Mauritania may be unknown to most of us, since it is not as heavily promoted as other African nations, but this little country also has big things to boast about.
Here are some places worth visiting in Mauritania:
The old town of Chinguetti does not have any shopping malls or theme parks. There are also no tall buildings or modern infrastructure around.
This old town in Mauritania has a traditional and old-fashioned appeal, which draws tourists from all over the world. When you take your first step in Chinguetti, you will feel as if you have been transported back in time, into an old Arab town.
A town of 4,711 inhabitants, Chinguetti is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with other Mauritanians destinations such as Tichitt, Oualata, and Ouadane.
One of the prominent landmarks of Chinguetti is the Great Mosque, otherwise known as the Friday Mosque of Chingguetti. This mosque is said to be the soul of Chinguetti and was built during the 13th or 14th century. It was reconstructed by UNESCO in 1970 to save it from a state of deterioration.
The clay sculptures of ostrich eggs on top of the mosque are notable parts of the structure. The eggs are said to symbolize a time when Chinguetti was still lush with greens and ostrich actually inhabited the place.
Nouakchott is the country’s capital and is the urban center of Mauritania. All the major companies are here, and if you are not used to the “backpacker lifestyle,” which is what most tourists engage in when they visit the farther provinces in Mauritania, then Nouakchott is the best place to start and get acquainted with the country and its people.
Nouakchott was once a sleepy fishing village, but even through the turn of the century, people still regard fishing as one of the main sources of food. In fact, tourists never leave the country without a visit to the “Port de Peche,” the country’s artisanal fishing industry.
Nouakchott gives you an idea of who the people of Mauritania are. Since Mauritania has long been a desert country, you will still see nomads in Nouakchott and in other urban areas. Their small tents are pitched at public places.
Certainly, to those who have come to experience how it is to live in this side of the world, these nomad sights are sure to be a treat.
Parc National du Banc d’Arguin
Parc National du Banc d’Arguin is the national park of Mauritania and is popular among bird enthusiasts. Serving as a breeding ground, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site boasting of one of the world’s largest concentration of migratory birds, which include pelicans, terns, flamingos, and broad-billed sand pipers.
Shorebirds from Europe, Greenland, and Siberia fly over to Mauritania because of the numerous mudflats located at the park. Most of the breeding grounds are found in Niroumi, Nair, Kijji, Arguim, and Nair.
Found between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, Parc National du Banc d’Arguin is composed mainly of sand dunes and provides a perfect contrast between the dry desert and the Atlantic sea, which presents rich biodiversity.
The waters around are an abundant food source for both the birds and the people living around the area. But birds are not the only animals spotted at the park. You can find different species of fox, gazelle, killer whales, dolphins, monk seals, and turtles here as well.
Ouadane is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mauritania. The first things you will see here are piles of stone and rubble – remnants of the once glorious Ouadane.
Around the 1480s, a Portuguese trading post was established here, serving as the last stop of slave and gold caravans from Morocco and Ghana. Presently, a small population still inhabits the old town.
When visiting Ouadane, it’s nice to stroll around and see the wadi and the fort, which clearly represents Mauritania during its glory days.
Bring a 4×4 truck if you decide to go around the town on your own, since you will be driving around a lot of sand. Also, you should always have a tour guide with you, especially if it is your first time in Ouadane.
The town isn’t an urban area, so most of the locals speak the local language. Communicating, therefore, may be difficult if you don’t have someone to do the translation.
Care to trek along one of the beautiful towns in Mauritania? Then get on your 4×4 and drive off to Tidjikja. This small town has a population of only 6,000 inhabitants, so you won’t find crowded areas and chaotic markets here.
It’s quite peaceful most of the day, and coming here is like getting lost in a rural town. There are no big hotels or fancy accommodations for tourists. Staying overnight, therefore, is not recommended. There are no museums or old ruins here either but Tidjikja is quite popular for its palm trees – lots of palm trees.
Tidjikja is a caravan town, which is why most of its people are nomads, who carry along their caravans and travel around the country. The traditional Mauritanian way of living is very apparent here as well. Here you will see cattle breeders and farmers, so this place allows you to appreciate the simple life.