January 26, 2004


Africa Blog
Chinguetti is an ancient caravan town. By which I mean camel caravans going to Timbuktu, not German tourist caravans. Only 3 years ago, there were no telephones, and only generator powered electricity. The old town is pretty much crumbling ruins, and the new town is what I would call 'modern ruins'. There is not an awful lot in Chinguetti, bar a tiny market, a few grocery stores, and a bunch of basic places to stay. The streets have no names, and are just tracks in the sand. In recent years, since flights to the nearby (2 hours) town of Atar started from Paris, a small package industry has developed, bringing with it the usual mass of touts selling tourist crap. The prices in Chinguetti seem to be uniformly higher than in the rest of Mauritania. I suspect all the villagers have agreed on fixed higher prices for tourists, but maybe I just have a suspicious mind.
Chinguetti is surrounded by sand dunes, and this is one hell of a good reason to visit, as after just 20 minutes walking, I was in amongst the dunes. It is SO BEAUTIFUL in the sand dunes, I was actually saying 'Wow!' as I arrived on top of some of the dunes. They stretch as far as the eye can see, and are a vast range of heights and shapes. The colour of the sky is some kind of blue that is just dazzling, and the sand changes colour according to where the sun is.
I wandered around the dunes with the usual hundreds of flies that seem to appear from nowhere, and follow you everywhere. As I came down a dune, I looked up, and on top of the next dune were a whole bunch (probably not the correct term) of camels. I said to myself, 'Wow! camels!'. I was very excited.
You may not think camels are exciting, but I found that in this case they were.
I spend the whole afternoon strolling around the sand dunes, keeping an eye on the sun to combat my fear of not remembering which direction town was. Luckily, every so often there was a very high dune, and a trip to the top, would usually reveal which direction the town was. (often, not quite where I though it was!).
It really is a strikingly beautiful landscape, and it just about made up for all the suffering I went through to get there.

Posted by paul at January 26, 2004 08:56 PM


Well I think Camels are exciting if a little scary. I just tried to fin out what the correct term for a bunch of them is and have given up. Did find out that frogs and herring are collectively called army ( not frogs and herring together you understand) and rhinos are a crash...

Posted by: Kev at January 26, 2004 09:42 PM

I just discovered the answer! A group of camels is called a caravan. I used the answer in the blog without even knowing. How's that for hidden knowledge?

Posted by: Angry Beaton at January 26, 2004 09:56 PM

yeah, like, be nice if you had a digi camera with you. Then I'm never have to go travelling again. I can do it all by proxy. This is great!!!!
I really wanna see these dunes, but don't think I want to go through the hassle of reaching that place.
Is that the most remote place you've ever been?
Anyway, Eastenders is on.....

Posted by: tom at January 26, 2004 09:59 PM

Well, actually they are not really that remote. You can fly into Atar, and be in Chinguetti in 2 hours. Hire a car, and all the discomfort is gone!
Coming overland from Morocco is hard going though, although once the alleged new road is finished, that should be nice and easy too!!
The dunes are within reach!!!

Posted by: Angry Beaton at January 26, 2004 10:03 PM