During my first kilometer in Mauritania, I experienced strong winds and sandstorms. However, I enjoyed the view of the desert with the sand blowing against my face. I wasn’t sure if visiting Nouhadibo was a good idea, as I would have faced 50 km of headwinds when leaving. After cycling for 6 km, I decided to visit the city anyway. Although some friends had told me that there was nothing interesting there, I cycled at a 40 km/h speed and reached Nouhadibo, where there was too much traffic. Having spent a long period in the desert with few people, I found it overwhelming and began to question if it was a good idea to even come to Nouhadibo. During this trip, Cities were not my priority. I preferred the wildness of the desert and villages.
I went to a hostel where I met a German guy who I had previously met at the Moroccan borders, a Spanish girl, and an Italian cyclist. We shared our travel stories and plans. Jorg, the German cyclist, also wanted to cycle all the way to South Africa. Two other German cyclists joined us at the auberge, and they thought my plan was crazy, even though they had cycled from Spain to Mauritania. We went out to do some shopping, get some chocolate and cold drinks, buy a SIM card, and get internet, which we needed for our stay in Mauritania. Cristina, the Spanish cyclist, left a day earlier with the Italian guy. The German cyclists wanted to take the train to Atar, but my plan was to cycle all the way to Nouakchat in the desert. Although the company of the German cyclists was great, I didn’t want to take the train, not because I was afraid, but because there was no adrenaline rush for me to stay 12 hours in the train. I told them we would meet again on the road.
Waking up early knowing that I would face strong winds was not cool, but at least I got my morning coffee, prepared my Spotify playlist, and hit the road. Mentally, I was good because I was finally exiting the headwind. After 60 km, I got the sidewind that I dread the most because of how dangerous it is. The road was very bad, but with less traffic, I decided to turn off my social media during this period to connect more with the desert and see how it feels like to spend time alone. Whenever I’m talking to my friends, it always feels like I have company, so this experience was good for me. There were only a few villages on the way, and at the police checkpoint, they asked for my passport and told me to camp near the barrage. I refused because it was only 4 PM, and sunset was at 7:30 PM. They asked for my phone number so they could be sure that I was in a safe place. I again found a hostel on the way and decided to spend the night there. I didn’t feel comfortable with the guys drinking tea with the hostel owner, so I didn’t want to have a conversation with them. I closed my room, and the owner offered me dinner.
The next day, I grabbed my morning coffee and started cycling in the Mauritanian desert, still without my phone. I felt a bit lonely out there, but I kept pedaling and enjoying the freedom it brought. I didn’t come across many people, and those I did meet weren’t very talkative. However, I could understand why they might be reserved, living in a place with constant wind and sand, disconnected from what we might call the real world. After covering 70 km, I ran into Cristina and two couples from Germany again. They weren’t cycling that day and had rented a room at a gas station. I had lunch with them, but I wanted to keep cycling to use up more energy. I stayed with them for an hour and then cycled until the police checkpoint stopped me and told me to camp near them since it was late and not safe for me to continue. I agreed because I had set for myself to accomplish that day . It also rained, which was an amazing feeling
Can you imagine cycling in the desert with rain pouring down? Magical
The police at the checkpoint were really nice and helpful. They offered me a power bank and helped me secure my tent from the wind. They even arranged for me to have dinner with the food delivery guys of the police station . The checkpoint was located at the edge of a small village with some shops and it was just before Chami, a big town. Unfortunately, there was a lot of plastic and garbage around, so I asked the police where I could dispose all of my trash. They replied that I could leave it anywhere since it’s the desert. It was disheartening to see the amount of trash. Later, I was awakened by the sound of heavy rain which was quite exhilarating. I woke up to a pleasant surprise as the police officers offered me coffee and breakfast. They also mentioned that they had wanted to wake me up the previous night to offer me a room to sleep in, but they were concerned that I might not feel comfortable. Even though they had many rooms for themselves, they wanted to ensure my comfort and safety. I expressed my gratitude, and they even gave me their phone number to contact them in case I encountered any difficulties during my journey to Nouakchott.
I was only 20 km away from Chami when I went to a small restaurant. The owner happened to be Moroccan. I was thrilled to have a chance to try some Moroccan food. Mouad, a young Moroccan who was unemployed in Morocco, had wanted to go to Europe but was unable to find a way, so he came to Mauritania to work at his uncle’s restaurant. I was proud of him for making such a bold move. Despite his young age – I think he was only 20 years old – people respected him and he worked really hard. I spent the whole day with him, and he refused to get paid from me, telling me, “Meryem, you are my sister, and I want to support your trip. Cycling 2,000 km through the desert is no easy feat. If you need anything, I’ll give you my number.” Later, Cristina and two German travelers arrived at the restaurant for lunch. By that point, it was already 3 PM, and they said they would be staying in Chami. Mouad and I stayed with them to help find a hotel. After that, I continued cycling because I had only cycled for 20 km that day. At 5 PM, I came across a police checkpoint, and they wanted me to camp there. I explained that I had only just begun cycling and could still go for another two hours of cycling ahead, and that I knew where I was going. We negotiated for 20 minutes, and they eventually told me to go but to be responsible for my own safety, giving me their phone number in case I needed help. I kept cycling, and soon after, a Mauritanian man with two Egyptians in his car stopped to talk to me. The first checkpoint had told them about me, and they were curious about my adventure. They even offered me some chocolate. We chatted for a bit, and then I decided to stay in a village where I could rent a small room for 200 UM (about $5) and wake up early to make it to Nouakchott in one day, which was still 175 km away.
