In the name of Allaah the Most Merciful the Most Gracious
Mauritania, classically known as Chinguetti, is located in West Africa. It’s south of Morocco and north of Senegal. It also shares a border with Mali at its east and Algeria at its northeast. It is mostly desert, except for the fertile soil in the south along the Senegalese River and also for some grazing grounds found throughout the country. The temperature is relatively hot year round. There are always winds coming from the northeast (good to keep in mind when choosing a place to stay). The capital, Nouakchott, is a coastal city. The average weather during peak heat season, around June, is 34C/93.2F and the lowest in the coldest season, around late January, is 7C/44.6F. As you go inland, the heat rises and becomes drier.
Nuoakchott is constantly growing. Many people come to this developing city from all over West and Central Africa, looking for work and business opportunities. Most people are small merchants; you’ll find many “mom and pop shops” and vendors on the streets. If you have a trade, you can succeed as a merchant. It just takes a little capital and a lot of tawfeeq from Allaah. For most Westerners, the idea of starting your own business is quite frightening. We often retreat to the financial security of well established businesses and corporations. I believe that it’s much harder to start a business in an already developed city, yet we’ve all seen foreigners migrate to the West and “set up shop”. They’re usually patient, content with little and have a strong sense of solidarity between them. This is what they do for dunya. And us………..we’ll get it together someday, insha Allaah.
Finding something to eat isn’t difficult here. In the downtown area, you can find many restaurants. When I first arrived, I’d often treat myself to a greasy hamburger and some fries. For 1,000UM (approx.$3), I thought this was a good price. Then one day, while accompanying a friend in the city, I offered to treat him to a burger for lunch. He told me that this would be very expensive and insisted on treating me to a Mauritanian style lunch. I complied and we headed to a small local restaurant. I have to say, it wasn’t the cleanest of places but the food was good, filling and, of course, greasy. Two fish and rice plates for 800UM (a little over a dollar per plate). Needless to say, my hamburger days were soon coming to an end.
There are also markets where fresh food can be bought. There’s a popular vegetable market called Suk-Maghrib with locally-grown produce, as well as imports from neighbouring countries. Variety is limited, so our vegetarian brothers and sisters may experience some difficulty. However, there are also supermarkets that try to cater to foreigners. Therefore, it may be possible to find most, if not all of what your stomach desires.
Finding a home for rent in Nouakchott is easy. The challenge is finding what you want in the area you want it. Some pay close attention to the latter, others to the former. I’m of those who give importance not only to the location but also to my potential neighbours.
Rental costs vary depending on your preferences. A home with running water and electricity, cement roofing, and possibly tile flooring can range anywhere from 40,000UM($110) per month to 120,000UM($330) and higher. It depends on the condition of the house and the demand in the area. I strongly suggest those looking to migrate to consider purchasing land and building a home of you own.
Seeking knowledge in Nouakchott, the city, is an option but studies are not as rigorous as studying in the countryside. There are many teachers in the city who work full-time and teach in their spare time. Through networking with your contemporaries, you can discover where the lessons are taking place and reach them by taking a short bus or taxi trip. There are also schools in the city that you can enroll in. Many of these schools provide boarding. The dorms at these schools are very modest, as well as the food. Many student who can afford it prefer to live on their own and/or supplement their diets when and wherever possible.
In the countryside you truly feel a sense of freedom. You’ve unplugged the cable and exited the Matrix. In such a place, your day’s activities are scheduled around the daily prayers. Most people make appointments and schedules by referring to which prayer time comes before or after it. The peace and quiet is amazing! Coming from one of the world’s busiest cities, I initially found it very strange to be out in the desert. I often recall a night where I woke up at around 3:oo am. There wasn’t a sound- nothing! I spent almost 10 seconds frozen in silence before making a sound, just to make sure that I hadn’t become deaf. A student of mine told me that he likes to spend hours in such a state. However, I couldn’t endure more than 10 seconds. In this kind of solace, you can really reflect. In the Qur’aan, Allaah orders His Last Apostle, may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him, to migrate; move away from the idols, away from that which is worshipped besides Allaah (Chapter 7, verse 5). I couldn’t count all the false gods I was worshipping, from money to personalities, looks, etc. But, I can honestly say that being here made me feel as though I’ve left that which I’ve once worshipped, and Allaah knows best.
Hijrah ~ Migration
Throughout history, man has either voluntarily or forcibly moved from one area to another in a quest for benefit or an escape from harm. The specific reasons are innumerable. Here we’ll look at one, man’s migration towards Allaah and His Messenger (peace be upon him).
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