4 this is what we saw.

White Dunes Erg Amatlich Mauritania
White Dunes Erg Amatlich Mauritania

But the real deal appeared to us from the sky once again.
With winds at 40 km/h I managed, don't ask me how, to capture this incredible scenery exclusively for you.

This part of the desert is known for its yellow, white-spotted dunes. this phenomenon is due to the different minerals contained in the desert areas that spread through the wind.
In particular, the vast white spots are due to a high rate of salt in the sand which makes them of this color, as if sprinkled with powdered sugar.

White Dunes Erg Amatlich Mauritania
White Dunes Erg Amatlich Mauritania
White Dunes Erg Amatlich Mauritania

After the quick stop we kept going along the big dunes of the desert to reach the biggest ones, the popular for the very few tourists out there, the Aouja dunes in the Aouzega area.

There we stopped for a lunch break and a traditional tea. Thanks to our Chikhali, our driver and guide who knows the desert like the back of his hand, we were able to be guests of the local berber family.
We went towards the vegetation, and a door in a bush let us enter the shelter. Inside sitting on the ground there were men and women, some had already eaten and some had not. We joined for a good rice and chicken shared meal, strictly to eat with your hands as tradition teaches us.
For respect we didn't take any photo of this

Aouja dunes Azoueiga
Aouja dunes Azoueiga
Aouja dunes Azoueiga

It was about 2.30 pm and we got back on the road to stretch to the final spot of the day. After more dunes and villages we entered another area, different terrain.
We entered the Tajala area a completely flat rocky terrain, cooked by the sun.

Tajala Area

After about 3 hours we are at the end of our tour, the last epic spot, The Vallée Blanche. An immense wadi that opens up into this immense valley of soft dunes, like a mousse.

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Vallée Blanche Mauritanie
Vallée Blanche Mauritanie
Vallée Blanche Mauritanie
Vallée Blanche Mauritanie
Vallée Blanche Mauritanie

We spent some time there to contemplate the beauty of that place until just before the twilight then we went down to the valley, where we stopped to grab some water and finally get back north to intercept the road N1 while the sun was setting.

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Mauritania-erg-amatlich-vallée-Blanche10

Arrived back in Atar we grabbed some food at this "restaurant" and went to eat at our accommodation. take a shower and sleep for the next day adventure.

DAY 3  |  4X4 ATAR TOUR CHINGUETTI & TERJIT

Our third day we woke up early again after a good sleep and a good breakfast, we took the 4x4 and left for our second tour.
The sun was shining and it was so bright reflecting in the air it seems everything was covered by a thin layer of fog.

Amojjar Pass Atar Mauritania

We headed south for few kms before turning on the left climbing up the mountains on a gravel road, along the steep and rocky canyons.

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The most dangerous road I have ever taken.

Amojjar Pass Atar Mauritania
Amojjar Pass Atar Mauritania

After several hairpin bends we arrived at the first military checkpoint right on the Amojjar Pass, from where a desert plateau began.
Before that check point this was the view:

Amojjar Pass Atar Mauritania

As soon as our passage was validated we headed to our first stops, Fort Saganne with its canyons and the near Neolithic rock paintings.

Fort-Saganne-Mauritania

Fort Saganne is the name of a fortress built specifically for the production of the homonymous successful French film in 1984.

Fort Saganne Mauritania
Agrour Amogjar Canyons
Agrour Amogjar Canyons

Few hundred meters to our right facing Fort Saganne, standing on the plateau you can see a a big rocky mass, where the cave paintings of Agrou Amogjar are kept.

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The Agrour Amogjar is a 690 m high peak near the Amogjar Pass. Its small natural shelters house a rich collection of rock paintings in a damaged state. An enclosure protects some of the shelters and access is subject to a small donationa fee.

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The set of rock paintings is heterogeneous. Eight stylistic groups have been recorded, ranging from the "pastoral" period to the most recent graffiti. The panels are featuring geometric circles with sunburst design, handprints, naturalistic wildlife such as giraffe, lion and crocodile, as well as herds of cattle and human collective scenes. The most important set is a frieze of dancers.

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A young guy gave us a glimpse of context of this paintings in english, I would say very well prepared on the topic. Apparently these lands once housed large wild animals such as lions and giraffes, as depicted on the paintings, but desertification and lack of water have led to the extinction of these species.

