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Straddling the arid Maghreb deserts and the seemingly endless grasslands of the African Sahel, Mauritania is a vast and largely empty land of Bedouin camel towns and breathtaking natural feats. The heartlands of the country are dominated by soaring bluffs of hardened rock, milkweed blooms and the endless, sand-blasted wildernesses of the Adrar. Slowly but surely have the Sahara’s arid tendrils been creeping out southwards from here, piercing into the lands of Djouk and Tagant. These are the kingdoms of the baobabs and the acacias; places hospitable and ripe for the occasional date-palm oasis. The capital at Nouakchott is a friendly albeit overcrowded affair that pulses with the heartbeats of more than two million people; its markets and spice souks and deep-water ports bubbling and bustling. Not to be missed are the desert outposts of Chinguetti and Ouadane, where windswept and ghostly adobe hamlets keep company with the spectres of Mauritania’s trading past. Mauritania tour guides can also organise birdwatching and adventure excursions to the Senegal River, where pelicans and black storks pepper the Diawling Park, or the vast mudflats of the Banc d'Arguin, where pink flamingos mix with humpback dolphins and orcas on the edge of the waves.