Nouakchott, Mauritania Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Nouakchott, Mauritania

Nouakchott, Mauritania 04/30/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Several posts in Africa and Asia.

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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?

USA. There are direct US flights from Dakar, otherwise we take the red-eye flight from Nouakchott to Paris and on to US. We frankly try to avoid the Casablanca route because of the long awkward layover and all the stories about luggage pilfering.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A little over two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We have good housing. Size ranges from huge to small. Ours is on the smaller side. Water, plumbing and electrical problems are typical.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are several larger grocery stores that cater to expats. They are all over the cost spectrum: some very expensive and some very affordable, just don't think you can always get what you want/need. If you see something you think you may need within the next couple months, it is usually best to get it because it may not be there when you need it. That said, some less typical items like Agave syrup, birthday candles are pretty typically found in the main expat shopping place. There is also one store in Nouakchott that brings in product from CostCo, so if you are willing to pay (sometimes about 5-10 times what you would in the states), you can sometimes get lucky and find that Kirkland brand product you are looking for. There are also some Asian grocery stores around town.

We usually send out housekeeper to the market for vegetables. Good small fruit stands around town, but fruits are available only when in season. I think most are imported from Morocco.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Vanilla for cooking, as I've only been able to find imitation vanilla in the America store. We shipped in diapers and household paper products. Lower quality is available locally. I buy flour locally, but many people ship in since if it sits too long on the grocery shelf, it gets bugs. We also shipped in all our vitamins/supplements and the brands that we simply got used to using over the years. We didn't use our consumables shipment, but got most things locally or via DPO and we survived just fine.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There's a couple good sandwich/shwarma places we go to a lot. There is a new-ish Indian place that does home delivery. Take out is available just about anywhere, but the fancier places will look at you sideways if you ask for take-out instead of eating there.

Yes, it is possible to get a decent steak here. Seafood is usually excellent. Pizza is OK. There's a couple Chinese restaurants in town but Mandarin is very helpful for ordering.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Periodic cockroaches and ants, and one mouse. This can get worse during the hot season. We brought some traps that worked great. Some products also available locally, but safety is questionable.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

It can be challenging to find someone who cooks. We hire a cook/housekeeper/nanny and a gardener.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The Embassy has a small but nice gym. There are local gyms, but type equipment and the state of repair may not be what you are used to. The main stadium, Olympic Stadium, is still currently closed (over two years). It was the hub for people who just wanted to walk/jog, kick around a soccer ball. Now, people are simply walking around the exterior perimeter (we hope it will open back up again).

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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?

Some hotels take credit cards, but don't assume that all do! There are ATMs, which I use from time to time, but unless you have a local account, fees are quite high.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a Catholic Church for expats, and I understand that Protestant services are also available but I'm not sure where. Mosques, obviously, are everywhere!

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Arabic is extremely useful here. French is also good for some people. Tutors are available you can find them through the yahoo group ExpatRIM.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This is not a city that most expats walk around in. Most people get around by car. Most streets and stores do not have accomodations for disabled (e.g., wheel chairs).

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We are not allowed to take public transportation. That said, there are LOTs of taxis around, most in a poor state of repair.

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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?

A 4x4 is really useful if you want to go to the beach (a good eight minutes on a very bumpy, sandy road) but not necessary. It is necessary if you plan to go on road trips (e.g., Banc d'Arguin). You can buy a sand ladder locally, which will help your car get out of the sand). Best to bring your own spare parts and definitely bring tires. Tires are extremely expensive here!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet speed can vary regardless of the package you have. Some days we can stream movies, while other days the signal is even too weak for a Skype phone call.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There are currently three providers, and a fourth, affiliated with Orange was recently approved. You can buy smart phones here, but they are a bit expensive (but some cases less than US) and most likely won't be the latest models.

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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?

Local paid jobs may be difficult to find. International NGOs and schools, however, may be options for paid employment. Lots of volunteer opportunities available, especially if you are creative, but some level of Arabic/French would likely be extremely useful.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of local organizations!

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Depends. Suits are typical for business environments (embassy, banks, international businesses) despite the heat, although I tend to think of Nouakchott as a fairly relaxed (forgiving) enviroment.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Check out travel.state.gov Mauritania page for safety and security info.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Quality of medical care in private clinics is not the highest in the world, but is decent. Referrals to Dakar/Europe are not uncommon.

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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?

