Mauritania‘s biggest attraction is its desolation. In this mysterious country, wild country resources are scarce but sand is plentiful. Amid the shifting sand dunes there are flat top mountain ranges with fertile land in occasional oases and along the Senegal River. Nouakchott, the capital, houses one-third of the population was built around an old French fort and a deep water fishing and trading port. Chinguetti is a ksar and a medieval trading centre in northern Mauritania, located on the Adrar Plateau east of Atar.
Rising like a mirage on the edge of Mauritania’s vast Erg Warane sand dunes, the ancient city of Chinguetti has welcomed travellers seeking shelter from the blistering Saharan heat for more than 1,200 years. Founded in the 8th Century as a caravan stop for pilgrims en route to Mecca, this red-stone desert oasis eventually blossomed into one of the biggest centres of science, religion and mathematics in West Africa. Chinguetti is the most visited tourist site in the country; its mosque is widely considered a symbol of Mauritania. Non-Muslim visitors are prohibited from entering the mosque, but they can view the priceless Koranic and scientific texts in the old quarter’s libraries and experience traditional nomadic hospitality in simple surroundings.
Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the northwest coast and in the Maghreb region of North and West Africa. About 20% of the territory is controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, while the remaining 80% of the territory is occupied and administered by neighbouring Morocco. The Western Saharan city of Dakhla is an appealingly relaxed destination. A constant feature is the rich colours of the Atlantic Ocean, softened here by palm trees, a pleasant oceanfront esplanade and a shallow island-studded lagoon.