Mauritania is the country where my housemate says “If it was not for you, I would have never known that this place exists”. Well, today that is the country I will be sharing about. There will be no follow up blogpost on Mauritania, this will be the only one as I didn’t get to do anything there.
|Ladies washing the dishes outside the flats. Most families cook outside because their houses are not big enough to have a kitchen.|
|A herd of goats heading home and stopping outside local houses to eat the leftover food from the trash that people have thrown out.|
Mauritanians speak Arabic and French, however, their Arabic is different from the Moroccan Arabic. This is one thing I failed to learn, the different Arabic dialects, I guess I was too busy trying to learn to speak Arabic.
Obviously, the country does not receive tourists except the crazy backpackers, so the locals do not know much about having strangers around but they are super friendly. There are no street addresses in the country, your taxi driver will be given a landmark to take you to instead.
|Walking the streets in the middle of a small town in Southern Mauritania.|
Like any Islamic country, people of the opposite sex do not embrace each other. Shake hands but no hugs even with your friends.
If I had to be honest, on a scale of 1 to 10 on how difficult this country is, Mauritania is right there at Sudan.
***Please also note that there is a difference between an Islamic country and a country where the majority religion is Islam.
In Africa, all the Mauritanian embassies are in North Africa except for one in South Africa. You receive your visa on arrival. The visa costs you USD50, you need 2 passport photos, your biometrics will be done while you wait and your visa printed. The country is very welcoming to tourists and they will give you no hassles at the airport.
|The streets aftr a night of rain. If you look into the picture, Top right are silver doors.|
That was the landmark where my taxi driver was told to drop me off at.
After a long day of shopping at the downtown Naoukchott market, i finally got my Mulafa. Went shopping wiyh my brother Diadié who had never had to buy anything for a woman so i had to teach him how to negotiate. He had since met a lively lady and gotten married since i last saw him 💕 We got me a Mulafa and I was ready to be a Mauritanian girl. Small glitch though, none of the boys knew how to wear a Mulafa. I had become friends with our neighbour Aminata and she was more than happy to teach me how to put on my Mulafa. The Mulafa is a long 6yard material. Very light cotton made for the desert. It is a breathable material to avoid over heating. You tie the material over your shoulders and then wrap the rest around your body and head. You don't need any props to wear it. The way they tie it is exactly as the Maasai tie the traditional attire 😂 thats the only way i knew I'd remember how to tie my Mulafa. I hope you guys are convinced that I am homesick (home being on the road cos that's the only place life makes sense for me). So brace yourselves for your TL being flooded today. Also weird how I'm homesick, missing what was literally one of the toughest countries I had ever visited 😂😂😂 I'm a sucker for a good struggle and adventure 💖 #BreakingBorders #Thesolowanderer
Water and food
Stick to bottled water at all cost. I cannot stress this enough, most of the city does not have running water so donkeys will deliver your water. As for the food, there are decent restaurants but the environment is so filthy, I will suggest you always drink a coke too just to always settle your stomach.
Water delivery system to our block of flats. The muddy road is due to the rains we had that morning. Because Nouakchott is a city below sea-level, the ground is already saturated with so much water. There is no drainage system, not that it exists but doesn't work, in this case it doesn't exist so hence the mud. The city is where it used to be the ocean, this is evident in the sand that is on the streets as the streets are filled with sea shells 🐚 Donkeys are a huge form of transport, sometimes horses but you don't see that many horses in the city as compared to the Donkeys. If you look closely, you can see scar marks on this particular guy cos his owner is right handed and only uses the pipe to hit him in the same spot. Everytime he hit him I felt pain 😢 #breakingborders #thesolowanderer #Mauritania
As this is an Islamic country, there is no alcohol sold anywhere in the country. In such countries, your best bet if you really need a drink is to visit the German or French embassies, they always have bars that sell alcohol to their residents based in those countries for various reasons.
It is a desert country so you will need to constantly be hydrating. Sunscreen is super important.
