Atar is the terminus of the paved road from Nouakchott to the Mauritanian Sahara. It is the base for exploring the Adrar region of Mauritania and the jumping off point for excursions to the ancient Saharan towns of Ouadane and Chinguetti.
After the excitement of the Iron Ore train, the Ben Amera rock explorations, the ride on the repair car and the 120 km 4WD trip across the desert from Choum, for us it was firstly a place to relax and take an afternoon off. This was greatly facilitated at the pleasant surroundings of a well-run backpacker campsite at the edge of town that has been run for several years by a Dutch/German couple. We stayed in one of the tikits, a traditional stone hut that has been tricked up with all the amenities.
The Adrar region is the jewel in Mauritania's crown with several important cultural sights and natural wonders. Besides the historic sites, it provides easy access to areas with gigantic sand dunes and lush oases and consequently Atar, the capital of the region has facilities to arrange treks and camel rides into the desert. We took a leisurely walk in the evening to the central roundabout that has the main market and got bombarded by several offers to arrange tours. Others ware simply trying to sell something - souvenirs, local costumes, scarves etc. After being away from the all this attention since Marrakech, we did not mind it too much.
Atar seemed to have seen better days. We heard that a few years ago there used to be several chartered flights a week directly from Paris (during the European winter). But after increased threat from Al-Qaeda and a few incidents involving tourists, those flights stopped coming and the region is seeing fewer visitors overall.
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What is Dutch/German couple doing running a campsite in Atar ??? Amazing. From, on Jan 26, 2013 at 08:27AM
@Ramesh - There are a surprising number of European expats who find the desert irresistible and have settled down in these parts. While the hosts of our auberge have been living there for 17 years, we heard of a French woman who arrived not too long ago who has now purchased a camel with the intention of riding the camel between towns by herself! From, on Jan 26, 2013 at 09:09PM