12 July 2007

The iron ore train to Nouadibou

Some time ago, I belatedly wrote about my travels to Mauritania with my long-suffering friend Fatou Jallow. Well, the NYTimes Africa journalist was just there as, in additional to an article about a nascent campaign to wean Mauritanians off their love for hefty women, I came across an article about the train we rode to Nouadibou. I apologize if the article soon becomes inaccessible, but you may find it by searching for "Tough Commute on a Train Not Meant for People".

We did not go the whole distance, but instead joined the train at the 'station' in Choum, after a back of the pickup truck ride through the desert from Atar. We went westbound instead, so the cars were full of iron ore dust, which we flattened out to lay down in for the night.

Interestingly, it seems that large numbers of Pakistanis are using the train en route to Europe. You may recall Nouadibou as the port where many would-be sub-Saharan African migrants set out by boat for the Canary Islands and, it is hoped, greener pastures. This is an incredibly dangerous undertaking, as many boats are lost, with one unfortunate crew's remains eventually being discovered in the Bahamas. As far as I could tell, Fatou and I were the only non-Africans on the train, but we didn't check the passenger berths.

The funny thing is that this very alarmist article is in the same magazine whose cover story implores Americans to cast aside fear as we attempt to restore our place in the world.

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