Atar is a small city that lies a dusty ride of 5+ hours away from Mauritania’s capital of Nouakchott. This walk is down one of the main streets of Atar.
There may be as many donkey carts as cars.
Atar is a rather dusty desert town, as you might expect. The town center is sleepy much of the time, though it can get a little chaotic now and then. I don’t know if it’s a town that was once grand and bustling and is now quieter and less popular, or if it’s up and coming and the town center is a place of hope that the population will be as grand as the space one day.
Maybe we were just there at a slow time of year. However, Mauritania doesn’t have a lot of cities and there’s not really any competition. The next nearest population center is Chinguetti and it’s even sleepier. In fact, Chinguetti seems like a town that the desert would swallow in a matter of weeks if there weren’t people there to hold it back.
Here’s our video of the Library Keeper’s Presentation at the Ancient Desert Library in Chinguetti.
My presence in Atar perplexed people there, somewhat. I don’t dress like a woman, I take the lead in business matters and in this particular town, I regularly visited alone (Tim was still nursing his broken leg and it was quite a walk into town). This was not something women were expected to do there.
There was never an issue of safety, but I think it would have taken a long time for them to warm up to me. Except the kids – I made friends with a bunch of the kids.
One day, after I finished the business I had, I thought it would be great to get a slice of life video of the streets of Atar. For the reasons above, I tried to be discreet about the fact that I was filming.
So while it may be a little bumpy, or I sometimes have to take a roundabout route, you can really get a sense of what the place is like. Atar, and Mauritania are very interesting, indeed.
In fact, have a look at the entire Mauritania Series:
Part 3 – Camel Trekking in the Sahara Desert