Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mauritania

I think we were all happy to finally get out of Morocco and start heading into Africa proper. I say that because many people don't really consider the north African countries to be really African because the people are not black and the culture is so different, being more similar to the middle east and Arab or Berber. Mauritania feels like a transition because half the population is Moors (Arab or Berber descent) and the other half are black, usually related to the groups in Senegal. There is actually a lot of Senegalese influence here in the music, tv and clothing. The culture here is a bit strange. Mauritania until just a couple decades ago had legal slavery and it is suspected it still occurs in remote areas. Historically (and today) the Mauritanians have been very racially divided with lighter skins (the Moors) controlling everything. In my interactions with the locals here I'd have to say the Moors tend to have the most attitude and can be outright openly racist to you. Maybe it's the addition of Sky but even I have been called a terrorist. That never happened in the middle east. Conversely, the blacks here are more friendly and it is nice to see the change in clothing styles and all the colour in the clothing again. They are also Muslim (99% of the population is) but more relaxed about it in many ways. The whole country is desert pretty much and I've heard that the goats are fed cardboard because there is nothing green to give them. Not sure about that but there is definitely not enough green and the goats do hang out in the garbage piles eating rags and whatever else they can find.
I am happy someone is now helping with the blog writing. In case you are wondering what has happened to the others though I'll tell you this much, we did the first ever journal reading as a group where we all read the same day from all our journals as a comparison to see how we all write and what we focus on. Savannah's journal entries are so descriptive and detailed it is amazing and she works on it so much that she doesn't have time to write blogs. We'll just use her journal for the book instead. I wish you guys would have a chance to read some more blogs by her though. Dad can't be doing much writing these days because his arm is now more messed up than his back. His nerve into his arm through his funny bone is what's bothering him so he doesn't write much these days. Thanks for the advice Shean but as you know, proper medical attention is pretty tough to get out here. Sky thus far has the shortest journal entries I've ever seen so we are still training him up as a writer :)
Bre covered most of what we've done. The train ride was cool but I would never want to do it again. It was too cold at night and with all the sand blowing around it was very hard to see anything. Maybe if I had goggles and a proper mask. We've all been hacking up so much sand since we arrived in this country it is insane. One other thing I've noticed is that the desert out here is really windy all the time. I don't know why but it is the windiest desert I've ever been in and it is to the point where it just isn't enjoyable. I like running around on the sand dunes as much as the next guy but it is much better when you can open your eyes without the sand blowing into them. Having said that the sand dunes around Chinguetti are amazing. We went to Chinguetti in the first place because it was once an important historical oasis and important centre for islamic learning. It's glory days are long gone and it has shrunk to a mostly ruined town with 4000 people and sporadic electricity and services. Now it's a major tourist trap for French package tourists wanting to do camel safaris and the like. It was nice enough to hide and rest for a couple days with a minimum of hassle and cleaner air (lacking pollution, though lots of sand still). Atar is just the gateway town with the airport and other transport, we didn't stay any longer than to change our rides as I hate it. It is just a town of scammers.
Nouakchott, the capital was a painfully slow 9 hour ride away in a station wagon from Atar. It should be 6 hours but we somehow ended up in the slowest thing I've ridden in in ages. What is worse, a perfect road and slow car or an insane driver in a 4WD offroad with you getting thrown around in the back for hours? I'm not sure but I've had both in the last few days. Nouakchott, the capital, is the dirtiest big city (in a consistent kind of way) I've ever been to I think. And I've been a lot of places. The big difference is that there are so many cars on the road that can barely drive, and so many that aren't driving either. It's like walking through the middle of a junkyard and yet you are on the main streets in the centre of town. It's also got tons of garbage and the streets are mostly sand too. Tomorrow we'll head off to Mali. We are looking forward to getting even more "African".
Ammon

1 Comments:

At 5:52 AM , Blogger uswa said...

I am surprised that you found Nouakchott dirty. Many people also say that N is so boring. I didn't find N dirty or boring. I liked the simplicity of the city, the quietness and the feeling of opem space. N has some very beautiful architecture. The new recidential areas are lined with houses that show delicate beauty: smooth colors, clear forms, small details. I think I made the right choice to stay a bit out of center (Auberge Sahara). Maybe stayed in the center I had a different opinion on the city.

(Reading your blog: What a nice way to spend Sunday!)

 

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