Dusty. Some people here have air purifiers which tend to work pretty well if you are very sensitive.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Peanuts are sometimes used in local foods (e.g., Mafe').

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and dry is typical, although November through February is usually absolutely gorgeous with nice cool nights. Dust storms are not uncommon during the change between seasons and can last a couple days. Rain is usually pretty minimal.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is American International School of Nouakchott, which is very small but accredited in the U.S.. There is also TLC school, which is an American-run school.

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2. 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?

AISN has a pre-K class. Other preschools are around town however I do not have experience with them. AISN has periods of after-school activities (50 mins), but they do not run for the entire school year.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are soccer clubs around town. There is also a French-run horseback riding club that specializes in teaching kids.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly small expat community, but if you are willing to network, it is quite diverse.

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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?

Dinners/outings with friends, CLO trips, twice monthly ZeinArt community "fairs".

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

If the single person is willing to network and make new friends, you will have a great time. Having a car is highly recommended! For families, it is nice provided you are flexible with kids activities, since many may not be available here.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Officially, LGBT activities are against the law.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Mauritanians are lovely, gentle people in general. They pride themselves on being very hospitable. You will likely be invited to many dinners and unique experiences if you make any attempt to make Mauritanian friends.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I feel there are significant ethnic issues. Mauritanian women are quite strong both within the family and within society.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The beach, riding camels, the people, the photo opportunities, and the time to persue my personal hobbies.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Learn how to ride horses, and ride them on the beach; learn how to dye fabric in a traditional style; drink camel's milk; negotiate prices of arts and crafts. It's all what you make of it. Don't expect night clubs and entertainment parks!

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

I love the leather poofs, hand-tooled leather key chains, silver inlaid ebony boxes, and the hand-dyed fabrics.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It is what you make of it. It is a place of tremendous opportunity if you are willing to look for it (Arabic and French language helps!)

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Have an open mind and a flexible watch (most things will not start on time, so you have to be patient)! People here tend to be very serious Muslims and tend to pray on-time. Events tend to be organized around the call to prayer. Wear sunscreen!

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes!

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes and snow tires.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sun screen, vanilla extract, extra car tires, and your hobby needs.

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Nouakchott, Mauritania 05/17/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We have been assigned to the Middle East, Gulf, and Europe, but this is by far the most culture shock I have ever felt arriving at a new post. I don't mean that in a bad way, this is just a really, really different place.

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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?

Flights to/from the US are usually on an Air France code share to Paris, then an afternoon flight on Air France to Nouakchott. It's not cheap to get out of here on your own dime, but you need to in order to maintain your sanity.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Eight months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is BIG, and one of the best things about this post. My children think our house is like a palace. It has high walls and a small area of grass and plants - lots of people have fruit trees or vegetable gardens. The inside of the house is big, large enough for the kids to scooter inside when it is hot out (most people live on dirt roads so even if the RSO was cool with us riding bikes around outside, the lack of asphalt is a hindrance)with massive bedrooms and a nice rooftop. Pretty much everyone is within 15 minutes drive of the Embassy. Housing is great and even though the construction quality is not the best, Facilities and the General Services Office work hard to keep it comfortable for us.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries and household supplies can be found to supplement your consumables, but it's the veggies and meat and fruit that are a bit lacking. It's really hit or miss. We started importing stuff from the Canary Islands on a monthly basis, which has been a huge morale booster.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I would ship all liquid consumables since this is a pouch-only post. Condiments, toiletries, peanut butter, birthday presents for kids parties. Candy (not chocolate), snacks, popcorn. Max out your consumables and ship all you can. If you find you don't need it, someone else will probably take it off your hands.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

No fast food, and very little in the way of decent restaurants in town. I think you could make a strong case that the Embassy cafeteria is the best restaurant in Nouakchott. That's not an exaggeration. Almost everything I eat is either from the Embassy cafe or my home.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not as bad as I thought it would be. My house only had a few cockroaches when I moved in and we were able to get rid of them quickly. Almost no ants. But the mosquitoes, they are everywhere. If you don't sleep under your embassy-provided mosquito net over your bed, they will eat you alive.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch. The shipping time is actually pretty good, about three weeks or so. We tend to get mail twice a week.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I brought a nanny with me and am glad I did but I understand that most people use non-Mauritanians as domestic workers (folks from other West African countries).

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy has a very small gym. People who like to run do laps around the perimeter of the Embassy.

