• Mauritania,
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Travel to Mauritania, land of endless deserts

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

Mauritania, although not very widely visited, is an awe-inspiring country. Between the sand and the sea, you almost feel like you're in a different world. Part of the Western Sahara, Mauritania is home to countless deserts. Three quarters of the country is covered by either desert or semi-desert, meaning the climate is exceedingly dry. A hiker's paradise, the dunes continue for miles until you reach the capital of Nouakchott on the Atlantic coast. Tradition is very important in Mauritania and visitors are sure to have an authentic experience of the Maghreb North African region.

Security: the FCO advises against all travel to Mauritania's provinces of Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, Hodh el Chargui, Dakhlet-Nouadhibou and Inchiri (with the exception of the Nouakchott - Nouadhibou corridor). See full official website.

Our Editorial team's advice

Explore the magnificent Banc d'Arguin National Park if you get the opportunity. Travel along the coastlinea, which stretches for 110 miles, from Cape Timirist, south of Levrier Bay, to Nouadhibou. In Nouadhibou, go deepsea fishing and check out the eerie seascape scattered with dozens of rusty shipwrecks that sit around Nouadhibou harbour. In Oualata, admire the wonderfully restored city, from the trans-Saharan caravan road to the far reaches of the desert. A city rich in cultural heritage, visitors will be sure to get an authentic experience when visiting. The sale, consumption and importing of alcohol is against the law, so take note when packing.

pros

  • +Crossing the desert gives you an immense feeling of freedom.
  • +The country has not yet been invaded by tourists.
  • +The Mauritanians' warm welcome.

cons

  • -Local people desperately wait for rainfall, which rarely ever comes. The intense dryness can make everyday situations very dramatic.
  • -The question of the Western Sahara, in the north of the country, remains in a deadlock with the Sahrawis of the Polisario Front and Morocco.
  • -Human rights are not a priority. The excision of women and the slave trade are still practised.
  • -Populations are losing their nomadic traditions and tending to become more and more sedentary.

Traditions

Mauritania is called the 'Islamic Republic of Mauritania' for a reason: the majority of Mauritanians are Sunni Muslims. The Moors' conception of Islam is less tolerant than Black people's; it is therefore preferable to respect their customs and religious traditions.

Food

In Mauritania, food goes hand in hand with hospitality. Be sure to try the national drink: green China tea with fresh mint. If you are invited into someone's home, respectfully accept the honour of the tea ritual and expect different varities, from really sweet to bitter leaves. If you get the opportunity, taste zrigh, fresh or curdled camel milk. The mutton and camel are both worth trying, presented in one dish, they are eaten with the right hand (the left is deemed highly offensive). Couscous, rice, sorghum or millet all feature as side dishes and are usually drizzled with melted butter. Savour the fish and lobster dishes in Nouakchott and remember that most meals are served with tea and dates - which are best eaten in season, during the month of July.

Ideal Weather Search

Find weekly weather forecasts for Mauritania . Different criteria make it possible to predict with precision the best time of year to go to Mauritania . A comprehensive weather score, made up of temperature indicators, bad weather predictions, sunshine levels and wind speeds, will allow you to choose the activities best suited to the weather conditions and therefore make the most of your holiday in Mauritania .

Souvenirs

If you're looking for souvenirs or keepsakes, treat yourself to gold, silver or ebony jewellery. Take the time to admire the decorative leatherware, the woolen carpets and the carved wood. Even more original are the traditional music instruments used by the griots. Clothes-wise, 'boubous' are the traditional dress for men, accompanied by baggy sarouel trousers which are very comfortable in the heat. You will also need to learn how to tie your tagelmust properly (the long piece of cloth used as a turban and can turn out to be very useful in the desert). You'll find something to bring back no matter what you're tastes or budget are. If you come across any prehistoric objects, they should not be taken out of the country, so be wary of illegal traders. Shops are open from Sunday to Thursday from 7:30am to nightfall.