When I arrived in Atar at about 8 in the morning, after spending the night stowed away on the iron ore train to Choum, I was met by an old man in the street who shook my hand, said god bless you, and then welcomed me. I thought was a little bit strange at first, but as I began to walk down the street, I learned that’s just how it is in Atar, and this part of Mauritania in general. Anywhere I walked in town I was met by handshakes, smiles, and welcomes. I spent my days in Atar being followed by children begging to be photographed, and I spent my nights around a table full of conversation at Bab Sahara. Sure, as far as tourists are concerned Atar isn’t much more than a gateway to deeper parts of the Mauritanian Sahara, but if you’re anything like me, it will endear to you as much as any great tourism destination.
Things to do in Atar
As I mentioned in the intro, there isn’t a whole lot to do for tourists in Atar itself and it’s more of a jumping off point to destinations deeper in the Mauritanian Sahara. Of course, anything like camel expeditions and 4×4 trips can be organized in Atar, but most of them will take you out of the town. You’re not going to find museums or anything like that in Atar, but it is an interesting place to wander around for a bit.
Where to Eat in Atar
If you’re staying at the Bab Sahara there will be meals available to you there. If you’re dying to get out of your hotel for a little bit, there are a couple other places you might want to check out.
- Restaurant Agadir: This restaurant was decent, although it wasn’t mind blowing. The portion sizes are actually pretty massive, so you might want to share a plate.
- Restaurant du Coin: This place is near the roundabout, but ask anyone and they’ll point you here. If you’re like me and love Senegalese mafe this is the place to be.
- Roundabout: At the roundabout there are a couple grocery stores with decent selections.
Where to Stay in Atar
Basically, when I was in town there was really only one option for travellers and that was Bab Sahara. The truth is that I’d likely stay there anyway. It’s a great place, and the owner, Just, is a great guy and will make sure you’re well looked after all over Mauritania. You can email him at justusbuma(at)yahoo(dot)com
Getting out of Town
- Choum: If you’re headed to Choum to catch the iron ore train talk to Just at the Bab Sahara because he’ll be able to ask around and find out who is heading that way. The trip is about 3 hours in a truck. Coming the other way I rode in the back to save some bucks, do yourself a favour and pay for a seat on the inside.
- Nouakchott: There are vehicles leaving each morning for the capital. Again, if you ask Just he’ll call ahead and save you a seat so you don’t have to book in advance.
- Chinguetti: There are cars leaving daily for Chinguetti, if you go to the roundabout in the am you should be able to find one. As you’re learning quickly, let Just know and he’ll likely find you the best option.
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