Nouakchott, Mauritania Report of what it's like to live there - 12/02/09

Personal Experiences from Nouakchott, Mauritania

Nouakchott, Mauritania 12/02/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, this is not my first expat experience. I have also lived in Antananarivo for two years.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Traveling from east coast via Paris its about 13 hours in the air and 4 hours waiting in the airport.

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3. How long have you lived here?

15 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government foreign service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is okay. Houses are huge, but the structure of houses can be shoddy. There are problems with water, electric service and mold.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive. There are some household goods available. Netgrocer will be your best friend. As will be your consumable shipment.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Pork/bacon/sausage...(in a cooler with me on the plane).

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

No fast food is available. Some restaurants are okay. You can get by.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Flies, mosquitoes, geckoes, ants.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch address. No APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Reasonable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

A gym is available at the embassy. There is a huge stadium that some folks use to run/walk on. I don't use it.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Don't.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

None to speak of.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

AFN for Americans.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

French is useful.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

They would have a very difficult time. The roads here are few, and lots of them are just dirt/sand roads. No sidewalks in most of the city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

You can find a taxi, but they will probably try to take advantage of you.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

4WD is a must.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

It's available; connections aren't always good, but it's there. It can cost 50 dollars or more per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

It is easy to obtain and to purchase minutes. Three different companies.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

It can be unhealthy if there is a sand storm, otherwise it is moderate.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There is always a threat of AQM harrassing westerners.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Sandstorms can affect breathing.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The school here is small, but we like it. My children are younger, but the high school and middle school aren't that good.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Nannies here are reasonable. About 200 dollars a month, give or take a few bucks.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

No, not really. They do have swimming for PE during school.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

About 200 or so.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good and close.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Dinner parties.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think its more family oriented then singles.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I would say NO, not a good place. This is the Islamic republic of Mauritania

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, there is one "international" church, but for the most part it is illegal to evangelize here, to Mauritanians especially. Racially, I don't think there is a problem.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go to the beach, go to the embassy pool.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Food and table cloths.

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9. Can you save money?

I suspect so.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Sure, as long as my family is with me.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter coat.

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3. But don't forget your:

beach gear and goggles.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It is hot and Islamic.

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