|The most striking thing about Mauritania is the desert. About three quarters of the country consists of the Sahara, so as you would expect it is hot and dry here. Most of Mauritania’s cities are situated either on the coast or along the Senegal River, which forms the boundary between Mauritania and Senegal.
Mauritania’s capital and largest city is Nouakchott and is situated on the Atlantic Ocean coast. Although this is the country’s largest city, tourists won’t find too much in the way of attractions here. The main attractions include Nouakchott Museum, the vibrant markets, and its beaches.
National Parks of Mauritania
Mauritania is more commonly visited for its national parks and World Heritage sites than its capital city. There are two national parks in Mauritania – Banc d’Arguin and Diawling.
Diawling National Park is in the south, on the delta of the Senegal River. The park contains many lakes during the wet season, and is best known for its large population of bird species. There are around 220 different bird species here which include flamingos and pelicans. Animal life in the park includes primates, wart hogs and donkeys.
Banc d’Arguin National Park is even more important for its migratory bird population, and this importance has also been recognised by UNESCO as this is one of Mauritania’s World Heritage Sites. The park is set on the coast, between the capital city and the city of Nouadhibou, in the north.
World Heritage Sites in Mauritania
In addition to Banc d’Arguin there are also four other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mauritania, all listed because of their importance as ancient ‘Ksours’. All four are located within the Sahara, but each has something a little unique to offer.
The old town of Chinguetti is perhaps the most impressive of the four, with its 13th or 14th century Friday Mosque, abandoned French Foreign Legion Fortress, and ancient libraries.
The vernacular architecture of Oualata makes this town a popular place to visit too, along with its manuscript museum. Tichit also is known for vernacular architecture, whilst the fourth World Heritage Site is the ruined old town of Ouadane.