Life in Nouakchott

Nouakchott, Mauritania is a sleepy, dusty, very pleasant town 5 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of Africa. I am staying with my friend from school, Alberto’s, buddy from the Peace Corps, who lives and works here in Nouakchott. Damian and his wife Mary have been so wonderful in their hospitality and I thank them for it. We toured around the city today and they took me to all the hot spots in town which center around the amazing fish markets and the views from atop the Peace Corp building which happens to be the tallest building in town. But the real center of life here is lunch and we ate at this awesome Camerounian restaurant this afternoon.

Restaurant le-wouri grill was the spot for lunch and it was decorated in typical Camerounian decor and had many posters of star football player, Samuel Eto’o, who plays for Barcelona in Spain and is one of the best players in the world. The meal consisted of 5 whole fish caught this morning and grilled up with full face and teeth still on. Although not the most eye appealing site, it sure was good. They also had very good fries and some vegetables but I laid off of those for obvious reasons. Finally, the plantains were as good as anywhere I’ve ever eaten and the conversation was very interesting as well.
The Peace Corps is an organization that I am obviously aware of and know a lot of people who have volunteered but you never really get too much into the insights of the people involved in running a country’s operation and that’s what I had at lunch today. It was great to get political and national perspectives from people who had been in Africa for years and lived and worked in different countries and volunteered in some of the poorest places on Earth. It makes me happy there are people like that because as much as I love to travel to these places-I don’t think I could ever live here for a long period of time. But it sure is nice to visit.
After a long lunch we went down to the famous Port de Peche or fish port to see the fisherman bring their catch in from the chilly Atlantic. It was really unique and awesome to see. The dugout canoe fishing boats were literally lined up for miles down the beach and to watch the effort and teamwork that goes on between the crews to get the boat and fish into market, including the singing, was really cool.
It was also shocking to me that Mauritanians, who by nature and desert upbringing, do not like the water, don’t realize the beauty and value of their coastline. If the beaches weren’t only used for fishing and cleaned up a little they would be gorgeous and tourists would definitely come here. But that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen and it looks like not much has changed here in decades.

After an awesome evening of watching movies and Ali G in Damian and Mary’s screening room fully equipped with hammocks, I am looking forward to catching up on some sleep tonight before heading out to Dakar tomorrow and then on to Cape Verde.

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  1. Mauritania is a wnderful place with some of the nicest people on the planet.

  2. I agree about Mauritania. My family is from there and although I have not been, the stories I hear are all very positive. I hope to make it there someday.

  3. Hey man, if you ever have time when you get back to the states you should add some pics to the big West Africa trip you took through all these countries. A lot of people still refer to these postings and re-read them since a lot of this info is still valid…and of course it would be cool to see.

  4. Ya you’ve asked me that in the past and so have several others and I get several email questions a week about that trip because there’s not much info available about those places. Maybe I will when I get back and have some time. That was before I started traveling with a laptop obviously.

  5. Good news photos man. Looks pretty rugged there.

  6. In 1993, I spent 6 months traveling around West Africa, ending-up in Mauritania at the tail end of the trip. I spent a pleasant few days in Nouakchott, after traveling across the country from northern Mali. I generally ate at a small cafe below my hotel and each day I went to the beach (walk out of the city and head West… you can’t miss it!). There was a dead donkey that lay rotting about half way between the city and the water, which was my main landmark for the trip. The beach is wild, deserted and somewhat desolate. There are the ruins of what looks like an old seaside resort and few wooded fishing boats.
    As for the city itself, the market was interesting and I believe a depressing “cultural’ museum, and best of all there was a used book stand and I picked-up a copy of Paul Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast, which became one of my favorite books. There’s something about books read in desolate African hotel rooms without TV, phone and this is long before the internet, so one’s only entertainment is to read….Anyone else have these great reading experiences? 2 other favorite books that I relate to places: Burmese Days by George Orwell, I read while nursing the stomach flu, lying in bed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and The Cockroach Dance by Meja Mewangi (set in Nairobi), I read while lounging in the now defunct campground Ma Roache’s (outside of Nairobi, Kenya)….

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