It was then time to move on to our next destination, Chinguetti, the town submerged in the Sahara Desert.
A long gravel road of about 55 km in the middle of nowhere was taking us there.

Chinguetti Road

After crossing a completely flat and deserted area we finally arrived in the city of the ancient libraries: Chinguetti. This town wrapped by the dunes, was established in the thirteenth century and is considered one of Islam's seven holy cities. A World Heritage Site, the town flourished in the Middle Ages, when it was a key stop for caravans carrying gold, salt, dates, and ivory across the Sahara. Chinguetti is also home to an extraordinary collection of important Islamic manuscripts. Its medieval mosque features a prayer room with four aisles, a double-niched mihrab, and a courtyard.

Chinguetti Mauritania Sahara Desert Drone shot

Our guide cordially accompanied us to visit one of the historical libraries, getting lost in the streets of this city invaded by sand.

Chinguetti Streets

Arrived at the door of the library, Saif Al Islam, long-time custodian of the Ahmed Mahmoud library, welcomed us and explained the ancient history of Chinguetti, its strategic importance on the salt road as a caravan city and its priceless manuscripts and books that hand down the history still today, although they are in a very low level of conservation due to lack of resources.

He showed us not only the books but also the tools and defense weapons that the local people used in the past

Chinguetti Mauritania Sahara Desert Library

After this beautiful visit, Chikali took us to his friends' house who kindly welcomed us and hosted for lunch.

In all local tradition, we ate with men only, strictly with our hands. Couscous dish of the day with fish, slightly spicy and very delicious.

Mauritania Tradiional Food
Mauritania Tradiional Food

Despite the effort in trying to create couscous balls to eat with my hands as they were doing, they saw my struggle and I gave up, they kindly brought me the cutlery to actually eat something.

It was already time to go.
We left chinguetti with the image of this man washing his clothes.

Chinguetti-Man-Washing-Clothes

We retraced the road back until we found a crossroads that would take us to our next stop.
The desert landscape became increasingly dry and rocky, extremely cooked by the immense power of the sun.

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We finally arrived to Mhaïreth, the largest oasis in the Adrar Region, village known for its unusual domed constructions.
We had a very quick stop as we were heading towards our final destination, the most fascinating, and we were getting close to sunset time.

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We continued on the dirt road then intercepted a paved road that makes space between large canyons.

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We deviated again on a dirt road for a short length and tight into a gorge, not far from Mhaïreth, lies one of the most evocative and magical oasis of the Mauritanian Sahara nestled in a canyon, the Terjit Oasis.

Terjit Oasis Valley Mauritania
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We stopped for a about an hour at the oasis to enjoy the coolness and peace accompanied by the background sound of the water that dripped from the walls of the canyon and slowly flowed along its path.

We then headed back to the main road to go back to Atar to eat and then sleep.

DAY 4  | MINIBUS TO ZOUÉRAT + IRON ORE TRAIN

We woke up early on the fourth day, we had to take the minibus to Zouerat, the mining town to the north where our next adventure would begin. Abdul took us to the station, another long journey awaited us. About 6 hours of paved road in the middle of nowhere. But first fuel refill.

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After about 2 hours we left Atar we were at our first stop, Choum. Some people left and some jumped on board.

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We departed following the train tracks, moving into flat and desolate desert areas.

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We finally arrived to Zouerat around 1 pm.
A great massif of black rock rose from the desert, surrounded by machines and excavators, we knew we were in the right place. That was Kediet ej Jill, the highest mountain in Mauritania with its 915 mt in elevation, and the most important iron ore mining site in the country.

Zouerat-Mauritania-ore-iron-mine2
Zouerat-Mauritania-ore-iron-mine2

Entering the town we were surprised by the presence of traffic lights and flower beds, resembling some french boulevards.
Someone came to pick us up at the bus station, we arranged this with some Chikali's contact. This guy took us to buy some food in the city and after to the train departure location. Yes we were about to hop on the iron ore train to easily reach Nouadhibou, as many locals do.

Zouerat-town-Mauritania2
Zouerat-town-Mauritania1

Our man left us at the trains at the bases of the massif where iron ore is extracted and where it's loaded in the train wagons to be then transported to the coast to be refined and shipped.

