- Posted: 22 February, 2022
- Category: Africa
My Mauritania Experience تجربتي في موريتانيا
A beautiful raw experience is what I can call my trip to Mauritania! It’s the kind of experience where you need to do every now and then for you and only you.
I heard that one of my friends is joining an organized group trip to Mauritania, a travel blogger from Spain, Joan. I got curious and excited to join this trip as I never thought of visiting Mauritania, and its a destination I would not rather go to alone. I found this as the perfect opportunity to experience a new country, a new culture and meet new people!!!
I asked about the schedule and was provided by a link by Joan which had the itinerary which I went through and what caught my attention the most was the iron-ore train experience!! It took me a week to decide whether or not I am mentally ready to be on an 18 hour trip on an iron-ore train? I eventually really wanted to go and experience something the locals used to do for a living.
The Iron Ore Train has been operating since 1963 – Train du Desert in Mauritania – It is a train that connects the iron ore mines in the town of Zouérat, located deep into the Sahara, with the port of Nouadhibou, located on the Atlantic coast.
In short, these were the areas we passed by after arriving to the capital, Nouakchott were: (Our Travel Route):
- Terjit Oasis
- Ouadane and the Eye of the Sahara
- Ending in Nouadibou (got off the train)
In Nouakchott, we stayed in CasaBlu Hotel which was decent and the staff were very friendly. I speak Arabic, so it was very easy for me to communicate. However, the group with me spoke English mostly and they struggled a bit to communicate with the staff – so if you don’t speak French nor Arabic, you might need to have a translating app handy.
(Another hotel that I found online is The Best Semiramis)
Which brings me to another point; internet. In Mauritania and at the hotel the internet was extremely slow. So I would go with a mindset that’s ready not to use much internet while in Mauritania.
I very much enjoyed going in a group and highly recommend going with a group to Mauritania!
I went for coffee to a bakery that was 10 minutes away from where we stayed: CasaBlu Hotel, where I met 2 locals one of them was Lebanese origin and had a quick conversation with them. It was interesting that they found it ‘odd’ to have tourists from Kuwait in Mauritania. They immediately expressed though their excitement to see tourists and hoping that the country starts providing better tourism facilities to encourage tourism in Mauritania.
The Iron-ore Railway Experience!
I got asked alot why Mauritania? Why go to raw destinations? Because travel is about so many things and one of them is getting to know the world with all it has to offer. So, why not?
One of the reasons I signed up for this trip is the railway experience. Ive read about it and saw that it was one of the things people used to do for survival/business. I liked the idea of re-living this experience and going back to appreciate the little things.
The Iron Ore Train has been operating since 1963 – Train du Desert in Mauritania – It is a train that connects the iron ore mines in the town of Zouérat, located deep into the Sahara, with the port of Nouadhibou, located on the Atlantic coast.The total journey is 704km across the most offbeat desert landscapes.
We got on top of one of the 200 wagons, we sat on the iron ore and traveled along a total of 28 hours JOURNEY! Ok yes, that was too long. All the videos and articles I read before indicated a maximum of 18-20 hours. I guess we got unlucky? Or were we lucky to have see the entire day and night on the train?
To find the departure time of the train, what we did is that we passed by the Ticket Office and asked about the estimated departure time of the day! )We were recommended going there around 11am but we got there a little bit later.
What do you need to pack with you for the railway experience?
- Ski Goggles to cover your eyes
- Warm Sleeping Bag (0 and negative) it gets cold at night!
- Warm clothes
- A headscarf to wrap up all your face for the dust mainly
- Plastic wrap to cover up anything that you don’t want the dust to get into including your camera
- Light snacks that you could preferably eat without touching much. Bananas are a good option & protein bars!
Mauritania population is 4.6 million and is considered a lower-mid-income country in West Africa. A lot of the population live in poverty (22.1%).
The local currency in the Mauritanian Ouguiya اوقيه (MRU). I had some USDs on me which I used in some places like our hotel. Some places also accept Euros. There are banks in Nouakchott and I used Societe General to use the ATM to withdraw local currency.
If you are reading this and there are still covid-entry restrictions (when I went in February 22, there still was), then you’ll need the following to enter Mauritania:
- To be fully vaccinated
- Negative-PCR test prior to entry
- Visa (for me at least) was on arrival, have USD 50 on you (For Kuwaiti passport) and USD 65 I heard for European passports. Get small change as they might not have change and not give you back any.
Safe travels, explorers!