Some people have never heard of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
My first visit was in 2001 to see the town of Kiffa, famous in the "bead world" for its production of very specialised powder glass beads, via an overland desert route from The Gambia, in an assortment of bush taxis and four wheel drive local transport, most often in uncomfortable conditions. Enduring baking hot days, very cold nights, sandstorms,
choking dust and the lack of water or choice of food in the company of an assortment of two and four-legged travelling companions in various stages of health, gave me a good understanding of the harsh conditions that the good people of Mauritania have to endure in their daily lives.
Many times, during the 36 hour tortuous homeward journey from the town of Kiffa to Nouakchott, I remarked to my travelling companion "Why on earth would anyone possibly want to live here in the desert ?" Most of this journey was either at night or in the teeth of gale force winds with their consequential sandstorms that completely blotted out the landscape and covered everything and everybody in a thick brown layer of dust. I was sure that there must be some redeeming qualities of desert life I was missing and 4 years later, through a series of fortunate coincidences,
I was able to find out just how many surprising beautiful compensations to the harsh conditions there actually are.
Through a shared interest in African Trade Beads, I was lucky enough to be contacted by .. and form a good friendship with, Gabriel .. a French ex-pat living and working in Mauritania's capital city of Nouakchott.
Gladly accepting his kind offer to visit and stay with him at his home, I journeyed to Nouakchott to meet him and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Nouakchott and Mauritanian life in a 'new light', during a mutually enjoyable week in the Summer of 2005. This visit led to other magical discoveries later in the year .. but first, the Summer Trip:
Mostly told in pictures which are reached by clicking on the blue underlined links in the text
The rest of my journey was fine, apart from the above and the usual 50 strong crowd of hustlers at Rosso. After I had
told a few really obnoxious ones who were purposely blocking my path, to go forth and multiply .. the mock arguments
amongst this gang, with one half pretending to be supposedly trying to protect me whilst the other half tried to hustle me,
ensured I missed the last ferry crossing the River Sénégal from Rosso Sénégal to Rosso Mauritania by 2 minutes.
Arriving well after dark at the prearranged Hotel Halima meeting point in Nouakchott, I found that my UK mobile phone
company did not not have a link with the local Mauritanian telephone service and my phone was non operational, so