Around 5 in the evening take the 5 km drive out to the port, where you get to see the fishing boats coming back in with their catch, watch them dragging the boats back up onto the sand, have a nice walk along the beach and also catch a fine sunset (around 18.15). Just off the beach is a market area where you can buy the fish, have it gutted, cleaned and wrapped to take away.
Nouakchott is a very highly congested town, plenty of dust and a pall of haze hangs around the centre. Not far from the Menata is the Saoudian mosque, very nice but of course non-muslims are not allowed in. Another 200 metres sees you in the main market area. Plenty of fun just walking around and looking. If it's jewellery you're looking for it's in a small area downstairs underground. Ask anyone to show you.
This is the first major town that you hit coming from Morocco and I can't say it's got a lot going for it. Judging by the time you get through the border you could mess it out altogether. Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh but there are very few things to see or do here. The only thing really is the road towards Cap Blanc and then you have to pass the refinery and the phosphates terminal. At Cap Cansado there is the surprising sight of the rusted hulks of the "boat cemetery". Near here is the terminus for the longest train in the world that brings the phosphates from Zouerate in the n.w. of Mauritania.
To find our way north in the direction of Choum was rather easy, allthough there was not a really clear piste after some time. We just could drive at the plain with rather high speed, following one of the many tracks. The only thing we had to do was to keep the long mountainridge at our righthand side all the way to Choum.
We made a short stop to have a closer look at these peculiar stones along the track.
In Mauritania, you must never use your left hand to greet someone or take/give something.
Mauritanians use their left hand to clean their ass and genitaliae.
They use the right hand for the rest.
Don't think that you are safe! When you look at them, you can notice than in 5 minutes, left and right hands join each other at least 10 times. The dirty hand touches the clean one all the time.
By religion, they have to wash before praying, but many people are not clean enough to do it after toilet.
We had to stay in Nouadhibou for two nights, waiting for a new waterpump for our car, which has to come by plane from Noaukchott.
In Nouadhibou we walked in the area around the campsite. The streetlife and shops here looked more colourful than we were used to in the desert towns inland. There were a lot of internetcafes and we found even a patisserie nextdoor.
Nouadhibou is situated on Cap Blanc, at the end of a 35 KM long peninsula in the north-west of Mauritania, running parallel to the mainland in southern direction. Only the eastern side of the penisula is Mauritania, the western side at the Atlantic Ocean is Western Sahara. Don´t ever visit this side because of the mines.
In 2004 we could reach Nouadhibou by a new tarred road, but not long before everybody has to struggle their way for every single meter in the soft sands.
While driving this easy road, we could enjoy the views at the white sands without any vegetation, nicily shaped by the wind and at the Bay of Levrier.
After travelling in the desert and in smaller towns and villages, it was quite a change to arrive in Noaudhibou. I described it as a lively town. There was much traffic and people around, we saw a lot of shops and restaurants. A friend was surprised I wrote this. For her, coming from Europe and Morocco it was a dull and dusty town.
And she has right, in the city itself with about 60.000 inhabitants is very little to see. It is the surrounding beautiful nature, which makes Nouadhibou and the peninsula worth to visit.
Zouérat, an important iron-ore centre in the north of Choum, and Nouadhibou the harbour at the coast are connected by a railway. There are two trains every day in both directions. They told us the train can be 2 or 3 KM long.
The train brings the iron-ore from Zouérat to the coast. It's also possible to make this traintrip of almost 20 hours as passenger or with your car from Noaudhibou to Choum. It is a dusty and cold journey. You have to stay in your car. And you don't know for sure, if your car can descend immediately from the wagon in Choum. Sometimes you have to wait long before a locomotive can drag the wagons to a platform.
We didn't take the train, but drove with our own cars the track of 400 KM from Choum to Nouadhibou just south of the railway. We spent the night not far from the railway. In the night we could hear the approaching trains allready from very far. When the train came near, it was like we had our tents at the rails.
For more pictures and information have a look at the travelogue.
Choum is known because of the iron-ore train from Zouerat is passing this town. Many travellers took this empty train back from Nouadhibou to Choum. From Choum they continued southwards to Atar and Nouakchott. Especially in the time, there wasn't yet an easy connection between Nouadhibou and Nouakchott.
When we arrived in Choum, everybody seemed to be inside the houses. Even at the policepost we did not see anybody. We drove through the empty main street and went in the direction of the railway. At the sandy plain along the railway with empty carriages somebody directed us back to the policepost at the beginning of the town.
After the formalities we could go on. We didn´t take the planned route to Zouerat and Bir Moghrein, because the Dutch ambassador has forbidden us to take this route after the kidnapping of two people.
Allthough a guide in Choum told us, that he could bring us safely to the north to Bir Moghrein, we bended our route to the west and took at our own the route to the coast along the railway.
The route from Choum along the railway to the west is described in the off the beaten track tips
From Atar to Choum, a distance of 120 KM, we took the tarred road to Ksar Torchane, once a fortified oasis. After a few KM the road changed in a piste.
During the descent to the lower plateau we had spectacular views at the surrounding landscape with flat mountains.
Down we drove first through a sandy plain with umbrella-shaped trees and a plain full of gravel and stones. The tracks were easy to follow, we even saw some other cars.
Atar ( 18.000 inhabitants) in de Adrar Region is the major market centre in the north of Mauritania. After so many days in the desert with only a few smaller sleepy villages, Atar looked rather lively to us. Especially the area round the market was busy. At one side of the market is the smaller old section of the town with narrow streets. At the other side is the larger new section with wider and rectangular streets.
In Atar we did our shopping for the next part of our desert trip, we bought diesel, we visited one of the two internetcafés (opening hours 6pm till 12pm) and also a welding atelier to fix something of one of the cars.
En route from Chinquetti to Atar we passed through the Adrar Plateau. Coming from the east and descending into the plains, we had breathtaking panoramic views at the lunar-like landscape. Also the gorges, leading into the plateau, are of a rough beauty.
When we took this route at the end of 2004 there was a new tarred road leading over the New Pass. It was not possible to take the old scenic road more north, according to our guide.
On the way between Chinquetti and Atar you can find rock paintings (peintures rupestres) at the north side of the road.
The paintings are not very clear. The cows are still easily to recognize, but it´s more difficult to recognize a griaffe and dancing people. The guards of the archaeological site can show you the paintings. They have also a book with the paintings and some explanation.
Chinquetti is with Ouadane, Tichitt and Oualata one of the four ancient ksour, which are on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These ksour are medieval towns, founded in the 11th and 12th centuries, and served originally the caravans crossing the Sahara.
These ksour became not only important trading centres, but also religious centres of the Islamic culture and thought. In the 17th-19th century Chinquetti reached its zenith because of its religious and scholarly eminence, supporting its trading role.
French troops built a fort at the northern edge of the town, leading to expansion of the town in this direction. First the abandonment of the traditional caravantrade, regional conflicts, drought and later the attraction of the mining in the northern Zouerat region and the Sahara war of the seventies caused and increased the depopulation of Chinquetti. Nowadays Chinquetti has a population of about 4000.
Avenue de Nouadhibou 2e carrefour, BP 3176, Nouakchott, BP 3176, Mauritania
Good for: Business
Cite de la Concorde (sebkha), Nouakchott, Mauritania
Good for: Couples
10 Rue Mamadou Konate, Nouakchott, 5219, Mauritania
Good for: Business