Mauritania - People with strange clothes

Plage de Peche is the french name

It should have been a nice pleasant visit to Nouakchott with almost three full days, but Air Mauritania minimized my stay. Nevertheless, there was still enough time to visit most of Nouakchott and the traditional fishing beach.

Mauritania is another country of which I basically didn't know anything about, up until I started preparations for the trip.

Most surprised I was about seeing the Mauritanian branded Islamic dress code. Cause like the way people walk around in Mauritania, it would be illegal in many western European countries. Walking around like this in Europe is only allowed during the coldest winter or during carnival events.

Even already all over the airport, men and women completely cover their heads and faces with "towels". But then I understood the meaning of the country name as it is not only Mauritania but officially the "Islamic Republic of Mauritania". This is the real-deal Islam here.

Helps to identify the hotspots
Map of capital Nouakchott

January 5 - Day 1 - Arriving (with a long delay) in Mauritania

A long day, not in Mauritania where I hoped to be visiting Nouakchott already this afternoon, but in Mali at the airport. Was there already at 8 in the morning and quickly got informed that the plane departs not as scheduled.

Annoying that no one at the airport could tell me what the problem is. Only after a few hours, I found out by "Sophia" the boss of Air Mauritania at the airport, what is going on:

Your plane went already yesterday evening. You missed your flight.

What a funny Sophia she probably thought she is. I'm definitely not going to miss my flight when I would have known that the schedule was changed. I enjoyed the visit to Mali but I'm not that big a fan to miss my flight out of Mali.

It turned out that the airline didn't inform all passengers about the change as there were a few other passengers which had the same problem.
Thankfully Sophia was able to get me on another plane. I'm glad to have a seat out of Mali today, but still, the plane will have a detour over Dakar first and instead of arriving at lunchtime in Nouakchott, I arrived this late evening at 9pm.

Long way from the airport to the hotel

I went out of the plane as quick as possible, but in the first class there was some kind of religious "Islam sing-the-song club". There was one person among them with a crutch and they slowly walked out of the plane by blocking the whole way, all of them singing and praying with the crutch guy.

Strange scenery, but I wasn't in the mood to slowly walk behind them and listen to their prayers as otherwise, I expected to see me waiting for hours to get through immigration. It thankfully worked to overtake and get my visa for only 55 Euros.
Nouakchott is not really a practical capital to get in for a quick visit, as with 45 minutes taxi drive and a cost of 20 Euro I'll have to put it on the list of inconvenient capitals to visit.

Day 2 - Nouakchott sightseeing for 1 day

My plan was to wake up early as I thought it will be challenging to visit Nouakchott in one day. The first task was successfully completed and already at 7am, I was on the road.

Quiet in the morning
Nouakchott Houses in side streetsBroad roads with old cars in NouakchottSome hand crafted souveniers

Coffee in Nouakchott is good...

Was about to get a coffee somewhere and a big surprise it was to see that they have good coffee and fresh croissants. That's some French influence I totally appreciate all over Africa (whereas most other french influence in Africa is not).

Although prices can be shocking at first sight and might serve as a big opportunity to scam tourists.

It wasn't visible at first, but Mauritania changed the currency. Depending if the restaurant is delivering the bill in the old or new currency, the coffee either can be 7 Euro or 0.70 Euro. The waiter quickly clarified and I'm glad it turned out to be the later of the two prices.

... but taking photos is a bad idea

It isn't difficult to figure out that it can be a tricky thing to take photos without problems.

Mauritania is one of the most hardcore Islam countries on the planet and people dress restrictive. They clearly and directly, but most of the time friendly, showing they don't want to appear in pictures - and therefore I had to ask most of the time again when taking photos of stuff or people. (Don't want to end up having an ugly discussion with police like in Burkina Faso because of photos).

Sellers are getting ready to sell
Street scene how a normal day in the morning worksNot allowed to walk inside but from outside its no problem to make photoAvenue de General de Gaule in Nouakchott

Mauritanian dress codes

As I already saw yesterday at the airport, the scenery in the capital was even more interesting when seeing most of the people wearing these unique strange clothes. Next-level dressed people were the ones with the full head cover. Not only women but also men with "burkas".

Even taxi drivers are covered in head covers and sunglasses. These are the scariest taxi driver I've ever seen, as there is no official taxi sign attached and the taxis are 30-year-old cars. The driver looks like a freaking terrorist out of a movie or the actual news, with head covers like a ski mask and as an addon the black sunglasses. When asking them for their service they take off the glasses for bargaining, but it doesn't look less scary, only the eyes nervously look around while the mouth produces some mumbling sound from behind the cover.