I had to leave Mauritania because of Mosquito bites, they were so vicious that the bites turned into large blisters and I struggled to walk for over a week. And their mosquitos are gold. So yes, mosquito repellent is important but I would suggest citronella oil as your best bet to ward off other insects as well.
The thing that caught me off guard with #Mauritania were the taxis. 95% of the cars in this country are taxis but they are so old that most of them are no longer being manufactured. Pretty sure that the manufacturers have even forgotten that they once manufactured such a car or model. This is one of the taxis, no its not a paint job. Yes it is rust and yes that boot doesn't close. You get 4 people in the back and 2 in the passenger seat in the front. And no the seat belts never work. Note how their street lights are solar powered. I loved that. #thesolowanderer #BreakingBorders
Banking & Currency
Mauritania currency is the Mauritania Ouguiya. Try change all your dollars at the airport as you come in. The ATMs like most West African countries have ridiculous withdrawal limits of below USD50 and it's not ideal if you have a bank card that charges you for every withdrawal transaction from a foreign country.
When traveling in West Africa, for international banking I always suggest you go with Ecobank or Société Générale. Mauritania does not have Ecobank. These are the 2 banks that take foreign Visa and Mastercard and their ATMs are in English as well.
|I feel like being in Nouakchott took me back to 2003 with the flip phones.|
Yes, it still worked and this was Papis phone that we made fun of.
You will have no internet, you will have no Wi-Fi. It's not complicated, the connection is just really poor. Even embassies don’t have a connection.
I flew into Noaukchott from Casablanca, Morocco. The locals taxis leave a lot to be desired. Old and rusted and are shared taxis. You may have it for yourself and just pay the price.
The traffic on the road is the cars, donkeys and some livestock. Yes, this is in the city. Peak hour traffic is a nightmare that does not move and everyone hoots at each other. So avoid driving at those hours.
|The water delivery family business.|
My Mauritanian Family. Next to me is Diadie (pronounce Jia-Jie) and in the red is Papis - the only dude who uses a flip phone in 2017. I spent so much time with the boys, we drank tea and shared stories and laughed. Of course I was perfect for Papis to practise his English on 😅 #Thesolowanderer #BreakingBorders
|Local fishermen boats at the fish market.|
|A local fisherman with his catch for the day on the beach.|
Did i ever tell you guys about Speedy Gonzalez 🐢 Some South African embassies have resident pets. Usually fury friends who welcome you when you visit the embassy. But not the S.A. 🇿🇦 embassy in Naoukchott, #Mauritania. These guys have Speedy Gonzalez the tortoise. No one knows how Speedy was adopted too. Everyone found him there and just keep him as part of the family. Speedy is sneaky and moves at the speed of sound. He is supposed to hang out in the garden area as he is major friends with the security guys. But everyday without fail, speedy will sneak into the offices without anyone noticing him to go chill in the offices and enjoy the aircon. His favourite spot is next to the book shelf with all the S.A. pamphlets. It always becomes a mission trying to get speedy back outside but my dude is not having any of it, that Mauritania desert heat is not for the faint hearted and I do not blame him. And when they get him out, he throws a tantrum and heads for the gate 😂😂😂 Ok, I miss Speedy. Well that's Speedy Gonzalez 🐢 one of my favourite S.A. 🇿🇦 embassy pets. #BreakingBorders #Thesolowanderer
In terms of things to do in the country. Visiting the fish market was amazing. That is definitely a must do. Also for the sunset as it is breathtaking but the fish market at that time is almost empty as the vendors have sold off their daily catch.
|Most of the country is employed in the informal sector. the streets are filled with vendors|
even in the parts that are not designated marketplace.
|More shoes at the market. Shoes are a big commodity. these are second hand shoes that are shipped in usually from Asia.|
|More walking through the market.|
|Tea making station. Tea drinking is a tradition in North Africa.|
The tea can take as much as 30 minutes to prepare.
|The tea making process.|
You can read more on traveling out of Mauritania into Senegal here.
#BreakingBorders is proudly sponsored by Simeka Capital Holdings.