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Travel with Respect

Learn "Salam alaykum" and use it when greeting people. If you are a man, don't try to shake hands with a woman, and vice versa (note that some African women will not have a problem with shaking a man's hand, but it is best to not try to initiate contact, just follow their lead). You can, however, say hello and touch your hand over your heart.Be careful to eat with your right hand, especially outside of Nouakchott where you may not be offered silverware. Like other places in the Arab world, the left hand is reserved for the bathroom. If you're left-handed... try hard.If you are traveling with someone of the opposite sex, avoid touching in public. It's actually much more common to see two men holding hands than a woman and a man. As far as dress, the more skin you show, the more negative attention you will receive. In Nouakchott, women can wear pants, but avoid tank tops and to-the-knee skirts everywhere. Long skirts are the best choice for women. The upper arm is an erotic area (especially if there are stretch marks!), so naturally people are disturbed if you flaunt it. Pants display the crotch area and thus are also disturbing, especially to people in the countryside who aren't as used to seeing this as the city folk. Most people will be very polite, and you will not know what they are thinking.Covering your head isn't required, but it is polite. It may cut down on the "Madame ou bien Mademoiselle?" question, but Westerners, especially women, will be the target of unwanted attention and minor harassment everywhere in the country. Be aware though, that many Mauritanians, both male and female, think that a direct gaze is a sexual invitation. There is even a phrase in Hassiniya, "ayna m'tina", meaning "strong eyes", to describe what many people feel is an agressive act. Just because you are in a foreign country doesn't mean that the men have carte blanche to be jerks, though. Calling them on their bad behavior, or pointing it out to the ever present bystanders, can often work. If you give respect, you can demand it also. The Moors respect women who stand up for themselves (even while they push you to see how far they can get).There is no non-sexual reason, EVER, to go off in private with a man. If they ask you to step into an office, or back of the store, or whatever, don't. The men are aware that that is an unreasonable request, and no one would ask you for a private chat if they meant well. If you allow yourself to be alone with a man, for however brief a time, everyone will assume you had sex, and will judge you accordingly. As a weakling, not as dissolute. In fact, if you have a boyfriend, not a series of boyfriends, most people are a bit flattered. The men are pretty uninhibited, very sensual, and can be lots of fun.Beware of people who may try to take advantage of Westerners' unfailing politeness in order to try to make a sale. Be aware that in market areas, almost everyone who tries to befriend you is trying to sell you something at an inflated price. They will try many tricks to get you to buy items from them (including "giving them to you as a gift"), and a few might even accuse you of not liking Africans if you decline to look at their souvenir shop. If someone is going beyond the normal limits to bother you, it is not impolite to tell them, without question, that you are not interested. If they ask for something that you own, just say that you need it right now, and can give it to them in a month or so.

Information from wikitravel.org*

Travel Safe

The area near the Western Sahara is heavily mined and travel through this area is highly unadvised. Border areas lining Algeria and Mali are notorious for banditry. In other areas, one should avoid flaunting wealth or expensive wares. Daunting though it may seem, a bit of research and common sense will ensure a pleasant trip in Mauritania.Gay and Lesbian travelers should be extremely careful when traveling through Mauritania. The official punishment for homosexuals is death.

Information from wikitravel.org*

 

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* ecotourdirectory.com is not responsible for the travel advice and travel with respect sections on this page. We would strongly advise that before traveling to Mauritania you consult your countries embassy for the lastest guidance.

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