Nouakchott, Mauritania Report of what it's like to live there - 12/25/15
Personal Experiences from Nouakchott, Mauritania
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I've lived in Belgium and Germany, this was, however, my first living experience in Africa.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
I live in the DC/Baltimore area. The trip is long and arduous. There is a red eye flight from Nouakchott to Paris, this takes about 5 and 1/2 hours. You will then have a pretty long layover in Paris. The flight from Paris to DC is about 9 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
2013 - 2015
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Department of State
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
I lived in a very nice home, with a walled garden. Two story, large dining room and living room - the bedrooms where huge. Some have odd layouts, the steps were never even, and the tiles can be very slick when wet. I loved my house.
2. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Baking items including food coloring, hot sauce (there is a local one there that is awesome!!!), ship dog and cat food, Ziploc bags, paper towels and toilet paper, gourmet items if you use them, when to go - take a cooler full of pork items - including bacon. You will not find pork or alcohol on the economy. Wine and spirits if you want those - PJ does ship about once a quarter - it is expensive.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
American fast food? No
There are some decent restaurants. The cost is fine. You will tend to cook at home.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes, flies, ants, roaches, slugs. I purchased DE (Diatomaceous earth) to get rid of the creepy crawlies and it worked fine.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Good and inexpensive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Tiny gym on the U.S. Embassy compound. Don't know of any in town.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Don't use them. Ever.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
French or Arabic is necessary to get around the city. Most of your household help does not speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Absolutely! Few roads, sidewalks are new - don't know how long they'll last. The cement there tends to erode.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
No! No trains, no buses, and taxis are completely unsafe and forbidden for Embassy personnel - and with good reason.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
4 wheel drive is necessary -- lock your doors! I had a Rav4 - not too difficult to get parts. And getting around was easy.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
About US$120 per month, through the Embassy.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I had one issued by the Embassy, so I don't know anything about local phones. They do sell the cards there - all over the streets.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There may be one or two vets available. They were satisfactory.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
It is considered a high threat post. However, I've felt less safe in some U.S. cities. Don't walk - the driving there is unbelievable. You truly must see it to believe it. There are guards 24/7 at the residences.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There is no medical care. If you have anything lingering - get it fixed before you go.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air quality is okay - lots of dust. No industry to speak of but they do burn trash at times.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot, wet & hot, temperate, and I-wish-it-was-like-this-all-year!
The summers are extremely hot - you will understand why the locals are nocturnal. October just sucks - it is hot, humid, and it stinks! November through early May are delightful, it really makes up for the other months.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
small - good and bad - I had a great time, others couldn't wait to get on the plane.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Parties at residences. Dinner and drinks at other residences. There is ZERO nightlife in Nouakchott.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There is a lot to do once you find the expat community. Unfortunately, it is the same people at different parties. Driving outside of the city requires planning - there are things to see, Atar is nice, there is a beautiful oasis there- well worth the trip. Have one of the locals help you make contact, you can eat and picnic there.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Since the country is 100% Muslim, it can be difficult I would guess, however, I know of several same sex couples who had zero problems.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Slavery was outlawed in the 1980s. The vestiges of slavery still exist.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The people are amazing. The beaches are a sight to behold. They're clean and unincorporated. There is a nice place north of NKC where you can rent a tent on the beach, build a bonfire, etc. And the star gazing is beyond believe - take a camera!
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Go to the fish market... during the cooler months... it is beautiful. I had a blast taking pictures there. Sunset in the dunes. Go north to see the monk seals. Go to St. Louis, Senegal (prior planning required)
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Mud cloth, paintings
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can save money if you have a local do your shopping for you. There is the local price and the tubob price.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Nothing - Mauritania is an interesting place - you have to take things in stride, slow down, and remember you're in a developing country.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
yep, in a heartbeat.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coats and good clothes - there are a couple of tailors there who do good work
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of humor, sunglasses, sunscreen, cotton clothing