Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Our first taste of Mauritania necessitated a hightly 'interesting' border crossing at a town called Rosso involving a river crossing by row boat which included an unfathomable 'mid-river-transfer-with-bags' to another boat before continuing to the other side.
On disembarking we were confronted by uniformed Mauritanian border security accompanied by the seemingly essential West African element of 'at least 6 different people shouting at you & attempting to make you follow them somewhere'.
In this case because 'uniform man' now has our passports we follow him like obedient ducklings despite the efforts of various random people attempting to get our attention.
When we eventually reach the offices (the short walk is punctuated by uniform man stopping to send the odd text & chatting to a lady friend on the way) the passports are studied in slow motion by a fat man after which we are left to wait an incredibly long time in a corridor with a goat, while at least 12 different people in another room indulge in more slow motion scrutiny of our passports.
Eventually uniform man reappears & indicates for us to follow him (cue 'at least 6 different people shouting at you & attempting to make you follow them somewhere) then via some currency exchange involving a little bit of low level bribery we're through to our transport* to Nouakchott...
*see Taxi Brousse Top Trumps - http://steveafricatrip.blogspot.com/2009/04/taxi-brousse-top-trumps-rules.html
Monday, 27 April 2009
Met a fisherman named Cheikh on the beach at St Louis in Senegal who explained how the Senegalese government's selling off the offshore fishing rights to European companies has left many of the local fishermen struggling because they're no longer allowed to fish off the coast of Senegal.
While we talked I couldn't help noticing his juxtaposition of Islamic dress & blue Dr Marten's - kind of 'early '90s Camden Market' meets Sufism
Ruminations on how a man with ludicrously sun sensitive skin, a hefty reliance on electrical & skincare products, an enduring distrust of garments I deem to be veering towards the genre of 'sensible'(you know who you are trekking sandals & fleeces!)& a terrible fear of anything large with more than 4 legs is perhaps not the most obvious candidate for time in remote bits of Africa...hmmm
Amidst the chaos of Dakar, in probably the most pickpocket ridden street in the city we encountered a huge hulk of a man dressed completely in rags sporting a belt, from the back of which hung a huge peacock-like display of CFA notes (West African currency)
Seeing as, from our 3 days experience of said street, we had encountered nothing but constant streams of people attempting to relieve us of our money in some way or another, one can only assume anybody displaying their money as openly as this here must send out a signal of 'severely crazy...do not f*** with!'
The man with the chewing stick was running a CD shop in the Cinquieme area of Nouakchott where we were listening to a selection of Mauritanian hip hop - it does exist! - We went to the Salamaleikum Hip Hop festival in Nouakchott where I revelled in being one of the only 2 non-African(& probably oldest) people in the crowd & figured as I'd been there I ought to 'buy the t-shirt' too!(I figured I wouldn't bump into anyone else in London with one - I'm very vain...)
Whilst browsing the shelves I noticed a huge amount of Phil Collins, some Westlife & bafflingly 'The Best of Smokie'! (Google them, I can't be arsed to explain)
In another place we visited we asked the seller for Mauritanian music & after a lengthy wait while he ignored us & played with his mobile phone for a while he eventually proffered an R. Kelly cd.
This latter place exhibits a prime example of a what I call the 'Mauritanian inverse proportional enthusiasm rule'
wherein, the more you desire something the more slowly & surly the service you receive.
Inversely; if one passes a crappy souvenir shop of which one has no desire whatsoever to buy anything, then the vendor will always leap up & follow you for a length of time trying to persuade you to buy something 'mon ami! Bon prix!'
As an appendix most Mauritanian street sellers were relatively pleasant & not irritating & borderline aggressive (see 'Dakar' & 'following you for almost half an hour until you end up shouting obscenities')