The recommendations of European states having evolved in terms of security since late 2017, tourism has resumed in Mauritania, especially in the highlands of the Adrar ! Back to nature, treks, 4×4 raids and bivouacs in the moonlight, far from the cities, near the stars.
This long inaccessible region wakes up after a ten years sleep. Mauritania, a West African country on the Atlantic coast, is a setting of vast expanses of arid sand and timeless cities. We could have opted for the camel, but it is in 4×4 that we decided to explore a small part of the Adrar: an enriching adventure, during which we felt no aggressiveness.
One road-trip, five vehicles, five days of travel, 1,750 km of tracks and sand, at the gateway to the Sahara.
From the Diama dam at the Senegalese border, to the Birette post on the Mauritanian side, you have to cross a big part of the Diawling National Park (on the right bank of the Senegal River), before taking the RN1 to join the road to Nouackchott, the capital city (this will be the opportunity to buy «khaimas» – Mauritanian tents). The roadsides, heated by sand and asphalt, offer a little shade under the many varieties of thorny acacias. The road is bad, swept by wind and sand, almost desert.
Despite the numerous roadblocks and identity checks, we quickly reached and went through the capital, before driving along the seashore and sand quarries, then setting up our camp in the dunes sheltered from the wind. It’s difficult to forget our first night under the stars, or the discussions around the campfire, watching the guide prepare mint tea. We didn’t forget either the first morning, waking up far from everything, and sharing breakfast with our feet in the sand, our minds fogged up in the rising sun. Setting the bivouac every night in a different place is tedious, but the beachfront or the outback offer very different landscapes.
The sand dunes are a wonderful playground but beware of the «dune bashing». It is a delicate exercise, you have to be patient, well equipped, and above all well accompanied!
It is essential to have an excellent guide, because outside the main roads, the country is poorly marked out.
There are many possibilities. Besides the sand, one can also look for the freshness of the oases, sleep and bathe there, as in that of Tergit, with the formidable cliffs, palm groves and waterfalls.
After passing Atar (capital of the Adrar) and joining the plateau, you reach an area rich in rocky sites. Among them, the caves of Agrour, where Fadel will show you paintings of men and animals several thousand years old.
Then in this western landscape, just a little further away, is Fort Sagane built in 1984 for the needs of Alain Corneau’s film. The producer erected these stone walls at the foot of the mountains. Finally, about 50 km from Atar, one of the most interesting sites to visit is the city of Chinguitti («the Sorbonne of the desert») with its stone and earth walls.
World heritage classified by UNESCO, the old city is considered as the 7th holy city of Islam. It is renowned for preserving thousands of manuscripts containing ancient scientific and religious knowledge. El-Mahmoud, the curator, a wise scholar, will tell you the history of Mauritania and you will really be captivated by his stories! Don’t forget to climb on the roof of the library to enjoy the beautiful view!
The journey does not stop there because other remarkable sites like Ouadane and the Nouadhibou nature reserve are also to visit!