February 02, 2012
by Stephen Jan in Nouakchott, Mauritania
Between Noudibou and Nouakchott, we were stopped a total of 12 times by the police, the army, and whoever else unfortunate enough to have a job standing in the middle of the highway waving cars down under the scorching desert sun.
- 10:00 AM Nouadibou city limits
- 10:20 AM didn’t wear uniform, might have been just a random guy
- 11:00 AM
- 11:29 AM
- 12:42 PM
- 1:54 PM
- 3:01 PM
- 3:28 PM
- 4:00 PM
- 4:20 PM no stop! waved us by.
- 4:23 PM
- 4:27 PM Nouakchott city limits
Check points are marked with portable stop signs propped up sticks, stones and wire. A man in uniform stands in the middle of the highway and waves cars to the side of the road. Most stops take around 2 minutes: we exchange ‘hellos’ to each other, we hand over a fiche (a sheet of paper with our passport details), and we’re off – pretty painless and simple. Stop take longer when the soldier asks about Obama, Shakira, and the global financial crisis. Once in a while they may ask for a gift, but they’re usually polite about it. I never got the sense that they demanded anything more than a smile and a firm hand shake.
We arrived in Nouackott at 4:30. We stayed at the “Auburge Awakar” located a block north of the first roundabout from the police checkpoint. For 6000 Ouguiya, we bought a night in a 2 x 2 meter room complete with 3 children sized beds, one window, and a broken fan that spun at the rate of one revolution per hour. The walls were painted white, which was good, cuz it made the dozens of mosquitoes hanging off wall and ceiling pretty visible. After working up a sweat jumping and swatting mosquitoes off the ceiling, I headed down to the hotel restaurant with the team. We were hesitant to check out the food at first, but Di and Neil encouraged us: “How can you miss the opportunity to tell people that you braved the dangerous dining establishments in Mauritania?”
The restaurant didn’t have menus, and we didn’t speak French. Instead, they gave us a tour of the kitchen and showed us our options: fish, chicken and shrimp. The kitchen definitely wouldn’t have passed Gordon Ramsey’s Nightmare Kitchen test, but it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it wasn’t any worse than my own kitchen back home, though to some friends that’s pretty horrible. Anyway, we all ordered the same dish: potato fries, lettuce, and vegetable gravy over grilled chicken leg. I swear I’ve seen this dish in New York. I didn’t realize that American food was so similar to traditional Mauritanian cooking.
After dinner, we inducted Mousa into the Team Last Responders family with a Tshirt and bade him farewell. dsc_0270.jpg