Nouakchott has been Mauritania's capital since its independence in 1960. With more than one million inhabitants, the city on the Atlantic coast is by far the largest in the so-called Bilad Shinqit. The country's second largest port is also located in Nouakchott. Characterized by the coastal climate and northern trade winds, temperatures are comparatively mild; the hottest time is between August and October. The history of Nouakchott is far less important than that of Chinguetti or Oualata. But in fact, the city is more than just a starting point for tours to Tagant and Adrar; there is also a lot to see in the place of the winds. The fishing port (Port de pêche), camel market, Saudi mosque, Marché Capitale, national museum, tent market and city garden offer plenty of potential for a varied one-day city tour or the first day of a longer tour inland. The center of the city is the Carrefour BMD, from which you can get a cab in any direction. It separates the districts of Tevragh Zeina (the beautiful woman) and La Capitale. Nouakchott is Mauritania-in-a-nutshell. Whether it's clothing, food, culture or language, much of what you will get to know more intensively on a larger tour already awaits you in Nouakchott. This gives you every opportunity to familiarize yourself with the local conditions in Mauritania.
Nouakchott is not only the capital of Mauritania, but also by far its most populous. The country's second largest port is also located there. Unlike Chinguetti or Oualata, for example, Nouakchott has no historical significance. Once a rather trifling administrative center of the French colonial administration, it was planned in the late 1950s as the capital of an independent state of Mauritania. However, the architectural plans were fatally designed for a maximum of 30000 people. It was simply assumed that the old economic centers would also be the new ones, but not the hitherto insignificant place in the Trarza region.
Two events, however, brought their plans to absurdity. The Western Sahara conflict led to a worsened economic situation and even to repeated shelling of Nouakchott by POLISARIO. Even more devastating, however, were the periods of drought (1971-75, 1978-84), which led to a massive exodus from the countryside by the largely nomadic population. In just 25 years, the proportion of the Mauritanian population living in cities grew from 3 to 44 percent. Most moved to suburban neighborhoods (so-called kebbas) such as El Mina and Arafat. As a result, these poorer kebbas still have provisional structures today.
The center of the city is the Carrefour BMD, from which you can get a cab in all directions. By the way, a cab ride in Nouakchott is a culturally unforgettable event and for 25 cents per ride quite affordable. In the center, with its main streets Ave du General de Gaulle, Ave Kennedy and Ave Gamal Abdel Nasser, are the largest markets (e.g. Marché capitale) and shopping centers (including Galerie Tata), the national museum, the presidential palace and the impressive Saudi mosque. The Carrefour BMD separates the Tevragh Zeina (en: the beautiful woman) and La Capitale neighborhoods. The Saudi Mosque (officially: Medina Mosque) is accessible only to Muslims, though its architecture is also interesting, especially from the outside. The National Museum, donated by China, is important both archaeologically and ethnographically. In addition to excavations of historical sites, it houses exhibitions of modern art or Islamic scholars.
One of Nouakchott's main attractions is the fishing port (Port de Pêche), located between the western edges of Tevragh Zeina and Sebkha. The brightly painted dugout wooden fishing boats (pirogues) go out to sea by the dozens every day, returning with their loads around mid-afternoon. The spectacle of catching, transporting and processing locally not only ties up many jobs, but is also one of the most interesting events tourists can witness in the capital. Here, local traditions and the international market come together. The cult boats, for example, are made by local craftsmen, while far from the daily fishing spectacle at the harbor there are also Chinese wholesalers and the harbor itself was built by Japanese. By the way, fishing is a business of the Soudans, Bidhanis are rarely seen in the market and never in one of the boats. An entertaining fun for visitors is sharra, the - harmless - shooting at cigarette butts directly on the beach. Camel or horse riding is also possible on the beach, as is swimming, of course.
The camel market is a rather unusual place for Western visitors. A little outside the city, cattle and goats are sold there daily, in addition to hundreds of dromedaries. The market is described as one of the largest of its kind in Africa. No wonder that it is therefore noisy, confusing and sometimes hectic. Mauritanians, by the way, have no reason to conceal the purpose of buying animals. Camels are used to produce meat, milk, leather and prestige. It is therefore only logical - although perhaps unfamiliar for some Western visitors - that there is still a slaughterhouse in the market, which is used daily and can be visited.
Upon request, we also show our visitors in Nouakchott the municipal garden, the Moroccan mosque, the tent market and the handicraft Centre d'Artisanat. There is much to see. Incidentally, Nouakchott was not named the capital by chance. Its central location made it possible to connect with all major cities. Therefore, the city is also ideal as a starting point for all our tours.