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Mauritania Travel Guide

This North African country, located between Senegal and the Western Sahara has a total land area of over 1,000,000 square kilometres with a population of around 3,000,000 living within that region. The people are of Islam religion and are mainly Black Moors, Moors and Black African, all of whom speak Arabic, French or Wolof, so English will be quite a communication barrier for many visitors.

Mauritania became an independent country in 1960 and took possession of one third of the southern parts of the Western Sahara in 1976, but surrendered the barren land 3 years later when the Polisario guerrillas seized independence. Resistance groups were made legal and a new statute was approved by 1991. The two combined presidential elections, since the statute, were extensively seen as inconsistent, but the October 2001 parliamentary and civic elections were mostly a free for all. The country is still a one-party state and still receives racial conflictions between the lesser black minority and the domineering Maur (Arab-Berber) masses.

Mauritania is a birdwatchers and surfers paradise, especially along the hundred of miles of coastline. There is some crime in this country though, so swimmers and surfers need to be on their guard whilst out at sea. The country’s capital, Nouakchott, has suffered much rioting in its time, but the 1,000,000 people, mainly Pulaar and Wolof, who live here, forever strive to keep their heads above water, with women working just outside the city, making hand-knotted rugs and men making a living out of fishing. Most people live in the capital, due to the outskirts being in the shabbiest of conditions, where locals have to live in metal hovels or tents. In the heart of the city is the National Museum of Nouakchott, full of fascinating information regarding the culture and lifestyle of the nomads of Mauritania but is also a place where all black people of Mauritania are excluded! The city of Nouakchott has even got a couple of Internet cafes, so anyone wanting to email their families, should do it here, as it’s the only place in the country to make online contact with the outside world!

Travelling around the country is done by either taking regular local flights to other towns or by bush taxi, which is slow but will travel to all the major regions in the country. The other way is by train, which travels from Nouâdhibou to Zouérat, is uncomfortable and only travels at night. Driving is not advisable, but if visitors do, the driver should have knowledge of the deserts and winds around Mauritania and travellers must not drive alone. Actually getting into the country is possible via frequent flights from Paris to Nouakchott as well as flights from Abidjan, Bamako, Dakar and Banjul. Less frequent flights can be found going from Algiers and Casablanca, but the good news is that all tickets prices to Mauritania are cheaper than anywhere else in Africa.

The best time to go to Mauritania is from November through February, when the weather is hot and sunny by day and cools down in the evening due to southerly winds blowing in from the Sahara desert. The hottest time in Mauritania is from June to October, when visitors can only withstand the heat for shorts spurts at a time. March through May is the worst time to arrive as this is when hot winds bring never-ending gusts of sand throughout the region.

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