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Introduction

Mauritania has a long legacy of Islamic influence that spans back several centuries. Along with the religion itself, trade was largely influenced by Muslims. Adventurous travelers can sip tea with nomads, search for prehistoric rock drawings, bird watch and more.

Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960.  Fourteen years later Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya seized power. Multiparty politics was approved in 1991. Another coup in 2005 ushered in a transitional military council that organized elections and relinquished power in 2007.

Mauritania is the home of more than 3 million, most of whom practice Islam. The official language is Arabic, although French and other indigenous languages are spoken. Ethnic groups include the Soninké, and the Moors. Mauritanian culture has French, Arab and traditional West African influences. Traditional music usually consists of a tidnit, a stringed acoustic instrument, an ardin, and a vocalist. Many Mauritanian cultural activities are accompanied with traditional Arab tea, which is often sweet and strong.

Flights into the capital, Nouakchott, fly regularly from Paris, Algiers, Casablanca, Bamako, Banjul and Abidjan. Flights from Mauritania are very cheap, so the best plan is to buy two one-way tickets as opposed to buying one round-trip ticket. The more adventurous way to getting in would be to take a bush taxi from a neighboring country and get a small sample of traveling through the desert or perhaps banding together with other adventurers and catching a mini-bus into the country. There are domestic trains available for getting around that are slow, sometimes uncomfortable, but safe. Driving yourself is not recommended without at least a guide. Hiring private cars are very expensive but are available in Nouakchott.

The Mercure Marhaba Hotel is one of the best hotels in Nouakchott, complete with nightclub, tennis courts and a swimming pool. The resort is conveniently located near outlets for fishing, boating or sunbathing on the beach. Another resort is the Novotel Nouakchott Hotel. It has a restaurant/bar/lounge, fitness center, spacious rooms and a swimming pool.


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