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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?

No, just cash a check at the Embassy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I have heard there is one, but it's not widely advertised since this is an Islamic Republic.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Not too much. If you speak French you can get by making change in the store or shopping. Aside from shopping I don't know how much interaction you would do with locals, really.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I can't imagine someone with physical disabilities getting on well here.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No, no, and no.

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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?

4X4 - something like a Toyota is good. Nothing too fancy or electronic. The dust is not good for the cars. Ship extra tires if you can, the dirt and unpaved roads are terrible on tires. If you have any desire to get out of town and travel, you need a big car.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

The internet is much better than I thought it would be, although the speed can fluctuate. Sometimes I can download a 50 minute TV show on iTunes in 45 minutes, sometimes it will take several hours. Skype works OK for video chats, and my Vonage phone line is pretty clear.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are provided by the embassy, but there are tons of guys on the side of the road selling SIM cards if you need an extra one. My nanny brought an unlocked phone and I got her a sim card from a guy on the corner.

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Pets:

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?

No quarantine. When I brought my dog in they didn't want to see any paperwork. Some people may tell you Mauritania is not a good place for dogs, and they are right. Mauritania is not a good place for dogs, however my house is an AWESOME place for my dog. She has plenty of room to run inside since it's a massive house, we have a very secure walled-in garden that even the most dedicated digger would never be able to escape from, a nice grassy area for her to do her business, and a great Irish veterinarian who is very pleasant and knowledgeable. When you leave town you are going to have to find someone to pet-sit for you, though, as there are no kennels here. But I am very glad I have a dog here - it gives my kids something to occupy them because let's face it, there's not a ton of stuff to do. If you aren't comfortable taking your dog to the beach (there are stray dogs there who have sometimes gotten into altercations with domestic pets) you can always bring your dog to run on the embassy compound on the evenings or weekends.

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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?

I don't know of anyone who works on the economy, but the U.S. Embassy works very hard to employ employee spouses who want to work.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I am not aware of any, which is a pity in a country which could use the assistance.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Standard business dress works for most situations.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Definitely. The Regional Security Officer (RSO) does not want us to walk in public, but honestly, there really isn't any place to walk here anyways. You can go to the beach and walk there, but as far as strolling a few blocks from your house down to a grocery store, that is frowned upon due to violent crime. No taxis or buses are allowed either. All residences have 24-hour Embassy security guards and barbed wire. All travel outside of the city must be first approved by RSO.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

We have a Foreign Service Nurse Practitioner and a local-hire nurse who handle most things like minor illnesses or stitches. For anything more than that you will need to be medically evacuated. Medical care is not suitable here for much of anything. Lots of gastrointestinal problems and we are advised to take malaria pills.

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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?

Very dusty. It's difficult to open the windows in the winter (you wouldn't want to in the summer because of the heat) because so much dust would accumulate in your house. On some days it's so hazy the sun is almost obscured. But it's not like that every day.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

It's really dusty here. Watery eyes and sore throats from the dust is common. If you have food allergies here I don't know what you would do. There are sugar-free/stevia-sweetened things sold in some stores, but I haven't seen any vegan options at all.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Summer is dreadfully hot. But the winter is really really lovely. It rained the month after I arrived, but there has not been a drop since.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most kids go to the American International School of Nouakchott, and I have been happy there. It is co-located with the Embassy and it's convenient to have the kids close by. Be forewarned this school is SMALL, there are less than 100 kids K-12. But the library is better than I thought it would be for the size. Both my kids are challenged academically and are happy with their teachers.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Both my kids have ADHD and since the school is really small they look out for them well. I think if you had more severe special needs you might want to think hard about coming here. There are very few resources here for support.

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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?

I have heard of one preschool being used but I don't know anything about it.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

The school sometimes has some after school programs like tae kwon do, and there is a tennis court here, but if your kids are into large scale organized competitive sports, this is probably not the post for you.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The Spanish have a pretty big Embassy right next door to us, the French too (although they have their own compound so they tend to keep to themselves a little more) and then there are a handful of other international organizations. Not a huge expatriate community by any means, but enough to make friends if you try.

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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?

