Nice sunset view as we pass over London, England, on our way to Albania.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Shkodra, Albania.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Hiking the Peaks of the Balkans, June 13-24!

Sunday, January 22, 2023

First day in Nouakchott

We had only got to bed at 2:30am the night before, but still managed to get up around 8:00am feeling not too bad. By 9:00am we headed down for some breakfast. 

Mauritania was a French colony until 1960, and there is still some of that influence remaining. So what was for breakfast? Croissants!

(NOTE: There is some kind of problem with the clarity of the photos on today's post. However if you click on the photo to make it full screen, you get the original quality. Then when you go back to the blog, it is good again. I don't have an explanation of why, but it works!)

Of course it's difficult for Ruth in countries like this that have never heard of gluten. She will never starve, because fruits and vegetables and meats are fine, but bread is a problem. So we spoke to one of the guys here at the hotel, and he brought back a plate with some scrambled egg and vegetables for her.

Me, at the breakfast table.

The dining area is outdoors, but covered like a tent. Temperature yesterday was cool by Nouakchott standards... only a high of 24C (75F) when normally it is around 30C (86F). Supposed to be 29C (84F) today though.

We had some tea and coffee and sat chatting for a while before the three guys who also showed up overnight came down to join us.

Including out leader, there will be 19 of us in the group.

David, Johnny, Ruth, and Rónon.

David is from Chicago, Johnny (our leader) is from Ireland (but lives in Thailand), and Rónon is from Ireland. Of course we haven't met the rest of the group yet, but we're expecting them to be from all over the world!

We stayed and got acquainted for an hour or so and then went for a walk to try to find a bank machine and a SIM card. 

Goats in the middle of the city!

People just set up a stand and sell stuff at the side of the road.

We made it to the first ATM. There was a guard outside, and the ATM was located inside a booth. It was actually at a branch of a bank. We walked into the booth and got ready to use the machine, but it was making some strange noises. Do I put my card in and see what happens, or not?? I decided against it. I called the guard over and pointed to the machine. He listened for a second, and said one word... "problem".

Yes, it was a problem. We carried on to another ATM, located in a little booth at a gas station. I hate using machines that aren't located at a bank, but our options here are slim. In this city of over 1 million people, there really aren't that many bank machines!

I got it to spit out the maximum 4,000 Ouguiya ($147 CAD, $110 USD), but it wouldn't give a receipt, and it wouldn't tell you if there were any additional charges. I checked my bank account later, and it had charged a $3.00 local fee, which is fine. Some can be as high as $10 or $12.

We were in the process of making our way to meet up with the other three at a restaurant, but ended up bumping into them coming the opposite way.

So we walked with them for a while.

Notice Ruth wearing a head scarf. 

It's not obligatory here, but women attract much less attention if they do. Mauritania is a very conservative Muslim country and we like to respect the local customs. Consider the way that 99% of the women here dress...

Photo stolen from the internet.

One of the main roads.

We quickly learned that pedestrians have ZERO rights here. At an intersection, you are on your own. If the light is red for oncoming traffic, there is a decent chance that they won't stop anyhow. Red lights and stop signs are only suggestions. And turn signals are like giving information to the enemy. It's everybody for themselves!

We never did make it to a cellular place. We'll try again this morning.

Back at the hotel, we rested up for a while, then went for dinner with David and Rónon. Johnny had recommended a fairly high end place nearby and we're not confident enough yet to find a place used by the locals, especially after dark.

We walked to the place as recommended by google maps and it was a very dark, dirty dusty street. But we did find an entrance door that led us into a totally different world! You would never know that such a nice restaurant would exist on this street.

Ruth and I had the chicken curry and fries.

They even have a nice pool for events.

Kevin and Ruth.

Notice the Sprite and cola cans on the table. No beer or wine! That's because Mauritania is a dry country. Alcohol is officially illegal here. Johnny says there are one or two restaurants that do supply it, but it's very expensive. A lot of what goes on here is done through corruption, and who you are, and if you know someone who knows someone.

The restaurant was not cheap by local standards. Like our experience in Tanzania, if you want to live like a typical local, you can live very inexpensively. But if you want any kind of increase in standards, you will pay well for it. Our final bill for two meals and two cans of soft drinks was 1,000 Ouguiya ($37 CAD, $28 USD).

Quite a few more group members arrived overnight so we are headed down to breakfast to see if we can meet any of them.

Great deal on new Sheet Sets.

And in Canada...


  1. Hello to both of you! I'm fascinated by your experience in Africa -- Morocco and now Mauritania. I was in Africa for an extensive period way back years ago and I can see things change very slowly on that continent! Is it due to the poor quality of wifi that photos on today's post are blurred? Anyhow, enjoy your stay -- especially in the Sahara !

    1. Hi there Armande, we are so glad that you are enjoying our experiences here in Africa. We are looking forward to our upcoming tour of Mauritania and we have really been enjoying our time in Morocco. Life is quite different here and we like to embrace it all, both the good and the bad, You must have had quite the experience during your time in Africa. We are sure that in some places, like Cape Town things have progressed a little more quickly but yes, we think for the most part the changes are very slow in coming to these countries.

      We don't think that the blurry pictures have to do with the internet, it is actually quite good fast. We think that the blurry pictures are due to a Blogger issue and we hope that Blogger will be able to get it sorted out quickly because it is so frustrating to see them like this!

  2. Hi Kevin and Ruth! I'm enjoying your travels, glad you made it back to Facebook! Question for Ruth...I am gluten sensitive, not Celiac, but for health reasons gluten free. I have always heard that people like me can eat gluten in European and other countries, no problem. I never tried when we were in Portugal, but I did a few times when in Ecuador and didn't have noticeable side effects. Do you ever take a chance with it in other countries and if so, noticed a difference in how it effects you? Thanks again for your posts! Currently in northern Michigan, wishing I was on an adventure!

    1. We are glad that you are enjoy reading about our travels and adventures. I am gluten intolerant but I have never been tested for Celiac, however I know for sure that gluten is a big problem for me and have always tired to eat gluten free since the fall of 2010 unless it was unknowingly. I have also heard and read that many people have been able to eat bread here in Europe and Africa because the flour is different or less processed than back home. I have only just recently tried a little bit of bread in Albania and once in Morocco and didn't notice any big issue but I am not sure that would be the case if I were to do this on a regular basis so I just prefer to stay clear of it unless I haven't really got any other choice or I am trying to be polite if it is offered to me by a local at their house or business.

  3. That is really strange about the photos; hope Blogger fixes that! That meal does seem a little pricey for what you got, compared to many places you travel. No alcohol and no veggies other than fries does not sound like my kind of place! ;)

    1. It is strange about the photos but we did figure out that if you click on the photo itself then the photo will appear clearly and then you just hit the back button to get back to the post itself. It's a bit of a pain but at least you get to see the pictures nice a clear by doing that.

      The meal was a bit pricey in our minds but at least it was good. No alcohol is the norm here so we know that this is definitely not a country that we would choose to live in. As for veggies, we did have a good salad yesterday for dinner, we will see what will happen with veggies during the week, whether they are common with meals or not.


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