About the food of Mauritania

Oasis of Varesse (Adrar, Mauritania). Photo by Ji-Elle

It’s been raining in Tulsa for the last 24 hours. I am surrounded by a constant drip drop, dreaming of dryness. How often I find myself pulled away from the beauty of what I have to what I wish I had. It is in this state of insatiable hunger that I begin the week’s work.  It is in this mood that Mauritania enters my line of vision.

Ah, Mauritania – how little I knew about you until this moment. This imposing hunk of land flanks northwest Africa and stretches from barmy ocean to windswept desert.

Valley near Oualata (Mauritania). Photo by C.Hug

Exactly what I need, it would seem. The best of both worlds – wet and dry. Perhaps, I think to myself, I could join her population of ever-wandering nomads, and live a life of contentment, constantly stimulated by new sights – new places.

And then there’s the food.

This place is serious. After all, camel is reputedly the most popular meat in the country, followed by lamb. Camel’s milk, naturally, is sipped to stay hydrated and nourished in the scorching desert.

In those dusty sands, mostly to the north, there lives people who dine much like the people of nearby Morocco.  Lamb [Recipe] and couscous  [Recipeare the dishes du jour, often sweetened with dried fruits such as dates, raisins, figs. Yogurt is popular to make drinks, sauces, and tangy side dishes.

To the south, where waters ebb and flow by the Senegal River, fishing takes precedence – anything from grilled fish to dried fish make an appearance. When fish is off the menu, Chicken Yassa is often on. This dish is influenced from Senegal and is a rich stew with chicken, onion and vegetables.

The Senegal River somewhere between Mauritania and Senegal. Photo by Jacques Taberlet

No matter where you live (or wander), much of the population takes time to sip tea, hyper sweet and intensely minty [Recipe]. This is typical of most of north Africa. In this part of the world, the ritual of making the tea is as important as drinking it. It’s a matter of slowing down to enjoy each other – not to worry about the potential next “great” thing.

What’s the closest you’ve been to Mauritania (either physically, or via stove top travel munchies)?


  1. Jessica Bennett says

    I’ve been to Morocco. By the way, it seems like it was a while ago that you had the discussion of how many “M” countries there are, and you’re still only in “Ma”. O will fly by though.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Ohh, I bet that was wonderful. I always remember when I lived in France how sand would sometimes show up on our windshields (all the way in Paris), and they would say it was from the sandstorms in Morocco …. not sure if this was possible, but it was a neat concept.

      Oddly enough, I find myself no longer counting down… I’m even a little sad that we rounded the halfway point…

      • Jessica Bennett says

        My trip to Morocco was very memorable. I loved the energy in the markets and the beautiful desert and sharing tea with local people. The difficult part of that trip was trying to be polite but forceful when men would flirt and invite me to their homes (that seemed to be a common thing for men to do- particularly in Casablanca)- it’s tough being a single woman sometimes. The fresh fish on the coast was amazing too.

        When you get to Zimbabwe (I think that’s the last country), you could always start over and make new things. Not for your blog but just for your family.

      • We get red sand on our cars here in Italy too sometimes, even all the way up north from the Sahara. So they say at least. So it must be true.
        I have been to Morocco, but not to Mauritania.

  2. Oh, funny. I’ve been following your cooking adventures for ages and had no idea you were in Tulsa where I live. We had your sweet potato and banana dish for breakfast yesterday. And I was suggesting it to all my co-workers at lunch today … along with your papaya dish that I have yet to try. I have an 18-month-old that demands near-constant attention, so all my international cooking has to be quick and simple these days. I can’t wait until I can devote my weekends again to trying dishes from around the world. I’m partial to Indian, Middle Eastern, & Moroccan dishes. And since my job involves working with international students, I’m often gathering recipes from them. 🙂

    • Sasha Martin says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It is quite an adventure to cook for an 18 month old so I admire your persistence. Even little ones love to help, which I think is one reason why Ava enjoys such a variety of food – she helps make it.

  3. It just dawned on me … I think, too, I’ve sat beside you and Ava at library story times a couple of times (when I have a short vacation and actually get to go). Ha. I couldn’t put 2 & 2 together on why you guys looked so familiar.

    • Sasha Martin says

      How neat! Small world 😉 Next time you’ll have to say hi (although we haven’t been going as much on Wednesdays any more)

  4. Pingback: Global Table Adventure | Menu: Mauritania

  5. Brian S. says

    Here’s all I know about Mauritania.

    1. Slavery was not abolished until 1981. And that made little difference since it wasn’t a crime to own slaves until 2007.

    2. Like every Sahel country it’s split between blacks in the south and Arab-type people in the north. In Mauritania, unlike Mali and Niger, the white northerners control the government. In all of these countries there is horrible abuse by the dominant group against the other group. It’s sad and shocking that Mauritania has the best record in the region because the government has murdered fewer than 1000 blacks (mostly in 1990).

    3. Thin women are considered ugly and girls who want to get married undertake weight-gain programs to push their weight over 200.

    4. If you read about ancient Roman history, you will see lots of references to the King of Mauretania. But that’s a wholly different part of Africa, corresponding to present-day Morocco.

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