Country guides Africa
Arab and African influences come together in the northwestern African country of Mauritania, where Northern Moors are in the majority and Tukulor Africans populate the southern regions. The tug of war between these power centres has led to in unstable politics, but Mauritania is blessed with breath-taking natural beauty and some fascinating historical sites, for those willing to risk visiting.
Mauritania is a land of rare natural beauty and dramatic open landscapes. The desert scenery of endless undulating sand dunes is quite a sight; in fact, something like 90 percent of Mauritania is within the boundaries of the Sahara. Two vast plateaus cover the central region and are only broken by occasional cliffs, and flat plains and desert dunes stretch uninterrupted across most of the west. These are some of the least populated regions in West Africa. The stunning, unspoilt coastline of Mauritania is the most alluring attraction for many travellers; the country's 468 miles (754km) of seashore is characterised by sandy beaches with hardly any development.
Tourism dries up in the summer months when the heat can become unbearable, though the rest of the year is perfect for travellers arriving over the sand dunes from Morocco or across the river from Senegal. Larger cities such as Chinguetti, Nouakchott, Nouadhibou and Atar have some small guesthouses and hotels, but the general lack of tourist infrastructure makes Mauritania a country for the adventurous. Visitors are advised to travel with reputable guides and tour operators, or in large convoys. Various forms of four-wheeled transport from old cars to sturdier jeeps can get travellers about.