The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is situated in the Maghreb area of western North Africa. It is bordered by Morocco and Western Sahara to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, Senegal to the southwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Ninety percent of the land lies in the Sahara. The largest city and capital is Nouakchott, located along the Atlantic coast.
This country, which took its name from the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, gained its independence in in the mid-twentieth century. Although it held its first democratic elections in the early twenty-first century, Mauritania has been plagued by military coups which also occurred around that same time. The people also suffer from a lot of human rights violations, including slavery. Even though the practice was abolished back in the eighties and made illegal around the time of its first democratic elections, the anti-slavery law is not being enforced, leaving an estimated twenty percent of the population as modern-day slaves.
Although the citizens of this country speak a variety of different languages, Arabic has been recognized as the official language, while French is spoken by the vast majority of the population. While English has been introduced into the school curriculum, chances are that as a traveler, you will have to communicate in either Arabic or French.
The region is very rich in natural resources and iron ore accounts for about fifty percent of its exports, yet Mauritania is a rather poor country due to political corruption, droughts, and economic mishandling. Just after the turn of the twenty-first century, oil was discovered within the land, but its contribution to the country’s economy has not yet been established.
Tourists can fly into one of the many general and international airports in the region. For the budget-minded traveler, there are a handful of Mauritania hostels mostly in the capital, Nouakchott. You might also be able to find a Mauritania hostel or other budget accommodations in cities such as Chinguetti. For such a poverty-riddled country, the cost of accommodations might be relatively high in some of the hostels in Mauritania. Combined with the rather rustic installations, guests tend to feel that this country’s budget lodgings leave a lot to be desired. Water temperature and availability can be an issue, beds can be riddled with bugs and mosquitoes, and owners tend to let their properties deteriorate without much maintenance. However, when you need a place to rest your head and take a quick shower, then the hostels in Mauritania are a safe option and should more than suffice. Look for the French word “auberge” when searching for a Mauritania hostel.
Since this place is not a tourist attraction, it can require a bit of extra effort to organize an enjoyable sightseeing itinerary. There are, in fact, a lot of sights and adventures awaiting tourists in Nouakchott, the capital. You can spend a relaxing day in the sun at the Plage de Nouakchott, a beach where you can have a delicious meal at one of the restaurants, collect colorful seashells, and even see camels and donkeys walk by. From there, you can walk over to the Port de Peche, or fishing wharf, where you can watch the fishermen at work, take photos of the colorful boats, smell the fresh seafood, and immerse yourself in local life.
Another attraction in the capital is the Mosque Saudique, or Saudi Mosque, which is located near the Presidential Palace and Chamber of Commerce. This architectural marvel presents a beautiful photo opportunity for tourists.
If you happen to be in Chinguetti, then there is a really special place to visit, particularly if you are a history buff. The Bibliotheque Habott is a library that was created about two hundred years ago by a man named Ehel Habott. He started with his own collection of ancient books and manuscripts dating as far back as about almost a thousand years. Today, there are hundreds of these texts, covering everything from religion and astronomy to math and geography. The magical library is opened with a very special key. Next door, there is also a museum filled with ancient objects and artifacts.
Sometimes the least touristy places offer the most surprising, novel, and unforgettable sights to see and explore. Who needs more than a simple hostel bed when the day is filled with enchanting views and experiences?
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Mauritania hostels. Welcome.