Their dress code is also present inside restaurants, where they sit with fully covered faces. Only for eating they take off the mouth cover for the moments of shoving food in the mouth and afterward cover up again.

They look like terrorist in Nouakchott
Mauritania is the typical Islam CountryNouakchott has adopted the french coffee culturePeople are having their funny pyjamas in Mauritania

Walking the sandy pre-Saharan roads

Down the road, the number of people walking around increased. People were still stacking up their goods to sell in the capital market. Lots of shoes and typical Mauritanian dresses were about to be sold.

I didn't find it very inviting to walk here as a tourist but that's probably not the idea of these markets here in Mauritania, especially not for non-muslim white tourists with short trousers, backpack on the back and a camera in the hand.

Still, after the story in Burkina Faso, I learned my lesson and asked people for permission on taking photos. There were many police officers present and didn't want to risk arguing with them or worse.

Everybody finds shoes here
Nouakchott has enough shoes for everyoneNot busy in the morningPeople are friendly but dont like taken pictures off

Around the Mosque Saudique

In the same area as the market is the "Grand Mosque".

Thankfully Nouakchott isn't that big and not so complicated to get around by walking. There aren't that many streets and traffic seemed to be very low, so the risk of getting hit by a motorbike was low at least - unlike the risk in Mali.

Nearby the Mosque is a presidential palace but I didn't do the effort of walking there, because I already knew that I surely won't be allowed to take photos there.

Not possible to go inside
Many mosques in MauritaniaIts name is Saudique MosqueSaudique Mosque in Nouakchott is the biggest

I'm glad that Nouakchott is small and doesn't have that many things to see, cause my time here is very limited.

After around 11am out of a sudden the temperature was remarkably getting hotter and hotter. This was the real heat I expected to deal with.

It's impressive how quickly the temperature rises in this part of the world. Also after 5pm, it suddenly got cold again very fast and it's almost freezing when the sun is gone.

Blue and white are favorite colors in Mauritania
Good baguettes with coffe availableWalks along the main road with a skimask10 minutes ride from downtown Nouakchott

Getting to the desert to see the dunes was not possible

I thought about taking a taxi to the beginning of the Sahara and visiting the dunes. It's about one hour from Nouakchott until the Sahara starts. 

Asked a few people how to get there and who can bring me there, although, I didn't continue this idea any further as all of them told me it was a bad idea to go there.

I know some people who can bring you there but I do not recommend it at all. A few days ago the police announced there is some increased terrorist activity just outside Nouakchott.

Probably they were right and probably not. Who cares, the fact is, I didn't see the Sahara this time but surely will from another country.

Its getting more salty and sandy
Dress code in Mauritania allows wearing ski masks during summerCentral market again while driving to the BeachSquare houses look like they have lot of space

The famous "Plage de Peche", the fishing beach

In the afternoon I had to stop a few of these dodgy taxi drivers, but somehow they all demanded a very steep price for bringing me to the plage de Peche (the beach with the fishes and the boats).

One of the following taxis was full of passengers, but he offered a ride that was about fair in price and for a small tip he even offered me the front seat of the taxi, while replacing the passenger to the back.

Nouakchott has many donkeys
One fisher has no donkey so he has to do all by himselfIs lot of fish thereThe sun lights it all up at the Mauritania beach

Taxis or cars in Mauritania nearly break apart. Especially in the beach area, there are a lot of scenic examples of those.

These old cars, which brands I have never seen somewhere else before, are almost only steel and the whole interior is completely removed. Only the absolute necessity is in there, with a few seats.

Mauritania has 40 year old cars
Africa is using them allAt the beach it doesnt matterIs not working anymore in Nouakchott

The "Plage de Peche" is covered with hundreds of fishing boats and all of them are operating on a daily base.

Even though it was already afternoon many of them were still working. All these hundreds of boats catch thousands of fish systematically.

So no wonder Mauritania is a country with one of the highest fish export and so its biggest business.

Mauritanians are shy but friendly
The beach is getting full of fishHundreds of fishing boatsEven in the afternoon full of fishMauritanian dinner fresh from the beachPlage de Peche is busyPlage de Peche has boats in all colors and shapesMe in NouakchottMauritania has lots of donkeys for workSurely they eat lot of fish in NouakchottExport a lot of fish from NouakchottPerfect for windsurfing tooMore appropriate for swimming and sunbathingEnjoys a break in MauritaniaIs trending all over africa

Day 3 - SENEGAL, I'm on the way

With a departure at 6am from Nouakchott, I was sincerely hoping that the taxi driver will show up on time at the hotel at 4am. And thankfully he did.

A 35-minute ride again back to the airport, from where the plane thankfully took off on time - towards Senegal's capital Dakar. I plan to spend 4 days in Senegal and then continue to Gambia.

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