The Mauritanian rail network is a single 435 miles long line that connects the Fderik iron mine to Nouadhibou harbor since 1963. Originally only used for the iron ore transportation, this line distinguishes itself by having the longest trains in the world as they are 1,25 mile long but they also are the slowest with a speed under 37 mph.
In 2000, the Government decided to increase its touristic activity making a few cities in the desert accessible for the visitors. Thus, 2 passenger wagons (with a sleeper one) and a locomotive now connect Choum to Zouerate where the tourists can find the biggest open-air mine in the world, giving an astonishing spectacle to the curious ones who visited.
What it is now
This trip also enables tourists to discover the biggest African monolith and the 3rd biggest in the world. In the middle of nowhere, you can find Ben Amira, a huge black rock 3 miles away from a smaller one called Aicha and whose legend tells that they were originally one. The arrival on the coast in Nouadhibou also offers a striking sight as you can observe a big cemetery of stranded boats in the shallow depth of the bay.
The longest train in the world as a tourist attraction
A tourist attraction in itself, the longest train in the world and its length expands 2.5km with 200 train cars carrying up to 85 tons of iron ore from mines in Zouerat to Mauritania’s second-largest commercial center Nouadhibou. Locals use the longest train as a means of transport but it is an adventure of a lifetime for tourists and adventurers alike.
It departs daily from Nouadhibou at around 3 pm and arrives in Choum (for Atar) at around 2 am the next morning. There are only two carriages on the train, first-class and regular. First-class accommodation and seats are usually limited but there is access to smaller rooms with bunk beds. The second class accommodation offers not so comfortable carriages with beds. It gets really cold at night as none of the carriages is heated, and one or two stops are made where kids run up to doors selling drinks and food. You can also ride the longest train in the world from Choum to Nouadhibou where the train is filled with iron ore.
Sometimes, the train arrives at Choum by 8 pm and other times 1 or 2 am, so it is quite unpredictable, and there is a large room with no doors where you can await the train’s arrival. It is generally a bit more pleasant traveling on the train loaded with iron ore than when it is empty.
The train tends to move slower (approximately 45km per hour) when loaded with iron ore, making it less bumpy, plus the views are better standing on top of the pile of stones. If you want to go to bed, you can pick a corner in front of the car, flatten the ground and tuck yourself in a sleeping bag. The police usually check passports after arriving at Nouadhibou.
How to ride the longest train in the world
Jump into one of the cars when the train arrives. You’d have to climb in but there is a ladder on one side just in case you can’t. It is best to pick a car near the passenger car as this is where you will want to be when you get out in Choum. Stowing away is free and you don’t need a ticket, but if you are going to go to the passenger car, you need to buy a ticket inside the station. Tickets cost 3.82 USD for carriage seats and 11.50 USD for first-class.
What to bring
- Headscarf: A headscarf or turban is needed to cover your mouth and nose as the dust from the desert will affect you tremendously without one.
- Snacks: Although the locals will bring tea and bread into the car with them and will invite you when it is time to eat as a group, it is better to bring snacks along with you
- Water: Bring 2 liters of water per person if you can as 1 liter won’t be enough. There are times when the locals would want to make tea for you and might even use your water
- Sunglasses: Make sure you cover your eyes with sunglasses though they do not protect the eyes fully. Most travelers pack ski goggles instead of eye protection.
- Fiche: a document with your data in it (name, nationality, journey itinerary, etc). Make sure your nationality is written in french to avoid misunderstandings. Other essentials to pack include; jacket, torchlight, and a mat.
If you are looking to go on this once in a lifetime adventure on the longest train in the world, do get in touch with us.