Nouadhibou is a city in Mauritania. It's a major fishing center and large industrial port.
A key economic center, it's home to roughly 90,000 people. Before independence, the town was called Port Etienne after the first boat which arrived here, Tienne. Since independence in 1960, it has been called Nouadhibou, which means Place of the Jackal. Many jackals used to come and drink water in a well. The town's three main parts are: Cansado, Keran and Numerowat. The distance from Keran to the end of Numerowatt is about 13 km.
In 1990, the tarmac from Keran to Numerwatt was built. In 2000, The town center roads were paved and Internet and mobile phones arrived. In 2005, the highway between Nouadhibou and Nouakchott was completed. There is now a clean half-way stop at the 235 km mark built by a Moroccan business where you can get a fresh cup of coffee and tasty sandwiches as well as a tajine, a kind of meat stew. They also have separate toilets for men and women as well as a simple tire changing shop. Nearby is the entrance to the Banc d'Arguin national park.
Nouadhibou without SNIM or fishing would not be the same. SNIM, the Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière, is the biggest company in Mauritania. The iron was mined in the 1960s when they began building the railway which carries one of the longest trains in the world (2 km). Passengers can pay to sit inside a rail car or ride for free on top, which is quite the ride.
The other economic engine is the fishing industry. There are 3 ports: a commercial port (Port Autonome), a local fishing port (Port Artisanal) and the private SNIM port at Cansado for iron export. If you like salty air, sea food and fish, checking out the Port Artisanal can be a treat.
Several banks in town have ATMs that accept foreign cards. There's a decent Forex or money changing office at the entrance to Keran, the down town centre, at the Carrefour crossroads. Ask for a receipt to avoid any problems crossing the borders next time you cross. They will photocopy your passport along with the receipt. Officially, you should leave your local ougiyas currency in country and not take it out with you. Smaller amounts usually aren't a problem.
Should you need help with your vehicle, look for El-Veteh Siddaty et Freres, a well known car parts store in Keran. Their manager speaks English and French and can help you find specialized mechanics such as for electrical problems. Their telephone is 574 57 39. There are many other similar shops nearby.
From Nouakchott (470km) there are frequent collective taxis (Mercedes taking 6 passengers). Prices start from 4500 ougiyas. From Nouadhibou ask for the official taxi station, the Gare Routiere at the town entrance, in Robinet 6. At the first round about coming in, turn left and go 300 metres on your left. Taxis like to leave at first light.
There are two sealed roads to Nouadhibou. One connects it with the capital, Nouakchott. Other one goes to the border and further into Western Sahara. There is a 3km unsealed part between the borders, but it can be passed by a 2WD car without any problems. This is a no-man's land, belonging to neither bordering country. Avoid making deals with any one you might meet there.
Cars and sept-places run from the garage at the exit from town, near the train station. To Nouakchott - from 4000 ougiya per person in a Mercedes (470 km, ca. 6 hours).
Due to recent security events, expatriates going overland have been advised to travel in groups during daylight hours only. Nkosi 07:23, 23 December 2009 (EST)
There are no regular direct bus connections from/to Nouadhibou from outside of the country. However, there is a daily bus running from Dakhla in the Western Sahara to the border, where you can change to a taxi into Nouadhibou (2000 ougiyas upwards).
Between Nouadhibou and Nouakchott, there are at least five bus lines that provide daily runs. Most leave between 4-5 pm and arrive in the capital between 10-11 pm. A few bus lines now have mid-day runs which begin around 11:00 to 13:00. Prices range from 3,000-4,500 ougiyas. Some of the better known bus companies are:
There is only one train line in Mauritania, connecting Nouadhibou to Choum and Zouerat. It is used to carry iron ore from the Zouerat mines to the port at Nouadhibou. Only one passenger car is attached to one of these trains daily in each direction. There is no strict timetable, but the passenger car typically departs Nouadhibou at 3pm, and returns from Choum at 6.30pm (although delays until midnight are not uncommon). If travelling to/from Atar, arrange for a shared taxi (2.5h, about 3000 ougiyas) between Atar and Choum. From Atar, these depart according on demand, usually by mid-morning, which means a day spent waiting in the small town of Choum. From Choum, there is usually a shared taxi waiting for the train arrival.
The passenger train station is located between Cansado and the town centre, across from the many coastal shipwrecks. Tickets for the passenger car to Choum cost 2500 ougiyas, but it's usually overcrowded. Travel in ore hopper is possible and free. However, a scarf or other face cover is necessary, as there is lots of dust. The ore itself is not very dirty stuff. Be careful aboard the train as it lurches violently when accelerating or braking. Trains are not heated, and it gets cold in the desert night, even in summer.
The down town area can be walked in under 15 minutes, so take a walk-about and see the sights.
Taxis are amazingly cheap, easy to get and everywhere. Taxi to the train station should cost around 300 ougiyas per person when it's full. One way taxi fares on the main roads in town are between 80 and 100 ougiyas. Taxis from the town centre to the Port Autonome area or Cansado are an additional 100 ougiyas. Two passengers are expected to fit in the front passenger seat and four passengers in the back seat. Men may be asked to move should a woman enter the car to help her maintain an appropriate distance.
The four largest supermarkets are:
The first three stores are on the main street within 200 metres of each other. Bon Marché and 28 Novembre face each other. You can find most things including cheese and toiletries. Prices are sometimes a bit expensive. Local corner grocery stores, good épiceries, may have everything you need. The market carries fresh vegetables as well as meat and fish. Staples, such as sugar, rice, milk, bread, yogurt, bug spray, toilet paper, bleach and soap powder can be found in your local corner shop or boutique. Hamburger meat, and beef fillet can be found at the Tunisian butcher across the street from 28th Novembre.
As Nouadhibou is gifted with a big commercial fishing and traditional fishing port, there is a lot of fresh seafood and fish available. Many immigrants from Senegal run their restaurants here, serving fish with rice and other delicious meals. Average price is 200-500 ougiyas. Madame Souware's restaurant is a fine example. Go to Robinet 3, on the same building as the large mosque on the left. Lunch is served between 13:30 and 15:00. A plate is 250 ougiyas. More formal and expensive restaurants:
Nouadhibou is a relatively safe city, but there are almost no street lights. Remember to take your light source when going out in the evening. The biggest danger is unorganized road traffic. Be careful, especially in the center area.
Do not cross the train tracks as many areas, even fairly close to the town centre, have not yet been entirely cleared of mines. Only surfaced roads past the tracks are absolutely safe. If you must cross the tracks, or do so with a trusted friend who knows the area or with a local authority.
Women generally stay indoors after dark. Going about town in groups is wise for both men and women. Local women are usually escorted by their male relatives at night. During the day, a woman will go about with at least a younger boy or another female friend. It's unusual to find a woman traveling by herself. As in any modern city, stay in places that have night security personnel and lockable doors and windows.
Flying out by plane, your own vehicle in the day (along with other cars recommended) or on one of the nationally run bus lines are all excellent options. If you need professional travel services, there are several good ones downtown.