We loaded our stuff after wrapping them up in some plastic bags we bought and we waited.
As you can imagine not being a passenger train, there are no timetables. we waited and around 5 in the afternoon the train that was gradually being assembled longer and longer with its loaded wagons departed.
We were excited and ready for the 21 hours riding the World's Longest Iron Ore Train in the Sahara Desert.

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Mauritania-train-Ore-iron-ore-Sahara2
Mauritania-train-Ore-iron-ore-Sahara1

Equipped with sleeping bags and warm clothes, we spent the night on the train.

DAY 5  |  TRAIN RIDE & ARRIVAL IN NOUADHIBOU

We woke up on the train and enjoyed the whole desert landscape.
We arrived around lunchtime in Nouadhibou, the train ride was the most fascinating adventure we have ever embarked on. A slow journey into one of the harshest environment on the planet.

After checking in to our Hotel and having a long shower and clean up we went straight to a nearby restaurant and had some well deserved food and fresh drinks.
Getting back to the Hotel we met Ahmed at the reception, a kind and calm local businessman. He offered himself to take us around and made himself available for any need. We were so happy we met him, as we could understand better the city and navigate through it with the right person.

We then arranged to meet the next day to see around more together. Was time for a well deserved rest, but first a look from the hotel rooftop and windows.

Nouadhibou Hotel
Nouadhibou Hotel

DAY 6  |  VISIT NOUADHIBOU & BEACH RELAX

The morning after we had an amazing breakfast at the hotel's restaurant just next door and with the daytime view from our hotel we headed towards the colorful Port Artisanal of Nouadhibou 

Nouadhibou aerial view
Nouadhibou aerial view

We went straight into the crowded port and we managed to climb a little abandoned tower station to get a better view from the top and take some good photos without disturbing the working people.

Nouadhibou Port Artisanal

After spending couple of hours there, exploring around and meeting locals Ahmed took us to the coast to an interesting place I found on the map while planning this trip back home, called Cabanon 1, a semi-abandoned resort on a magical peaceful beach. Unfortunately we were on a tight scheule and we managed to go for a walk around the area and relax a little bit but not swim.

Nouadhibou Cabanon 1 Beach Resort
Nouadhibou Cabanon 1 Beach Resort
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Nouadhibou Cabanon 1 Beach Resort

We then had another drive around the coast and back to the city where we relaxed, moved to a new apartment and had dinner before our last day in Mauritania.

DA 7  | MINIBUS TO NOUAKCHOTT & FLIGHT

Seventh day, last day in Nouadhibou and in Mauritania, we woke up early after a good sleep and went for a local market tour with our new friend Ahmed who took us around in the streets of Nouadhibou.

Nouadhibou Streets

Lots of people working and walking around looking for items to purchase in the tiny shops packed of products.

Nouadhibou Street Market

We then spotted a shop and we were soon fascinated. It was a a boubou boutique, the traditional Mauritanian dress, inside a man was sewing the garments to wear by machine, beautiful scene. Unfortunately He didn't want us to take any photo.

Nouadhibou-boubou-shop

The only stop we had left was the famous and one of the few Catholic churches in the country, the Église de Nouadhibou, very unique for its architecture.

Nouadhibou Catholic Church
Nouadhibou Catholic Church

After visiting all we could we went to have lunch and then back to the apartment to pack and get ready for our minibus journey back to the Nouakchott airport. Ahmed called us a taxi and took us to the minibuses station.

Nouadhibou Taxi
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We left Nouadhibou in the afternoon, and spent about 7 hours in the minibus going all the way to the airport. A long exhausting joruney.

Nouadhibou Minibuses Station
Minibus Mauritania

Our flight departed on time and we left Mauritania at night from the empty airport of Nouakchott.

Photo credits: Fedora – Giulio Aprin

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2 Comments

  1. Abdul
    August 6, 2021 / 6:34 pm

    One of my biggest mistakes is that i didn’t takes a picture with u brother next time the first thing I’m gonna do is taking a picture hhh

    • Giulio
      Author
      August 6, 2021 / 11:50 pm

      Hey Abdul 🙂 ahahha no problem man. Next time for sure!

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