Port de Pêche – Nouakchott, Mauritania - Atlas Obscura

Port de Pêche

Nouakchott, Mauritania

Thousands of colorful pirogues showcase ingenious craftsmanship at the largest fishermen port in Nouakchott. 

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No matter what time of the day or what day of the week, Port de Pêche is always hectic. There are always fishing boats setting off and others returning, with the daily catch quickly unloaded and taken the market on donkey-drawn carts.

But the real eye candy are the throngs of pirogues lying idle on the sand banks, one beside the other, row after row. Each part of the vessels has a unique, custom-made cut and is painted with bright colors. Drawings representing animals, people, traditional patterns, and symbols adorn the boats as well.

These pirogues are built by artisans of Fula and Wolof ethnicity, originally from Senegal but well-established within this segment of Mauritanian economy. A small 10-foot-long pirogue takes about a week to build, whereas a 70-foot-long pirogue takes about a month. It’s difficult to estimate their durability, as this depends largely on how often a pirogue is used, how well it is maintained, and how good it was initially built, but 15 years seems to be the longest one can hope for.

The beach in front of the market is frantic with activities. It is nothing short of a cacophony of colors, smells, and sounds. There are people refueling or waterproofing boats, mending fishing nets, or resting and chatting. Closer to the market, there are people rinsing and gutting fish. There are women selling snacks, cooking, and catching up with the latest news. Children play soccer, swim, and chase one another. 

Know Before You Go

You can easily reach the port via taxi from the city center. Do not attempt to swim here, as the current can be quite strong.