The Islamic Republic of Mauritania has a surface area
of 1,030,700 square kilometres (about twice the size of Spain) and
a population of about 3,000,000 people. Most of its sparse population
is concentrated in the south and along the coast, in cities like
Nouackchott, Nouadhibu, Kiffa and Rosso. The region in question
has a very harsh climate, typical of mainly desert regions. Anyone
visiting the country will find high temperatures, little rainfall
and strong winds that carry large quantities of sand.
The city of Walata is in the south-eastern region of Mauritania,
the wilaya of Hadh el Chargi, about 1,200 kilometres from the capital,
Nouackchott, and 400 kilometres from the legendary city of Timbuktu
This area is practically the beginning of the Great Western Erg,
one of the most desolate areas of the Sahara Desert. Unsurprisingly,
then, Walata is known as the Gateway to the Desert.
Walata is one of Mauritania's four ancient cities. It is located
between the Sahara and the Sahel, in the El Hawd region, in the
country's easternmost province. This geographical location has over
the centuries made it a meeting place for cultures that have given
it its particular character.
The history of this region is lost in the mists of time. It was
the setting for the legendary kingdom of Ghana and for the caravan
routes that crossed the desert, and became part of Mauritania in
1945. Before us, El Hawd stretches away like an immense esplanade
divided into two administrative provinces: Hawd al-Garbi and Hawd
as-Sarki, whose capital is Nema.