22 December 2015

The Port de Peche (fishing port) by Nouakchott, Mauritania.

British Foreign Office's map of dangerous Mauritania
Along with the always nervous US State Dept. even the braver British Foreign Office says to stay away from this impoverished, semi-Arab, west African country with its porous western Sahara and Sahal borders that allow nefarious groups to operate.

I confined my travels to the allegedly less dangerous Nouakchott area. I believe my greater risk may have been all the reckless driving, rather than a targeted attack or occasional kidnapping.

Online you will see estimates that between 4% and 20% of Mauritania's population live in slavery, the highest proportion of any country in the world. Slavery was not officially abolished until 1981 and anti-slavery activists appear to be subjected to considerable harassment.

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania suffers periodic coups but here is the Parliament building.

A surprisingly large new US embassy complex is under construction. The British do not even have an embassy in Mauritania, although the French are prominent in this former part of French West Africa.

Women often wear a very long, colorful fabric wrapped around the body and then around again to cover the head (but not face). These three are walking past my guide Ali. Mauritanians were not receptive to photography.

Streets were dusty and usually filled with many more cars than in this early morning photo.

The main market (Marche Capitale) was big and, how to put it charitably, not as hygienic or photogenic as such markets often are. A couple of stalls had stacks of men's outer dress ― a loose, flowing, wide-sleeved robe called a boubou, usually white or blue in Mauritania ― and those were the most attractive displays. See photo below.