CCTV Africa’s Maria Galang recently travelled to Mauritania to report on this fascinating but often unheard country. She told us
We felt truly welcome in Mauritania and listened to stories from people from all walks of life. I felt we witnessed a crossroads where African and Arab cultures meet, and experienced what our fixer called “the real desert!” It was a pleasure telling the world stories from Mauritania, a place so untouched by international media.
Mauritania, based on the shores of West Africa, is a haven for fishermen. Its waters are filled with a diverse abundance of fish, attracting migrant workers from neighbouring Senegal and Gambia.
Maria spent an afternoon at Port de Peche in the capital, a workplace for many of Nouak-chott’s minority groups, mostly immigrants from neighbouring Senegal and Gambia who put their lives literally on the line to earn their living.
Profits from Mauritannia’s fish stocks have mainly gone to other international fleets exploiting the fishing grounds of the country. In 2012, the EU signed a partnership with Mauritania authorizing European fleets to catch 300,000 tons of fish per annum, in exchange for a fee of 70 million Euros with the aim of reducing illegal harvesting of fish. The downside of this arrangement however is, harvests for the local fishermen continue to dwindle, and with it their way of life.
The country also battles against modern day’s slavery though there is a road map that the government has laid to eliminate this centuries old tradition. Sadly, slaves are inherited and passed down through generations just as families would inherit properties.
YARGE ALIYEN, FORMER SLAVE, talked to Maria about his experience as a slave which began at the young age of four years old.
PK10 neighbourhood, just ten kilometres out of the capital Nouakchott, is home to many freed slaves and a starting point in their new life of freedom. They’re given a home-schooling and hope, by one of Mauritania’s leading anti-slave activists.
The country has now adopted a plan drafted with the United Nations which includes legal and economic aid for former slaves – and a special tribunal to prosecute those who benefit from slavery.
In recent years, air pollution has become a major problem in the Mauritannia due to the number of old cars on the road. One woman, LI SHITAN, a medical researcher, is hoping her efforts will help clear the air.
Maria tells us about the Mauritanian head wrap
Temperatures in the Sahara can go as hight as 50 degrees, men and women usually wrap themselves from head to toe to protect themselves from the hot sun and the sand. Men use a long rectangular piece of fabric creating a headdress called a Cheche. This is the most popular way to wrap it.
Here are a few simple steps on how to wear one:
The country is also famous tea culture. CCTV’s Maria Galang took a shot on how to prepare this sweet delicacy.
Just like neighbouring Mali and nearby Morocco, The au vert or ‘Green tea with mint’ is a big part of the culture. In the desert, the nomads make tea the traditional way, with fresh mint, green tea leaves, and lots of sugar. Brewed in a little teapot over firewood, and sand. Tea is poured from glass to glass before it is served in three rounds. Mauritanians drink tea throughout the day, everyday. Ahmed Mohamud, our guide gave us a demonstration on how they do it in the desert.