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Introducing Mauritania

If West Africa is a playground for overlanders, then Mauritania often seems to be little more than a 'drive-through' country – less a destination in itself than somewhere to transit between the better-known attractions of Marrakesh, Dakar or Bamako. That's a shame because Mauritania has some tremendous secrets to reveal to those prepared to stop and take a closer look.

Culturally, Mauritania is a place apart. The population is almost equally divided between Moors of Arab-Berber descent and black Africans, and this striking cultural combination is part of its appeal.

Just as impressive is some of the continent's grandest scenery. The Adrar region offers up epic sand dunes, eye-popping plateaus and green oases, plus Africa's biggest monolith. The Tagânt has similar charms, and both hide ancient (and World Heritage–listed) caravan towns – Chinguetti, Ouadâne and Oualâta. The World Heritage feast continues along the coast at Parc National du Banc d'Arguin, which attracts millions of migratory birds and is a renowned birdwatching site.

If you just breeze through, you'll miss out on a truly incredible country. No one in Mauritania is in a rush, and you shouldn't be either.