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Oualata was our first off road destination and almost put us off the whole thing.  We had naively assumed that a piste was somewhat like a farm track or a Scandinavian country road, gravel surface, reasonably graded and clearly defined.  We had also assumed that it would be where the map showed it to be, rather than 10 km to the West!  It took about 3 hours to do the 100km or so from the main road at Nema.  We arrived just as darkness was falling which it does at an alarming rate that far South.  There were street lights, a recent addition, but sadly no electricity to power them, so we suddenly found ourselves at the end of a track, on a rubbish tip and no idea where the supposed hotel (as found on internet) actually was.

Instantly surrounded by inquisitive children, and shortly thereafter by a guide who showed us to the Hotel de la Ville, a former Oualata town house; very romantic with traditional furnishings and dinner in the courtyard by moonlight.  We had the choice of any room, being the only guests.  With the door open staring at the stars, it was a pleasant temperature, heat stored in the thick brick walls.  All night long the goats were bleating and we were woken by the cock crowing and the clanking bells of the goats wandering off to find pasture.  For breakfast, instant coffee and fresh bread with honey...again in the courtyard.  Our guide returned early as agreed to show us around.  First stop the gendarmerie!

A very small town where everyone knows everybody else, so his sister runs the museum, his cousin the library...Probably one of the most interesting places I have ever been.  The desert is slowly filling the streets giving it a slightly surreal atmosphere, quite timeless.   As we had hoped, the buildings are fascinating, with highly decorated doorways.  There are a number of preserved buildings with original artefacts and furnishings and it is stunningly photogenic.  For further details on where it is and how to get there see itinerary page of Sahel 2005.




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Jeremy Harrison 2005-2013