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Teach Mauritania
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Joined: 24 Feb 2018
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2018 3:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been in Mauritania for the past year and concur with most of the post by 'In the heat of the moment' above. It's certainly an unusual country with a unique (and very complex) social structure, as well as strong traditions not really found elsewhere.

It's developing fairly quickly; I've noticed change over the last few months including more roads in the city centre being paved. There isn't a watersports scene to speak of; the ocean is too rough. There's some limited kitesurfing up on the border with Western Sahara, though there isn't the work in education/training up near there. There is however a beautiful Atlantic coastline running the length of the country, and there's a beach with a couple of cafes a very short drive from Nouakchott.

As for safety, I've always felt safe in Mauritania. There's not much of an anglophone expat scene, a handful of Brits, a smaller handful of Americans and a few aid workers. Most Europeans here are French (and they very much keep themselves to themselves).

There isn't that much fish. In shops it's basically tinned tuna. Some restaurants (they all seem to have a near identical menu, shwarma, pizza, spaghetti Bolognese and occasionally tagine) have it, though not nearly as often as the guide books suggest.

The shops (such as they are) do indeed stay open through prayer times; people just tend to pray wherever they are at the time,men or women. Although people are devout here, the culture is very different from the Gulf. Classes and workplaces are certainly mixed. I've maybe seen two abayas/niqabs and these were worn by foreigners. Among the Moors, women play a full part in public life. In the capital, there's a significant Senegalese and Ivoirien population who very often don't cover their heads at all.

There's some work for English-speaking expats, one prestigious Higher Education institution (employing most of the British expats, nearly a couple of dozen), two schools for kids (following the American curriculum), and a few (but only a very few) private language schools with one or two expat teachers about which I know nothing.

With the recent discoveries of oil/gas, work for English speakers is likely to slowly but steadily increase in the long term. Mauritania's still among the least developed countries in the world however it's beginning to visibly change and there are foreign companies coming. A British Ambassador has recently been appointed and an embassy is expected to open soonish. Nevertheless, NKT is a long way from being Dubai, or even at the comfort level of a mid-size Saudi town. The city centre such as it is (Tevragh Zeina and around) is reasonably comfortable; some other parts of the city still feel as if you've stepped back in time. Even in the centre/embassy district you still see camels (often tied outside a house for dinner), herds of goats running free and donkey carts delivering things.

Most of the country is in the Sahara and is spectacular. The south, towards the Senegal River is much greener (and from Nouakchott, weekends over the border in St. Louis de Senegal are easy). The coastline is long, empty and beautiful.

The hardest thing is maybe the food and shops, the best thing by far is the people. They're thoroughly decent, friendly, a joy to know. They're also a delight to teach. In many ways the opposite of Saudi Arabia (students actually ask for more work to do). This part of Africa is a place where people get only one chance in life (though most don't) and they take that chance seriously.

Sand? Yes there's lots. Really lots. Most of the streets are unmade, and sand is everywhere. You get used to it.
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