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Driving through Westsahara, Mauritania, Mali (Dec 2013)


(We drive practically non-stop day and night. Foto quality is accordingly.)

Prologue: Germany - France - Spain - Portugal - Morocco


Bought a "throw-away-car" on German export plates: Mercedes ML 320, 10 years old, excellent value for money.
Offroad equipment for later onward trip through Central Africa.


Over the "Viaduc du Millau" bridge in France, designed by Norman Foster


Surprise offroad conditions in flooded wine country La Rioja, Spain


Santander, Spain: city with most Michelin stars on earth, here at 3 star "Arzak" - Restaurant with molecular cuisine (edible nuts & bolts as dessert). Two more 3-star-restaurants in town, plus some 1-stars. First World pastimes.


Lisbon: Heritage Liberdade Hotel with famous funicular train in background. The country is rock-bottom: empty shelves at highway gas station shops. Our local luxury watch dealer friend now gets his best clients from ... Africa ! Mocambique and Angola !


Tarifa - Tanger Ferry over Gibraltar Straits


View over Casablanca from Hotel Kenzi Tower roof bar


At Marrakech's famous La Mamounia Hotel pool. Still a favourite after controversial Jacques Garcia refurbishment


Enormous distances (9.000 km Germany - Mali). Roadsign far south of Agadir.


City of Tan Tan


Ridiculous little monument to the great Antoine de Saint-Exupery (pilot & poet) in Tarfaya



Good asphalt all the way to Bamako (except 50 km bad road repairs and earthroad before Ayoun al Atrous)


Lots of UN-cars in the theoretical capital Laayoune to monitor the conflict between the Westsaharan POLISARIO and the Moroccan occupiers


Shortly south of Laayoune there is a huge port and factory, with the world's largest conveyor belt (here visible on google maps) transporting phosphate from the Bou Craa mines, over 100 km under heavy security against POLISARIO guerilla attacks. No wonder, these are by far, far, far the world's biggest phosphate reserves.


Road impressions along the endless Atlantic coast


Beautiful sand & dune driving near tourist town of Dakhla


Recommendable kite & surf hotel "Ocean Vagabond" (90 Euro) at the beginning of Dakhla peninsula, close to the main highway (see drawing), 3 hours from Morocco-Mauri border. Not luxury, but better than the terrible hotels nearer to the border.



Welcome to Mauri-bund. Most rotten road through a no-mans-land of anywhere in the world


Nouakchott traffic impressions. It looks like 90% of all Mercedes 190 ever built still drive there.


Night falls when leaving Nouakchott eastward on the "Route de l'Espoir", 1.000 km to the Mali border.


Compulsory overnight stop at desert post ca 50 km before Ayoun al Atrous. Avoid getting stuck in that remote corner: currently very dangerous area because of AQMI, MUJAO & ANSAR DINE training camps nearby. We left Nouakchott at 19h00 and reached that post at 03h00, had to give away passports and sleep in car until 06h00. On an empty plate for attackers...


Not much sleep in the car. Here we go again ...


Zikr, Bose: Good song to drive through that area


Sunrise on the dirt road close to Ayoun al Atrous


Lots of animals on the so-called "Route de l'Espoir", mostly dead ...


... some still alive


Travel warning Mauritania from the UK Foreign Office (Source: FCO).
Maybe not up to date: Ayoun al Atrous needs to be red. Nouadhibou rather not.



Travel warning Mali from the UK Foreign Office (Source: FCO)


First escort soldier from Mauri-Mali border to Nioro du Sahel (60 km)


The escort turning a blind eye - or two - to Harald's speed of up to 180km/h


Second escort soldier from Nioro du Sahel to Bamako (400 km). Several incursions and kidnappings here by AQIM, MUJAO & ANSAR DINE coming from the north.


The unfortunate French citizen Rodriguez, latest Western victim of kidnapping on this road, in Diema.


Finally in Bamako: foreign military from many countries, including Germans, comprising MINUSMA and AFISMA forces, and the French of OPERATION SERVAL stay at the Radisson Hotel


Welcome relaxation at the Radisson pool with nice Air France crews (the only Western airline still flying to Mali).


Operation Serval Logo


This AFP-foto of a French soldier posing for the press in Northern Mali with a skull mask, a PR stunt later fiercely denied, made world news in January 2013.


Islamist combattants crossing the border between Mauritania and Mali on 21. May 2013
(Source: magharabia.com sponsored by AFRICOM on fr.wikipedia)


Most ground fighting currently occurs near the Northern Mali town of Kidal


Mauritania visa-on-arrival (50 Euro) now available again at border (since Nov 2013)

Morocco-Mauritania border opens at 08h00 (in reality 09h00) and closes at 18h00, on weekends possibly earlier (14h30 ?)

Car insurance for Mauretania (25 Euro) and - separately - most of West Africa (Brown Card, 75 Euro) available at Mauri border

Mali visa usually available at border, but advise to obtain it beforehand (at Rabat embassy within ca. 1 hour, 60 Euro), because of potential refusal at Mauri-Mali border in the current war turmoil

Mauri-Mali border opens at 08h00 and closes at 18h00 (20h00 ?)

Compulsory military escort (soldier in car with AK 47 and 2 magazines; cost 50 Euro) from Mauri-Mali border to Nioro du Sahel and another soldier from there to Bamako, because of current reflaming of Tuareg (MNLA) rebellion for their independent country (Azaouad), and several AQIM, MUJAO & ANSAR DINE incursions and kidnappings in that area. All a big shithole, a.k.a as oil-well, with foreign players stirring.

Corrupt chief of brigade at "Douanes" customs office in Nioro du Sahel(Mali) wants to profit from the war situation and tries to enforce a rip-off customs escort on transit travellers (so called T1 carnet), all the way through the country !!! Avoid this at all cost and insist you enter as a tourist !!! Otherwise you have a guard in your car (at 75 - 100 Euro cost) who keeps your passport and car papers and decides your Bamako hotel and the immediate onward drive out of the country.

For Westsahara, Mauritania and Mali you need to prepare a total of 50 (!) "Fiche d'Etat Civile" photocopies to hand out at the many control posts:



Date de naissance
Lieu de naissance
Situation familiale
Nombre d‘enfants
Nom du père
Nom de la mère
No du passeport
Délivré le
Lieu de délivrance
Date d‘expiration
Numéro de police
Date d‘entrée
Ville d‘entrée
Motif du voyage
Marque du véhicule



Recommended reading:


T. C. Boyle "Watermusic"


Posted by LuxuryRogue 11:42 Archived in Mali Tagged war danger

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