During our first visit to Mauritania in December 2010, much of the country was off limits. Needless to say, we were really excited to revisit 13 years later to see how much it had changed. The border crossing from Western Sahara into Mauritania took a tedious 7 hours and we were happy to finally get stamped into the country! One of our first sights in Mauritania was the famous Iron ore train at over 2 km long. Tourists love to ride on top of the train for some reason but we were happy driving alongside the train tracks while watching the train pass by. Our first stop in Mauritania was Nouadhibou’s Baie Du Levrier campsite – our home for two nights. While in Nouadhibou, we did a day trip to the UNESCO world heritage site of the Banc d’Arguin National Park, and wandered around the central market and fish market sections of Nouadhibou. From here we drove towards Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania for a quick overnight before making the long journey to remote Atar (a town in northwestern Mauritania). Atar is an oasis town in the Sahara desert and it was an unexpected surprise! We found the locals here to be very warm and welcoming and the morning market to be bustling and full of colorful photo opportunities. Atar was also our base to visit the UNESCO world heritage ancient ksour of Chinguetti. After our desert detour, we backtracked to Nouadhibou to experience the best of what the capital had to offer which were undoubtedly the markets. The camel market on the outskirts of the city is West Africa’s largest, with thousands of camels consolidated and shackled together in various herds. This open air extravaganza was a very busy affair with locals taking their camel purchases seriously (starting prices at $800 and upward for each camel!). The central market in the city center also impressed with locals bustling for business selling clothes, shoes, fruits and vegetables. But the true highlight was the unforgettable fish market! Every afternoon, a colorful spectacle unfolded on the beach at Port de Pêche. We saw dozens of Senegalese pirogues (wooden boats) that were busting at the seams with fish pull up to shore and unload their catch of the day to the nearby market via an assembly line of porters. Our last night in Nouadhibou was spent with Mohammed, a friend we had met at the camel market. He invited us to join him for a midnight feast of barbecued camel meat under the stars and we happily accepted. From the capital city, we drove south through Diawling National Park where warthogs and a relentless swarm of mosquitoes greeted us upon arrival for our bush camp there. Our time in Mauritania quickly came to an end and we marveled at the huge positive difference from our first visit here. Up next on our West African overland journey is the country of Senegal!

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