Mauritania is a mysterious, little known Saharan country where temperatures in the dry desert heat can reach 57 degrees. Much of the land is dry and inhospitable and many locations are difficult to reach without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Mauritania’s population is approximately 3.2 million people who speak Arabic most of whom are concentrated in the capital Nouakchott which is also the largest city. Though she remains one of the world’s poorest countries, exploitation of her offshore oil and natural gas reserves could bring prosperity in the future.
Visitors who check in should brace themselves with lightweight cotton and linen clothing mainly since most of the country is hot and dry with practically no rain. One could easily maneuver through Mauritania via airplanes, free but arduous rail transport, and road being the widely used usually employing 4-wheel car hires and taxis which are usually expensive.
If you are planning to stay for some time, be informed that hotel accommodation is very limited in Mauritania and visitors are advised to book well in advance. The larger hotels in Nouakchott are comfortable and have air conditioning but still limited and expensive. The services of the numerous government rest houses throughout the country could be employed. Visit the Moroccan, Lebanese, Chinese and French restaurants in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou though local cuisine, based on lamb, goat and rice can be sampled throughout the country. Consumption of alcohol is prohibited by the Islamic faith, but alcohol may be found in hotel bars. National specialties include Mechoui (whole roast lamb), dates, spiced fish and rice with vegetables, fish balls, dried fish, dried meat and couscous. The national drinks include Zrig (camel’s milk) and sweet Arab tea with mint. You could also shop for handicrafts and woodcarvings at the open market. Unique to the Tagant region are Neolithic arrowheads and pottery while in Marabout centre (Institute of High Islamic Studies), you’ll get fine carpets of goat and camel hair.
Exciting things await you which include exploring Mauritania’s best attraction, the Parc National du Banc d’Arguin coast which supports a large and varied population of birds; discover the port and centre of the fishing industry in Nouadhibou; meet the tribe that survives through a symbiotic relationship with wild dolphins between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou; take an excursion over the breathtaking mountain pass of Homogiar to Chinguetti, a holy city of Islam which also hosts a medieval mosque and library with ancient manuscripts or make the most of water by touring good spots for fishing, swimming and surfing along the coast in the west.
See Nouakchott that maintains the traditional Berber style of architecture, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Oualala (a great caravan entrepot) and Ouadane (an oasis settlement in the north concealed by waves of colored sand dunes) or the Adar which is a spectacular massif of pink and brown plateau gilded with dunes and intersected by deep canyons sheltering palm groves in the central north.
Visitors are advised about a high threat from terrorism which could be indiscriminate; avoid regions with high risk of banditry, armed smugglers and extremist groups like Tichit, Ouadane and Oulata. Be particularly alert in public places and if possible, avoid large gatherings. Make sure you carry a copy of your passport for identification purposes. In spite of all these, Mauritania remains a wonderful tourism destination.