After the incredible time I had in Chinguetti, arriving in Nouakchott felt like turning up at a party late and sober when everyone else is already drunk and loud. It took me a little while to adjust to the honking horns, yelling money changers and dusty air. However, Nouakchott is certainly an interesting place. Mauritania’s capital is a mix of expensive hotels, impressive mosques and sand lined streets. There is a strong expat community, which results in a bit of variety when it comes to the restaurants. Moreover, even though Nouakchott is a capital city it isn’t as manic and chaotic as you might imagine. Even in the busy streets of Nouakchott, the warm hospitality of the local people shines through.
Time Needed: 2-3 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 35-45 USD/day
Things to Do and See in Nouakchott
The truth of the matter is there really isn’t a whole lot to do for tourists in Nouakchott. This is a city that’s basically been built up as an administative hub. That being said, there is certainly enough to keep travellers busy for a couple days.
- National Museum: The national museum is decent. I do think that it was a little bit dull but, hey, it’s a museum, I’m not sure what I was expecting. There are some good archaeological displays, but most of them only look at the age from when the Moors arrived an afterwards.
- The Mosques: The mosques in Africa are almost always stunning. My favourite is the Moroccan mosque, mostly because it is the first mosque I’ve actually been allowed in to look at.
- Fish Market: This isn’t to be missed. You’ll have to hire a taxi from town, but it’s well worth it. Just a warning, some of the officials around are wary of camera wielding tourists and you might be asked to put the camera away. I was never told to do so, but I’ve heard many reports of that happening.
- The Beach: There are a number of beaches a short taxi ride away. Hanging out at one of the beach side restaurants is a great way to spend a sunny day.
Where to Eat in Nouakchott
Like most places in West Africa, the restaurant scene in Nouakchott revolves largely around the hotels. That being said, there are also a variety of other internationally specific restaurants around town. While my time in Nouakchott was quite limited, I really only had time to sample a small variety of what there was to offer.
- Chinese Food: I have no idea the name of this place since the lettering is in Chinese. However, the Chinese food spot in town is quite good. Be prepared, however, to be sharing the dinning room with loud, and very possibly drunk, Chinese expats.
- Petit Cafe: This is a great place for lunch. It serves both French dishes as well as pizzas.
- Maison Jeloua: The hotel I stayed at had great food and it was also very reasonably priced.
Where to Stay in Nouakchott
I only stayed in Nouakchott for 3 nights and I spent one of them at Maison Jeloua and the other two at Auberge Menata since Jeloua was full. Maison Jeloua is really solid. It has a great staff, comfortable rooms with A/C, and a really nice restaurant. You’ll likely want to reserve ahead as it’s quite busy. The email address is: maison.jeloua(at)voila(dot)fr. Auberge Menata has much less attractive rooms, but it is much cheaper and still quite nice. Both have free wifi although it’s slow.
Getting out of Town
There is plenty of traffic via shared taxis both North to Nouadibou and South to Dakar or Saint-Louis. To get to Senegal I will be listing a guide for crossing that border since it’s a bit chaotic. It is coming soon.
As for the other destinations you might be trying to get to. Generally there is one taxi a day heading to Dakhla, Morocco. There might be two cars a day heading to Atar.