Kidnappings and regional factionalism, coups and military juntas: life has hardly been easy for the great slab of the African Maghreb that is Mauritania.
It’s for these reasons and others that most foreign governmental offices now warn against all but essential travel to great swathes of this land.
Hopefully one day the cautions will clear, and the sweeping Saharan dunes and the fringes of the Sahel will once more be on the traveler’s map.
Why? Well because they bring with them the old Berber settlements of the desert, topped with ancient sandstone mosques and adobe villages now turned ghost towns. Because there are cities like Nouakchott and the throbbing fish markets within to explore. Because there are some of Africa’s most impressive arrays of birdlife just waiting to be seen along the salty edges of the Banc d’Arguin. Because there are wild desert plateaux to see, and earthy camel trading towns of centuries gone by. That’s why!
Lets explore the best places to visit in Mauritania:
Chinguetti literally emerges from the shifting sand dunes of the mighty Sahara (the hills of dust that surround this one have been encroaching and encroaching for decades, and have even claimed some of the residential areas on the edge of the settlement). A place of eerily empty streets that have been chiselled and chipped by the winds, it was once an important trading stopover between the Med in the north and sub-Sahara in the south.
Today, it draws some of the country’s biggest crowds, who flock to wonder at the brick-built towers and the old fortresses of the Berber tribes and Almoravids dating all the way back to the Middle Ages.
The spot is also part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage Site; one that also encompasses a number of other historic desert towns in the Adrar region and beyond.