We are a "make your own fun" post. Since this is a dry country and there are really NO public places where diplomats or expatriates gather, our Embassy hosts monthly happy hours with beer and wine which go over very well and are a great morale booster. The Community Liaison Office Coordinator (CLO) works very hard to make things fun for us. There is monthly trivia night, and people entertain in their homes. Things are busier than one would expect.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Know upfront that there are NO clubs, malls, or movie theaters here, little to nothing in the way of cultural pursuits. You have to make your own fun. If you know that going into it, you won't be surprised. There is a "conservatory" (term used quite loosely) where music lessons are provided for kids. My son took drum lessons in a garage from the drummer of a very popular music group. There's also horseback riding for kids.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

If you were open about it in town, that would not go over very well here. But since almost all our socializing is with other diplomats and expatriates in private homes or on our own diplomatic installations, it might not matter as much.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

YES.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The beach is 20 minutes away and beautiful.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The beach is the best thing we have here, and it's lovely. The Canary Islands are only 2 hours away by plane, but unfortunately the flights aren't cheap. Morocco is one flight away too. Dakar is a long drive which requires a bit of planning, but Senegal is a nice break from here. Within Mauritania, there are nice beaches up by Nouadhibou, and Chinguetti is a day's drive into the desert.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

I really haven't bought any handicrafts here.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Well, there's not a ton to do, so it's a simple life. You have the ability to save a lot of money and spend good quality time with your family, if you have one. The weather in the winter time is heavenly. In the summer, not so much.

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10. Can you save money?

Oh heck yes, as long as you don't jet off to the Canaries every month for a long weekend.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Unless you have spent time in other developing countries, this place can be a big shock. But once you get used to it, Mauritania is actually not that bad. The weather is great for much of the year, the beaches are clean and great for kids and adults alike, and the post is large enough that there are plenty of people to hang out with. Morale is generally pretty good here and people genuinely take care of each other. You won't find that at a lot of posts in developed countries. So all things considered, this place is OK.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Sure! It's can be rough living here, no doubt. But this post is really pretty good. It's all what you make of it.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes, although it's not uncommon to see the locals wearing hats and parkas when temperatures drop into the 60s.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure and willingness to make the best of things.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

I tried hard to find anything about Mauritania before I came, but the closest I could come is a small clip in Michael Palin's "Sahara" miniseries where he rode the train up in the north. Not really too helpful. If you do a YouTube search on Nouakchott you will find some videos of the chaotic traffic here, but there's not much else out there, which only adds to the mystery.

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

.

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Nouakchott, Mauritania 12/25/15

Background:

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.

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2013 - 2015

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Department of State

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Good and inexpensive.

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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.

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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.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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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.

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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.

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Transportation:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pets:

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.

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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?

NO!

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Smart casual.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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)

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Mud cloth, paintings

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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.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes

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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.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

yep, in a heartbeat.

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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

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor, sunglasses, sunscreen, cotton clothing

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Nouakchott, Mauritania 04/20/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Lived and worked in Africa before.

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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?

DC is about 18 hours total travel time with a connection in Paris. Air France is the best and most reliable carrier in and out of Nouakchott. Connections are available through Morocco but bags are frequently "lost" in transit through Morocco.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3-years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Affiliated with the U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses are consistent with Arab style houses in the Middle East. Construction is of very poor quality, electrical work is haphazard and structural problems are the norm. Finding housing in areas that do not flood is difficult. Some houses have pools but they are often leaking and require considerable maintenance. Commutes are generally short from the various neighborhood westerners inhabit (about 5 to 10 minutes).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries and household supplies are available but expensive. Two words, Amazon Prime.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Alcohol.... Lots of alcohol.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are a few non chain "fast food" restaurant but you eat at your own risk.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitos are a problem all year.Most westerners sleep with Mosquito nets on their beds and take malaria medications. Cockroaches are everywhere and houses need to be regularly sprayed with insecticide to keep the population down.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Housekeepers earn about US$200 a month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I believe a "gym" has opened in Nouakchott. Prices are likely high and not commiserate with the equipment and facilities. Hygiene is an issue in most places in Nouakchott - restaurants, shops, etc... I would imagine it would be the same at a gym but cannot speak from experience.

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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 do it.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a church in Nouakchott but I am not sure of the times.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You will need to speak French and it helps if you speak Arabic.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. This is not a good city for someone with disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No.

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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?

You will need an SUV. Toyota is probably the most common. Nissan Exteras seem to be the most problematic vehicles imported from the U.S.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Internet is expensive and the service terrible.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You will need to buy a SIM card when you arrive.

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Pets:

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?

