I’d only been in Nouakchott less than a week and already had forgotten to make sure I recharge my Internet dongle each night. Internet can be dodgy here at the best of times. Much like Kenya and Nairobi in that regard—same applies to power blackouts. As a result, I could not use either my i-Phone or my laptop at my new residence in Nejem apartments because I forgot to recharge my dongle.
In a few frantic phone calls, I was instructed by the erstwhile Irishman and cohort, Gerry McKeon, to try the Café D’Alger as they had wi-fi. Earlier, My other friend, Bill Curry (Mombasa) had told me I show just get a Mauritel SIM card and forget about my dongle and just Hotspot from my i-Phone.
I had intended on going to Mauritel offices but my Lebanese shwarma/pizza guy Samir told me the offices would be closed because it was the weekend.
I’d already been out in the noon day earlier, so back out again as I clomped to Rue Charles De Gaulle and the said café. I ordered a cappuccino from the buxom African gal and was duly brought a Nescafe version.
Hard to tell other West Africans from the Mauritanians but many Maurs are mixed with northern Arab blood while others would not be out of place with their darker Nilotic brethren and sistren from East Africa. The two coffee gals were not covered and were wearing jeans—maybe they are Senegalese. Many of the street touts are Senegalese guys who are hawking everything from phone cards, SIM cards to knock off i-phones.
A Mauritanie guy came in dressed in his voluminous bu-bu or mu-mu kaftan with an edging of blue swirling in front of me to watch an English Premier League game.
I finished checking my emails and was about to leave. Nouakchott easily has the highest curbs of any city I have been in and I have to be careful with them and not stumble into the traffic as my knees are arthritic these days.
The Maur gentlemen who had been watching the EPL footie game from the café saw that I had dodgy knees and offered to help.
“Can I give you a lift?”
Naturally I agreed.
His English was very good and in conversation found out Brahim had been an Arabic-Russian translator in Dubai for many years, then switched into being a manager of some oil/gas company in Kazakhstan.
He drove me to my apt complex which wasn’t that far away but appreciated the drive because it was quite hot and humid. The weather here is not unlike Lamu: both coastal and at times, both humid but not like ungodly Doha.
Just before alighting from his vehicle, I mentioned that I had originally gone downtown to go to Mauritel to purchase a new SIM card as had been instructed by Bill Curry.
Brahim produced a Mauritel dongle and asked me if I still wanted to get one, but I told him I had been told by Samir the Lebanese shwarma/pizza guy, that the Mauritel offices were closed being the weekend and all.
Nevermind, said Brahim, we shall go and find an office for me. So we were off again on another adventure—I had no clue where we would go.
Back down Rue de Charles De Gaulle, down past begging kids, Senegalese guys hawking phones, and other shadowy women heavily covered selling fresh produce, past Mauritanian lads begging us for something but, I was told, they were the moneychangers.
We were confronted by local police who had barricaded the main road, and Brahim told me it was blocked because of construction on a new building right next to where the said Mauritel office was.
No bother, Brahim rolled down his window and hailed a local to ask where to get a SIM card. He told us there was a place, just down a back lane, where I could get a card.
I found a shop with a guy who looked more Indian than Mauritanian. Between one thing and another I got a card, and luckily, I was carrying my passport as otherwise I would not have gotten anything.
We hotfooted back to my place and then exchanged phone numbers, but Brahim never asked for any money for gas or the trip, just friendship.
As Bill said later, this could only happen in Chotters (as we call Nouakchott).