Between lush palm groves, secular ksours and relaxing hot springs … The oases of the Mauritanian Sahara hide fascinating treasures. This is the right time to travel to discover the pearls of the desert with our selection of important stops.
Does the immensity of the Sahara make you dream? Do you like dusty tracks, virgin territories and the scent of adventure? Look no further: Mauritania is made for you. Easily accessible on 4h30 flights from Paris, this African country is as big as twice the size of France, and is the ideal destination for tasting the excesses of the world’s largest desert. Located 450 kilometers northeast of the capital Nouakchott, the Adrar region is known for its breathtaking landscapes.
Its name, which means “mountain” in Berber, shows color. With its impressive sandstone reliefs culminating in 800 meters, it is the most extensive massif in the country. In its countless valleys lie lovely palm groves and famous cities, veritable oases of greenery in the middle of this mineral universe. With no less than 63 oases, Adrar is a desert that is both green and inhabited, navigating between acacia forests, small villages and dune gardens. Boarding to get an overview of these Mauritanian nuggets.
Ouadane, knowledge village on the caravan route
When you see its huge stone and clay ksar clinging to the mountainside, you will have no trouble imagining the glorious past of this former caravan town, founded in the 12th century. In this labyrinth of alleys surrounded by an impressive wall, the rue des forty scholars at the time, where Ouadane housed no less than forty Koranic schools, are reminiscent. A successful period that made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If the old town today is in ruins, it still dominates with splendor in the ford and its gardens below, where wheat, barley, beets and carrots are still grown. Both an oasis rich in water and a crossroads of scholars, it took its name from this unique position: according to local stories, Ouadane actually means “to wadier“in Arabic”,a wadi of dates and a wadi of science“.
The ideal is to visit the old town with a guide. Ely Sid’Ahmed Megueye is a native of Ouadane and will tell you his story. Phone or Whatsapp: 00 222 46 41 93 91
Tanouchert, the sleeping beauty of the sand
40 kilometers southwest of Ouadane, the small oasis Tanouchert appears as a mirage in the middle of Erg Ouarane, one of the largest dune stretches in Mauritania. Situated in this sea of sand, the village has only a few palm leaf huts, kitchen gardens and date palms. Here live a few families who cultivate farming and animal husbandry. All around, the blonde dunes stretch as far as the eye can see. If you want to enjoy the silence and solitude, consider including Tanouchet in your itinerary. Your visit will also be an excellent opportunity to discover the lives of the inhabitants of these isolated territories in the Sahara.
Only a trail can reach this oasis. A 4×4 and a guide are therefore essential. Plan to spend at least one night there to enjoy the tranquility of the place.
Chinguetti, the prestigious “The Sorbonne of the Desert»
Its fame is such that Mauritania is still known in the Arab world as “Bilad Shinqit»,« Landed Chinguetti ». It is impossible to visit Adrar without stopping in this former caravan town, founded in the 13th century. Stroll through the sandy streets of the UNESCO-listed ksar, admire the magnificent carved stone mosque and imagine the time when Chinguetti was a religious and cultural center that radiated throughout the region. From this flourishing period, the city has eleven family libraries, where you will discover manuscripts of theology, astronomy, grammar and poetry. After your visit you can relax in one of the many gardens that lie along the sand on the wadi.
The Habott Family Library is one of the best preserved and has more than 1400 works. Contact curator Abdallah Ghoulam Habott to visit it. Tel: 00 222 47 47 85 05. Admission is free.
M’haireth, in the realm of date palms
Before your eyes, a long band of palm trees winds its way endlessly in a narrow valley … From the top of its cliffs, M’haireth will offer you one of the most spectacular panoramas of your journey. About 15 kilometers long, it is one of the largest oases in Adrar. Its dates are even known to be the best in the region. Do not forget to taste them! Small and a little sweet, they will fit perfectly with a glass of tea. Also take advantage of your visit to discover tikit, these traditional cottages built of palm leaves and tamarisk trunks used during the great summer heat. Ideal for a cool nap.
Inns can welcome you for a tea break or lunch in the shade of the trees. Do not hesitate to ask. If you want to bring dates back to France, M’haireth is the perfect place to buy them.
Terjit, dream of swimming under the palm trees
If the desert heat has made you want a little dip, be sure to stop by Terjit. Located 45 kilometers south of Atar and accessible via an asphalt road, this small village nestled between impressive sandstone mountains looks like a little paradise. The oasis lurks at the bottom of a gorge and is home to a hot spring that springs from the guts of the cliff. Several pools of varying sizes are available to you. Enough to make you forget that you are in the middle of the Sahara!
Palmelunden is owned by a family from Terjit and admission costs 200 MRU (5 €). Paid to the two brothers who take turns at the entrance, Mohammed Salem Al-Hajaj or Sheikh Salem Al-Hajaj. Contact: 00 222 46 47 18 36.
Getting to Mauritania
From December to the end of March, Point-Afrique Voyages cooperative charters direct Paris-Atar flights from the French company ASL Airlines. Count around 600 € for the round trip. Flight time: 4:30.
You can also book an organized circuit (4×4 or hiking) with Point-Afrique or other agencies such as Terres d’Aventure, La Balaguère or Vision du Monde.
When to go to Mauritania? What is the best season?
The best period is from October to April. From November to February you will have pleasant temperatures during the day (20 to 30 ° C), but potentially cold nights with temperatures that can drop to 5 ° C. So remember to equip yourself well if you are going to bivouac. In October and March-April the days are warmer (25-35 ° C) and the nights milder (around 15 ° C).