I don't think there is a quarantine or anything of that nature. There are some veterinarians in Nouakchott. I don't know if they are real veterinarians or not.

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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?

No.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not many.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business attire at the Embassy. Anywhere else - men can where whatever they want women... Not so much. Women need to dress conservatively.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. Terrorism is always on everyone's mind. Crime seems to be increasing too but most of the information about crime is anecdotal or gathered by embassy security people.

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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" in Nouakchott. The various clinics and hospitals are substandard at best. Medevac is the most common way of dealing with medical issues. Health concerns are numerous. Stomach problems such a parasites are common. Upper respiratory infections are also a problem due to poor air quality and fecal matter in the air. Malaria and dengue fever are always a concern. Air France flies through Conakry prior to landing in Nouakchott so Ebola is on the radar now too.

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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?

Poor. The air in Nouakchott is awful. Dry, dusty conditions can make fecal matter airborne causing stomach problems for those not accustomed to it. Dust is everywhere. You cannot keep the dust out of your house or apartment.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot most of the year. December through March can be nice. Rainy seasons in September and August can incapacitate the city with flooding. Flooding can last for weeks and pose health risks.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is a French school and an American school. Both are adequate.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None.

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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?

Daycare is available by hiring a nanny. An English speaking nanny will earn a monthly salary of about US$200 to $300.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Sort of. Parents do their best to keep our kids busy. Generally, the assignments are only about 2 years long so most parents figure the lack of activities will not affect the kids too much. Admittedly, teenagers seem to suffer the most as there are no malls, theaters, or any such social outlets for them. Most families send their kids home over the summer as there is not much for them to do. CLO does a great job of putting together a summer camp for kids and some kids stay but the heat and the lack of activities usually prompts parents to send their kids back to stay with grandparents etc.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There are a handful of expats in Nouakchott but many are leaving.

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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?

Entertain in your home.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families will be in a better position to make it through an assignment here. Singles may want to shop around for another post.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. Racial issues are a significant problem. Slavery is still very much a problem in Mauritania. Religion is also a problem. The good old days of tolerance and moderate Islam are quickly disappearing. Christians often practice their faith in their homes. If you are expecting traditional west African moderate Islam, you will be disappointed.

Airport officials, in keeping with the shift to less tolerance, have started seizing alcohol from westerners arriving at NKC - this includes searching diplomats bags. Airport "Customs" officials are charging ridiculous fines for a bottle of wine etc... For many expats, I believe this is the icing on the cake. Mauritania is already a very difficult place to live... Badgering incoming westerners will do little to improve people's interest in coming here.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Rare visits to cultural sites outside Nouakchott, the close community of western diplomats and expats, developing friendships with moderate Mauritanians. The proximity to France is also a plus. Most westerners visit France during their tour in Mauritania to get their fix of pork and wine.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are some cultural sites in the countryside but truthfully, there is very little in the way of tourism or tourist traps in Mauritania. Mauritanians as a whole are very warm and hospitable. They have a great sense of humor and tend to like Americans. Unfortunately, the hardline Islamist minority is making the country less and less attractive to westerners.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Mauritanians don't have any handy crafts or things like that. Most of the craft items here are from Senegal or Morocco.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

There are no real advantages to living in Nouakchott anymore. Unfortunately, the culture and tourism aspects of Mauritania are quickly being made inaccessible by an increased terrorist threat and an increase in hardline conservative Islam practices. The city, which once was a rustic west African Fishing village where people were accepting and moderate, has changed significantly in last 15 years. The "feel" of the city has changed. Crime is increasing, the local media seems to be afraid to honestly assess the situation, and the city is becoming overcrowded.

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10. Can you save money?

I think so. Food that won't make you sick is pretty expensive so it's a toss up.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I pretty much knew what I was getting into. Other seem to arrive thinking Mauritania was going to be safe and enjoyable; it is neither.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Nope.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Excitement about a tour in Africa as Nouakchott is more like the Middle East than Africa.

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4. But don't forget your:

Deet, alcohol, and pepto.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

If you're not already assigned, keep bidding. If you are.... Good luck.

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Nouakchott, Mauritania 08/30/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Second expat experience.

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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?

