Africa is a continent where you can experience seldom seen or done elsewhere in the World. They include wildlife safaris, pilgrimages and exploration of ancient sites. South Africa offers almost a continent of experiences in a single country while Kenyan and Tanzanian safaris attract huge numbers of tourists every year. West Africa has yet to establish itself in the minds of tourists, but its history is a match for anywhere on the Continent if you are looking for an unspoilt and fairly quiet region to visit.
There are modern-day problems in West Africa but it does not mean it should be dismissed by tourists. The infrastructure may lack some of the things that the adventurous might expect but the adventure is the prime motivation for some travelers. Those who look closely at Mauritania may just see the reasons behind it.
This largely flat desert is home to people of Arabic, Berber, Fulani and Tuareg descent with many still living a semi-nomadic life. Drought has been the reason why to form nomads have sought out Mauritania’s few cities for an alternative lifestyle.
Mauritania was formerly a French colony and until 1958, it was hosted as part of neighboring Senegal. It is an integral part of the United Nations in 1965. Mauritania is an Islamic country in North West Africa bordering the disputed territory of Western Sahara and Algeria to the north, Mali essentially to the east and to an Atlantic coastline. In the North and East of Mauritania is where the question of the safety and the possible problems of problems in Mali and Western Sahara is a problem. a lifetime.
The country has an estimated population of around 4.5 million people, although the last official census was 30 years ago when there were less than 2 million recorded. The country suffers from poverty but that does not mean locals are looking to target visitors for money, in fact you can walk around cities, local markets and local streets mostly without being approached. This being quite different from what you will experience in East Africa where you cannot expect to walk the streets on your own for long.
When driving around the country, you will experience a lot of roadblocks where police or military will check your documents before letting you through. This is one of the initiatives implemented to counter any threat of terrorism and today the country havent faced any such problems since 2011. Many developed countries wish they had such a record.
In East Africa, the most popular type of holidays involve safaris, often with a few days on the beach to follow. In Mauritania, a country whose latitude ensures plenty of sunshine, there is minimal wildlife although its coastal areas are popular with birds, some resident but majority migratory. The primary reason to visit Mauritania is to see its historical and religious landmarks as well as experience living as a nomad in the Sahara Desert. Some of the main highlights of the country are:
- Nouakchott on Mauritania’s Atlantic Coast, the capital of Mauritania and home to some lovely mosques; Saudi, Ould Mbouja, Ibn Abbas and Haye Mohamedia Mosques. Another main attraction is the local fish market at the coast where men pull in nets with the catch taken on trays in relay by youngsters to the market.
- Chinguetti, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is suffering from the creeping invasion of the Sahara yet historians will love it. The highlight is seeing 11th Century manuscripts in the libraries. One of the best has more than 1400 books on everything from the Qur’an to maths and law.
- Oualata, another UNESCO World Heritage site, is based around an oasis and in the southeast part of the country. It was developed on old Sahara trading routes in the 13th and 14th Century.
- Ouadane is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that traded with the Ghana Empire in gold in the 11th Century. Subsequently, trade was in salt slabs though even that has long declined.
- The Richat Structure, “The Eye of Africa.” Is nearby and is visible from Space. It appears to have been created by erosion and is said to be 100 million years old.
- The Terjit Oasis near Atar offers a tranquil place, a mix of colour; the handmade rugs, palms and water with tents as protection from the blazing sun is a well needed resting place in the middle of the desert.
The answer to those who question whether it is a destination worth considering is yes, very much so.
- Mauritania has some unique sites that you can enjoy and at the same time give you a perspective of how the region was centuries ago.
- Many of the top tourist places in the world are crowded. It is often difficult to enjoy such places when you are surrounded by others keen to get photographs and unaware of other people as they do so. This is not the case in Mauritania which could be described as an “undiscovered gem.”
- The clarity of African skies at night is without comparison. You can live on the land and look up to the skies to see the stars in a clear night sky. The silence in the desert only adds to the overall experience. This is a unique experience that you will find many other places in the world.
Plenty of tourists are looking for new destinations in the world. The availability of their travel has made their task much easier. Some parts of Africa are still largely impenetrable; take the Congo River for example.
Other parts of the United States and Africa, especially when compared to East Africa. It is time to look more closely at West Africa and Mauritania can make a case for more serious consideration.