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Friday, February 10, 2012


Why the sudden trip to a place that no one has ever heard of? Less than a month ago we received an invitation via email from a friend of a friend of Patrice to join a group of 130 journalists, travel agents, and tourists for a four day visit to Mauritania. The area we visited now falls in a "red zone" where all travel is discouraged due to terrorist activities over the last few years by Al Quaeda in Magreb (AQIM). The country has suffered greatly from this designation. While never a major tourist destination, the ancient cities of Ouadane and Chinguetti did have some historical significance as trans-Saharan oases, and used to receive about 10,000 tourists per year. A visit by one tourist brings in enough money to feed a local resident for one year. The town of Ouadane saw zero tourists in 2011. This visit was a desperate effort to remind French tourists not to forget about Mauritania and to demonstrate that the area is safe to visit and does not deserve its "red zone" status.

We always felt very secure, and we enjoyed tremendous hospitality by the Mauritanian people. The President, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, even greeted us personally. We felt like visiting dignitaries rather than simple tourists.

After greetings and lunch, we loaded into a fleet of Toyota 4x4s and headed towards our camp in Oudane.

We stopped a few times along the way, and during one of these breaks I noticed that a few of the guides took off their shoes when they stopped to pray.
We finally arrived at our camp and claimed a tent.

Our tent even had electricity and nearby facilities:
The kitchen consisted of a tent similar to ours along with a wood fire for cooking. The food was quite good - considering. We had lamb the first night. And camel the second night . .
I certainly hope that this camel was not the one we had for dinner.
Tomorrow - a visit to the old city.


  1. Fascinating! Can't wait for more...

  2. Were all the camels dromedaries or were there bactrians as well? I've never been able to figure which kind lives where.

    1. They were all dromedaries (one hump). Bactrians (two humps) are more rare and found in East Asia - China and Mongolia. The locals tend to use the word camel (chameau in French) just as we do in English without making a distinction.

  3. Wow. I was thinking you were going to a "city", with hotels, restaurants, etc. Close, but no "banana", huh? Lol! Glad you returned safely and "sandly" :-)