From Washington it's 15-20 hours through Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most expats live in Tevragh Zeina which is the northwest of the city. Houses are big, concrete, and usually white. Yards/gardens are small, but provide a little green in an otherwise tan world. Embassy-provided housing is a great advantage. Expats who get houses on the local market face issues with landlords such as poor construction, faulty or unsafe electrical wiring, and issues with hooking up public utilities that often drag out for months. If you are coming to Nouakchott without a company to provide housing, I'd suggest sending the working spouse ahead to get the house in order before the other spouse and kid(s) arrive to reduce transition anxiety. Commutes are less than 20 minutes no matter where you live in town. If you are in the car more than 20 minutes you are lost, which rarely happens.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Fairly expensive. Everything here is imported, except bottled water. Expect to pay slightly higher prices than in the US.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

You can find most anything, but not regularly. For example, sometimes there are cake mixes at one store, but not always. If you have a favorite canned good or boxed item, bring it.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food, not so much. Only one fast food restaurant is consistently open and has high quality service. The others are more unpredictable. Twelve inch, eight slice pizzas are about US$5, chawarama US$2. Middle of the road restaurants are good and offer a good variety of options including sea food, Lebanese, and French fare. Expect to spend about $15-20 US per person for dinner. There is at least one fancy restaurant in town that serves high quality French fare. More than US$30 per person for dinner.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

There are no guarantees. A friend who has a sesame allergy had a reaction due to something fried in sesame oil. Since all fruit and vegetables are imported, it's hard to know where they came from (north from Morocco and Europe or south from Senegal and sub-Saharan Africa), so it's therefore hard to know if they are organic, etc.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing too extraordinary. Flies, cockroaches, ants, mosquitos. We spray regularly and are able to keep most out of the house most of the time. When traveling outside the city, anti-malarial medication is highly recommended.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the pouch. The Mauritanian postal system is not exactly reliable. DHL and UPS are prohibitively expensive.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Readily available at US$250 a month and up for full time.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

The embassy has one small gym. There are a few gyms, one at the stadium and one called Power Gym. I don't know much more about the last two other than that they exist.

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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?

This is a cash economy. Credit cards are accepted at the hotels if the machines are working. I have heard no complaints about ATMs, but have not used one myself.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Protestant and Catholic services are available at the Catholic church on the weekends. Not sure if the Catholic services are in English though.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Use the internet.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You need to know some French if you want to talk to people.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This city is not accommodating to those with physical disabilities. Most businesses are not. The embassy is not. There are few sidewalks, many steps, and a few very, very steep ramps.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No. Bring a car or buy one from someone leaving.

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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?

A 4x4 vehicle for sure; Toyota or Mercedes are most common and so would be more easily serviced.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

ADSL. Not sure of the cost yet. Can't figure the bill out.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They are all cheap and easy to buy.

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Pets:

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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are a couple vets here that people are happy with. No kennels.

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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?

No. There are sometimes opportunities at the schools.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work, casual but conservative in public.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Terrorism is a constant concern. An American was killed here in 2009 by terrorists. The terrorists were arrested and convicted and are now in prison for life. Most people counter this threat by staying in Nouakchott. It is also notable that the Mauritanian government is very active against terrorism. Crime is not a major concern - at least not worse than any big city in the US.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Poor medical care on the economy. Don't get sick to the point of hospitalization. Make sure you have medevac insurance.

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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?

Moderate air quality. Dust/dirt/sand are omnipresent since Nouakchott is on the edge of the Sahara Desert.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and hotter. The coolest it gets is 75 F and that's at night. The hottest temps are in the summer and sometimes it's over 110 F. Despite being the desert, sometimes it is humid because of the ocean. Generally it is dry, though. The rainy season (August, September, and October) brings some major rains overnight or quick storms during the day, which also significantly raise the humidity.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American International School of Nouakchott (AISN) is on the US embassy compound so it benefits from their security. It's Pre-K (3/4 year-olds) through grade 12 with about 60 kids. The combined grades are a plus for students who attend. Academically, the junior high is sufficient, but socially it is difficult due to the small class size. The high school is very new and graduated its first student in June 2011. Students who want to participate in athletics or other school-sponsored extra activities will not find them due to the small size. For strictly social reasons (and not academic) I would not bring kids over 5th grade here. AISN is accredited through 12th grade.

The other English language school is The Learning Center (TLC). TLC started in 2005 as an inexpensive alternative to AISN. They moved into a new building for the 2011-2012 school year and have Pre-K (2 year olds and up) through eighth in traditional classrooms, and high school through correspondence. This is the first year TLC will have 6th grade and higher. TLC also has small class sizes and has a good reputation. TLC is working toward accreditation since it is a new school.

