Nouakchott, Mauritania

Nouakchott won’t win any prizes for urban planning. Hastily constructed in 1960, at independence, this discombobulating city sprawls 5km inland from the coast. Most travellers use it as a staging post before setting off to Senegal, the Adrar or the Banc d’Arguin. Although it’s not a highlight of the country, Nouakchott is intriguingly idiosyncratic and you could do worse than spending an afternoon at the gloriously frantic fish market (one of the busiest in West Africa), treating yourself to a comfy guesthouse or feasting on fresh seafood in a hip restaurant. It’s also laid-back and amazingly safe – in all, the perfect salve after the rigours (and romance!) of the desert.

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