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Introducing Nouakchott

Barely 50 years old, Nouakchott has to be simultaneously one of Africa's strangest and most unassuming capital cities. This is urban planning nomad style: a city simply plonked down 5km from the coast as if on an overnight caravan stop and left to grow by accident. Most travellers use it as a staging post before the Adrar, Banc d'Arguin or the next international border.

Although it's not a highlight of the country, Nouakchott is sleepily idiosyncratic and you could do worse than spend an afternoon at the gloriously frantic fish market (one of the busiest in West Africa), treat yourself to a comfy guesthouse or feast in a good restaurant. It's also laid-back and amazingly safe – bliss after the rigours of the desert.