The weather was nice that day, not too hot, so I didn’t take many breaks. I didn’t have enough cash to buy food on the road, so I bought bread and ate it with some chocolate that I had with me. I was dreaming of a hot shower because I felt like the sand had become a part of me. The Mauritanians were very religious. Every time I went to a shop, they were either reading the Quran or praying. They had their own culture, and they didn’t like cameras, so I didn’t film too much out of respect.
I arrived in the capital, Nouakchott, at 5 PM, and went to a French guy’s auberge, where I had a shower and watched my favorite team’s game. At that point, I hadn’t decided whether I should go to a very touristy place in Mauritania with palms or continue on to Senegal. I think I was more excited to explore Senegal, as it was the first West African country I was visiting, and I wanted to learn more about its culture. I had already visited many natural places like Atar in Morocco. In the end, I decided to stay two more days in Nouakchott and then hit the road to Dakar. Cristina joined me at the auberge . The day before I left, a German couple arrived late and asked me about prices and other details, but the owner was rude to them, saying that they couldn’t ask clients about prices and that they should leave if they didn’t like it. He even told them to sleep on the street! I was shocked at how he spoke to an elderly man, sometimes in life, we may have everything we desire, but if we lack principles and the ability to treat others well regardless of their circumstances, then we are missing fundamental values. Showing kindness and consideration towards others is an essential part of being a good person, and should be prioritized in our personal growth.
Port of NOUAKCHOTT
After having a lot of negative experiences with the Rosso border, Cristina and I decided to leave Nouakchott and head towards the Diama border. On the way, we stopped at a shop to buy some cookies and the Moroccan owner kindly offered us breakfast without accepting any money. It was the second time in 24 hours that we had experienced the hospitality of Moroccan shop owners. Cristina was impressed by how Moroccans support each other even in different countries. As we cycled, we began to see green areas, which was a refreshing change from the desert. However, I would always miss the tranquility of the desert.
We encountered more villages along the way and the wind was in our favor. We didn’t take many breaks since I was excited to be back on my bike after a four-day break. After cycling for 100 km, we came across a village where a cyclist told us about a hotel. Although it was only 4 pm, we decided to stay there for the night. We found some street food and had lunch. I wanted to cycle more, but Cristina wanted to stop. We agreed to meet later on the road., After cycling for 30 km, I started to question my decision to avoid Rosso borders. I was curious about what made them so notorious, having had some prior unpleasant experiences at the Moroccan bus station of Ouad Ziane. After contemplating for only 10 minutes, I decided to continue towards Rosso. I stopped 42 km before the border and asked a woman if I could camp in the nearby village. To my surprise, a kind woman named Aminato offered to host me in her tent home. She introduced me as her friend to the girls in the village who helped me push my bike through the sandy terrain. Aminato, a divorced mother of three, welcomed me into her large tent which had a kitchen in a separate room. I slept in a tent with the girls and we spent the evening drinking tea, dancing, and singing Mauritanian songs. We ate dinner together and talked about my journey from Morocco, my project, and about life back home. Despite having to leave the next morning, Aminato and the girls asked me to stay longer. At first, I wasn’t in for it, but then decided to stay longer since I had not spent much time in Mauritania. The village was small, and everyone knew each other, including the fact that I was the Moroccan girl on a cycling adventure.
42 km before Rosso – Aminato
It was very hot, so I stayed in the tent and Aminato taught me how to make Mauritanian tea. We had visitors every hour, and they all asked me if I was married and how I could travel alone. They thought it was time for me to get married and have kids, but I explained my project to them and they were surprised. We had lunch together and tried a Mauritanian dish called MARO. Later, Aminato and I went to the mosque for Khotba, which is a sermon about Islam that they have three times a week. That day’s sermon was about Ramadan since it was coming up soon. After that, we played some football. Aminato wanted to buy something for dinner, but she didn’t have any money on her. Instead, she wrote down what she needed in a book that the shop owner kept, and she would pay later. I asked the shop owner how much she owed him, and I paid for it. I felt that if people in villages are kind enough to invite us and offer me food and shelter, the least I could do was repaying their kindness. While most of them don’t accept money, it’s important to give back in some way or another. I believe we need to raise awareness about this fact among travelers. The next day, I left Aminato’s home and rode for only 40 km to Senegal. Six km before the border, some guys asked me for money, but a police officer in the checkpoint told me not to give them any money or my passport. So, when they approached me, I was not responsive.
As I reached the border gates, I was swarmed by around 20 people offering me help with my passport and crossing the border. However, I was cautious and did not hand over my passport to them. Instead, I was fortunate to meet a Moroccan working at the border who assisted me with the necessary procedures. With his help, everything went smoothly, and soon I was on a small ferry, crossing the river to Senegal, where my next adventure awaited
Visa for Moroccan in borders : 500 dh
You can change money, buy a sim card in borders