Nouakchott was a well needed stop on our trip through the desert. And what a stop. Through a friend of a friend we found a really nice and cheap apartment (hotels turned out to be very expensive in the Mauritanian capital). It was situated in an area that looked abit far from everything when we arrived in the dark. It turned out to be all the contrary. Actually we spent most of our time in the street outside the apartment hotel and met a bunch of interesting people there:
– A young woman from Mali with whom Karin could speak Bambara, who cooked very good food and who later became both a friend and an interviewee. An impressing woman who had her small restaurant and was cooking from morning to night beside doing her university studies.
– The Malian woman’s mother. A very fascinating person with a strong message for women’s rights. “A woman’s first husband should always be her own salary”. To her who is Malian, Mauritania is a place where women’s situation is much better and the rights more respected than in Mali.
– What seems to be one of the most important journalists writing on culture: “Culture makes me feel close to people wherever I am”
– Another culture journalist and writer with very good contacts and interesting thoughts.
– A radio journalist who is orginally from Maher’s blocks in Ziguinchor. “France is home to me but anyone can see that I am not all my roots there. It is as though I am pretending to be French, at least when people consider the definition of nationality in terms of origin only.” Sousou and Karin also had a very long and interesting conversation with him about what it means to be jali and the role of the jali in Western societies (not possible according to him). He said journalist are very much playing the role of jalis today (but they will never be jalis).
– A Mauritanian man in a nice boubou (all men wear exactly the same boubou in either white or blue) who had lived ten years in Spain. “Mauritania is not a racist country”.
– A very well known and respected storyteller who talked about how the same stories, myth and traditions appear in as different places as Mauritania and Cambodia.”Boarders are just political inventions to divide us. People have the same needs and thoughts everywhere
– The young men working at the hotel who checked up Sousou and Maher’s music during the first night and then spent the whole Sunday and Monday morning listening to Jangfata on Youtube outside the hotel.
We also had the chance to have two inspiring meetings with the world known Mauritanian singer Malouma. She had a very strong conviction, linking music and politics together and a special way of singing. Sousou and her had a wonderful moment of sharing ideas and songs in between. She also gave us a bunch of her CDs, some of them banned in Mauritania for the message in her lyrics (and some not availible outside Mauritania). An extraordinary singer and person!
A concert with Sousou and Maher Cissoko was planned for Sunday night at the festival for disabled people but due to technical problems it did finally not occur.
In sum a very intensive rest day with very interesting discussions, exchanges and interviews. Alot of things are going on in Nouakchott. It may well be a town where we could go back!