The French school is attached to the French embassy compound and the best French language school in the country. I have heard very few complaints. Some people argue it's tougher than those in France, others argue it's easier. Who knows?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

AISN and TLC have limited to no special needs assistance due to their size. AISN does have ESL training.

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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?

Both AISN and TLC have preschool. Both have a good reputation. The French School and Petite Centre (the #2 French school in town) both have Pre-K too. Not too sure of their reputations though. Daycare is only provided in-home by nannies or housekeepers.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not really. There is a baseball league for 8-12 year olds in the spring and fall. The kids have a great time.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small - under 200.

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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?

Most entertaining happens at others' homes or at embassies. There are some nightclubs, but I am the wrong person to ask. People seem to be very good at making their own fun.

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3. Morale among expats:

Pretty good. Families and couple fare better. Singles find themselves working too much since there is little else to do.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a good city for families who like to spend time together on the weekends and holidays. Couples would be able to spend a lot of time together and would probably splurge every few months to fly out to Morocco or Tunis. If the flight from Senegal is actually available, this is a good option but since my arrival, the flight has not been operating at least half the time. Singles find it difficult. There are limited social outlets for those who do not speak French.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Among the Mauritanians there are definitely some racial prejudices, but Westerners rarely face this.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Going to the beach just outside of town. Spending time with family. Trips to Banc d'Arguin.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go to the beach. Go to the pool. Go to the dunes for a traditional Mauritanian tea ceremony. Go to the fish market. Go to the camel market. See the view from the Khaima center (at 10 stories the tallest building in Nouakchott). Driving out of town is difficult due to the security situation and overall desolation of the country. If you want to travel to some of the historic sites like Chinguetti, it's a day's drive from Nouakchott with no rest areas, no restaurants, few gas stations and limited hotel options. You must plan ahead, drive a 4x4 and bring your own water, food and gas just in case.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

To have been somewhere few people have heard of and fewer have ever visited.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, unless you travel anywhere.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, but not with older kids (see school section above).

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Hurried life and winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and sunglasses.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a really tough place to adjust to and a lousy place to live. But the work is rewarding and if you have the right attitude and make friends, you can enjoy a relaxing couple of years here.

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Nouakchott, Mauritania 12/02/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this is not my first expat experience. I have also lived in Antananarivo for two years.

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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?

Traveling from east coast via Paris its about 13 hours in the air and 4 hours waiting in the airport.

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3. How long have you lived here?

15 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government foreign service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is okay. Houses are huge, but the structure of houses can be shoddy. There are problems with water, electric service and mold.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive. There are some household goods available. Netgrocer will be your best friend. As will be your consumable shipment.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Pork/bacon/sausage...(in a cooler with me on the plane).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

No fast food is available. Some restaurants are okay. You can get by.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Flies, mosquitoes, geckoes, ants.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch address. No APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Reasonable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

A gym is available at the embassy. There is a huge stadium that some folks use to run/walk on. I don't use it.

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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.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

None to speak of.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

AFN for Americans.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

French is useful.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

They would have a very difficult time. The roads here are few, and lots of them are just dirt/sand roads. No sidewalks in most of the city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

You can find a taxi, but they will probably try to take advantage of you.

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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?

4WD is a must.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It's available; connections aren't always good, but it's there. It can cost 50 dollars or more per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

It is easy to obtain and to purchase minutes. Three different companies.

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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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?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

It can be unhealthy if there is a sand storm, otherwise it is moderate.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There is always a threat of AQM harrassing westerners.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Sandstorms can affect breathing.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The school here is small, but we like it. My children are younger, but the high school and middle school aren't that good.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Nannies here are reasonable. About 200 dollars a month, give or take a few bucks.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

No, not really. They do have swimming for PE during school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

About 200 or so.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good and close.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Dinner parties.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think its more family oriented then singles.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I would say NO, not a good place. This is the Islamic republic of Mauritania

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, there is one "international" church, but for the most part it is illegal to evangelize here, to Mauritanians especially. Racially, I don't think there is a problem.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go to the beach, go to the embassy pool.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Food and table cloths.

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9. Can you save money?

I suspect so.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Sure, as long as my family is with me.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter coat.

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3. But don't forget your:

beach gear and goggles.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It is hot and Islamic.

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