Recently, I crossed the Sahara, and it’s fair to say that Mauritania was one of the more challenging countries that I have visited. Despite being twice the size of France, many people I spoke to (back in the UK, not in Mauritania itself) had not heard of it and certainly couldn’t place it on a map. I only really knew it as a place where ships are dumped on its Atlantic coast, the bread riots of ‘95 and where slavery still exists. Although this was made illegal in 1980, there are thought to be around 100,000 Mauritanians still enslaved.
After a particularly arduous trip, involving 25 hours riding the two-mile-long iron ore train, a mild arrest, a jaunt across a minefield and hours of bumping over tracks in the sand on the back of a truck, I looked forward to a decent feed. Alas, it was not to be. My first meal in three days was a plate of greasy yellow rice mixed with goat sphincter, tubes and fat. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily eat onion rings, calamari rings or even spaghetti hoops. But goat rings was a circle too far.