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66 February '11 CYCLE SOURCE


tepping out of the air-conditioned hut at the Bab Sahara campground, I quickly discovered the one and only thing that the desert of Mauritania had in common with my home in southern Arizona: the heat. By late April, the daytime temperatures were in the triple digits. In normal times this would be the low season for tourism. Now, with Al-Qaeda making its presence known in Mauritania, tourists were in short supply.

"Tourist and travelers often seek out the same destinations to experience; tourists going with the expectation of little or no risk, while travelers are drawn to places regardless of the risks."

Manuel was already up and had water boiling for coffee. We took a short walk down the sand road to a local store and bought some bread to go with the morning coffee then sat under the shade of a tree inside the campground and talked about what to do for the day.

We decided to walk into Atar and check out the local market. I had my video camera and gave Manuel my Nikon to use. Once we began taking pictures, a man approached us and asked if we had authorization to use cameras. Manuel talked to him in French and from the conversation we learned that some people did not welcome cameras and that you should have some sort of authorization from the powers that be to use a camera here. I had a small helmet camera with me so I took it out of the case and held it in the palm of my hand as we walked through the market.

Atar was one of those places that gave the feeling that outsiders were not really welcome, yet at the same time the merchants would be more than happy to take your money. In better times the locals would sell overpriced woodcarvings and mass-produced tapestries to the tourist groups that came from Europe. Now people were desperate. Many people in this, one of the poorest countries in the world, are now deprived of the much needed tourist dollar that was their only source of income.


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