Stopover in Nouakchott, Mauritania: One of the Few Places I’ve Been But Never Seen

** As of July 2022 I have since backpacked through Mauritania.

Stopover in Nouakchott, Mauritania: One of the Few Places I've Been To But Never Seen

Stopover in Nouakchott, Mauritania: One of the Few Places I’ve Been To But Never Seen

It’s 5 am on a Monday morning in May 2016 and I land in the city of Nouakchott, Mauritania. I touch my face just to check it’s real. Yes, I’m here. I’m really here. I am in Mauritania. I have landed by aeroplane in Mauritania.

Flying to Mauritania

Flying to Mauritania

But I have no visa and I don’t even leave the airport here in Mauritania. I am on a connecting flight from Istanbul (Turkey) to Dakar (Senegal), as part of my ridiculous #MSMLostLuggage challenge. This is one of the rare occasions on my travels where I have a stop over in a place I have been but never seen.

Yes, my view of Mauritania.

Yes, my view of Mauritania.

The flight from Istanbul was pretty relaxing, I had a spare seat beside me. On arrival at Nouakchott, I learn that some people are getting off the plane and some are getting on. The same plane is going to Dakar, Senegal. So, I don’t even get off the plane! This is what I call in transit! It’s dark outside and the sun would rear just as we leave.

Not backpacking in Mauritania

Not backpacking in Mauritania

I spend over an hour in Mauritania, but less than two hours. On departure we are served breakfast, the sun has come up and the views over the West African coast are amazing. I don’t feel bad that I was in Mauritania but never seen it. To me, it was a bonus 2 hours. When I booked this adventure, I wasn’t even aware I had a stop over in Mauritania. I thought it was Istanbul to Dakar direct.

Breakfast "over" Mauritania

Breakfast “over” Mauritania

Goodbye Mauritania

Goodbye Mauritania

Goodbye Mauritania

Goodbye Mauritania

When I cast my mind back to similar experiences on my travels, I came up with these places where I have spent time within an area/city’s border yet never left the airport/aeroplane or vehicle.

2009 – I landed in Bangkok, Thailand. It wasn’t until 2011 (and country 58) that I finally made it to Thailand for real. In 2009, I never left the airport and connected onwards to Taipei, Taiwan.

99 minutes in Bangkok in 2009

99 minutes in Bangkok Airport in 2009

2012 – I had 4 hours in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. And although I went through customs and got my passport stamped, I realised there was no point in going into the city for an hour then back out, so I headed straight back into departures to get an exit stamp less than an hour later and have a beer in the airport bar. I later made it to Dubai for 4 days to tour the sights in 2013.

Pintage in Dubai Airport, UAE

Pintage in Dubai Airport, UAE

2013 – I had an hour in Kenya on a flight from Tanzania to Ethiopia. I never left the aircraft.

mombasa kenya jonny

That’s me in Mombasa, Kenya. I NEVER left the plane!

2015 – I had a stop over in Mumbai, India and never left the airport despite spending almost 24 hours there. I never really wanted to visit India, though I later ended up backpacking in Mumbai for real in 2016.

And on the other side of the coin, I ended up in this place for the opposite reason:

2010 – I had a night and morning in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra without planning it. I booked a flight from Asuncion (Paraguay) to La Paz (Bolivia) and it had a 1 hour stop over in Santa Cruz. However, the plane was delayed so we missed the connection. Step in the excellent Aero Sur to give us an amazing free 5 star hotel for the night and a morning in Santa Cruz de la Sierra!

A beer in my free hotel room in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia in 2010

A beer in my free hotel room in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia in 2010

Do I count these places as places I have been? Well the fact remains, I have physically been to all of them, it was real so yes I’ve been, BUT I HAVEN’T SEEN THEM. So I don’t count them on my travel list of places I have seen as I never left the planes/airports. On my lists on these pages, places such as Nouakchott are listed in brackets, as places I’ve been but not seen. Maybe one day, who knows…

List of places I have been by location
List of places I have been by flags

Countries and disputed regions/territories I have personally visited, fakes in brackets:

Countries I Haven’t Been to but had airport stops (just for reference, I don’t count them):
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6 thoughts on “Stopover in Nouakchott, Mauritania: One of the Few Places I’ve Been But Never Seen

  • Hello Jonny,
    I know you stopped backpacking, but will you still backpack in Europe?
    There are some places that you still haven’t visited like Seborga,Bosnia,Croatia,Serbia,Albania,Abkhazia,South Ossetia,Cyprus,Turkish Cyprus, Akrotiri-Dhekelia,Ceuta,Melilla


  • Hi Elliott, by stopping backpacking, I probably should have said “stopping travelling” as each day, I still leave my flat with my backpack on, so yes I have still been backpacking the last three months, but it’s now 10 weeks since I took a flight and 6 weeks since I last took a long distance train or bus. I’ve been to some of the places on that list, but I won’t be going back to any of them, or to any of the others any time soon as I now live in Poland. The only trips planned are in and around Pomerania for now. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Good read! I’m amazed on how many countries you had been! And I bet recollecting all the memories you had from all your trips are priceless for you. Goodluck on your next adventure!

  • Mauritania is a wicked country to travel in. Michael Palin Sahara introduced me to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. He crossed from Saharawi Republic into Mauritania, took the worlds longest train (2km). Played a game with camel droppings and toothpicks and I’m sure he went overland into Senegal.

    I’d like to go here someday as it sounds exciting than Morocco (that I already went to for 5 hours in 2011 and hated it)

  • Hi Martin, great sounding tips there and certainly one for the future. Sadly this was just a quick stop so no chance to whackpack the key sights or tour the desert. Definitely one day though. Safe travels. Jonny

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