The distances in Mauritania are enormous, the condition of the roads is often bad and many towns are not reachable by paved road. So most people fly. Air Mauritanie is one of the better airlines in West Africa. Most flights are fully booked, so make reservations in time.
Between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou are twice daily flights. So within one day there came a new waterpump for our car from from the capital to Nouadhibou.
With Air Mauritanie you can fly three times a week to Atar, twice a week to Nema, Zouérat and Tidjikja and once a week to Kiffa. Some deserttowns are also reachable by charterflights from France during winter.
Everytime I did see local minibuses or trucks with very high loads on top, I wonder how they could manage to drive with all this stuff without loosing it !
Very often the loads had the same height as the vehicle itself. That´s the advantage of a country without fly-overs. Though at the moment I write this, I realise that some towns in the north have arches at the point you enter the town. Maybe to prevent vehicles with high loads in town ?
In Nouadhibou we saw other local transport like very crowded buses. We had a old car ourselves, but it surprised me how bad the old taxis in Nouadhibou looked like.
We did the transsahara-crossing from the south to the north of Mauritania with two 4WDs of the Dutch organisation Transsahara of Marius Dussel from Leeuwarden. We could drive the cars ourselves or just participate as passenger.
The two cars of our trip were a 22-years old Toyota landcruiser and a 18-years old Mitsubishi Pajero.
Many parts of our route were off-road, like Kayes-Kiffa in the south, Tidjikja-Chinquetti in the centre and Choum-Bou Laounar in the north of the country. By using these 4 WDs we didn't encounter any problems to conquer all the soft sands and rocky surfaces. The age of the cars and the rough routes caused only lots of mechanical and technical problems.
From the Atlantic coast the ´road of hope´ or the TransmMauritanienne connects the capital Nouakchott with Nema in the deep south. The Transmauritanienne has a lenght of 1113 KM.
For 200 KM we took a part of this smooth highway from Kiffa to Sangrafa. Allthough there was not much trafffic on this highway, we saw more cars here than on all the other roads, pistes and tracks we took.
On the picture you can see a crossing of a wadi. I wonder if there will be ever water in it.
In Senegal and Mali we saw allready many donkey carts the days before we arrived in Mauritania. After we left the sandy tracks of the south behind us, we did see also a lot of donkey carts in the trading centre Kiffa. The most donkey carts, we saw here, transported whole families, sometimes with some products for or from the market.
Later in Nouadhibou in the north we saw also donkey carts with huge and heavy loads for construction works. In Nouadhibou these carts were here also used for collecting garbage.
The train from Nouadhibou to Choum is the longest train in the world.
The iron ore train carry thousands of tons of crusehed rock in a chain of wagons up to three kilometres long. Their schecules and frequencies depend partly on the speed of the extraction at the mines, and on unpredictable hold-ups-damaged rails, enginefailure and even in the past, attacks by Polisario guerillas from over the border in Western Sahara-and travellers should realize that ore is the priority, not passangers.
There are 3 trains a day, but only the one at 14.30 takes passengers (maybe if you have to transport your car as well, you can take another train).
It is 460km/12hrs from Nouadhibou to Choum and you can follow the distance on milestones along the track.
Motorists who are heading to Atar can load their car onto opene platforms, althogh this can take days: start waiting at the railway station opposite the douanes at 9am to stand the chance of getting it loaded onto the 6pm freight train.
For further information contact SNIM, Nouadhibou BP 42 -tel 745174 ext:1700;fax 745396, the state organization that runs the iron ore mines and the railway.
The train carrying iron from Zouerate to the coast at Nouadhibou, is probably the world's longest train. Normally its length is as much as 3 kilometres. The whole journey takes around 12 hours, where almost 700 kilometres are covered. If you want to come to, or leave, Nouadhibou, there are no good alternatives to this train. But it should not be avoided anyway.
Nowadays, normal compartments have been put up. Up until a few years ago, sitting on top of the wagons, was all offered. This is still used, but it's unpleasant. The cost of travelling is just around $5 one way (1 ougiya per kilometre.)
There are very unconfortable pick-up trucks that take people from Nouakchott to Nouadhibou and vice-versa. The only thing about this type of transportation is that you'll share the back part of an old pick up truck along with about 15 more people. Take care with your bag. If you get the night transportation, remeber that the majority of the trucks are open and you'll need clothes to protect you from the night desert cold. The price of this trip can be negotiable but will never be more than 15 euros (already tourist price of course).
This journey will be done along the truck desert tracks that you can see on the picture.
This is the best way to travel all around Mauritania.
Mauritania is bounded west by the Atlantic Ocean, north by Morocco, north-east by Algeria, east and south-east by Mali, and south by Senegal. Around 40% is Sahara Desert, 30% semi-desert. There is a narrow band of fertile land along the Senegal river.
Area: The total area of Mauritania is 1,031,000 sq km (398,000 sq mi).
There are no roads connecting the north to the south and the only way you have is either the train to Choum-Atar-Nouakchott or the Banc D'Arguin National Park crossing desert tracks with sand dunes and beach paths...
Regular flights from Paris and Marseilles to Nouanchott.
If you are going to visit the Adrar region take a flight from Marseilles to Atar.
Unless you have a lot of time to spend there, to travel inland you need a car.
We travelled by rental cars with local drivers. I recommend that you do the same, for safety reasons.
We met very professional drivers; moreover they were very friendly people. During the long hours through the desert, our driver used to talk about his and our country …and joke with me since I was worried about jackals!
Our travel agent in Nouanchott was:Moustahpa ben med Mahmoud ben Kalifa.
And, if you have plenty of time, take a taxi brousse!
The best way is to fly to Nuakchott. There are several airlines as:
Royal Air Maroc
The public transport is rare and sometimes impossible. So the best way is taking your own 4x4 vehicle (you must be an expert driving on sand) or to hire one with a good driver-guide. I recommend you to contract the services of a travel agency (travel agency complete list). I did, and it was very good. Mine was Nabhani (it does not work the english version but you can consult in spanish or french), but there are several (most of them at the same street, i remeber five or six together Nabhani)
By air from Senegal to Noakhchott or by a convoi from
Marocco. Make sure your Mauretanian Sponsor is awaiting you at the border. Sometime the border is closed for a long time. Then take desert track to Nouadhibouh and futher all
the way down to Nouakhshott. Only drive in convoi preferred
accomanied by local guards.
All access now closed due to dispute with Senegal
**** OPEN AS OF NOV. 2000 ****
By air from Senegal in next day out.
If you like to go to Mauritania contact my friend Mouloud, he is the best guide to go everywhere in the Sahara. You can plane your trip directly by internet (email: email@example.com).
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