Atar is a large sprawling town used mainly as an overnight stop-off for travellers journeying through Northern Mauritania and as a base for tourists visiting the Adrar area. It has an airport with Sunday charter
flights to and from Paris and Marseilles .. between October and April .. bursting into life with the arrival of participants and crews taking part in the Paris - Dakar Rally.
from our long journey, we were provided with a tasty meal .. for which they had opened their kitchens especially for us .. and had a comfortable night's sleep. Rested and refreshed, the next morning we visited the local market
in search of beads, with the assistance of one of the waiters who said he knew all about these things. Well, perhaps he didn't know quite as much about beads as he claimed to, but he certainly knew all the local traders and was
an excellent translator.
As is the tradition in Mauritania, most of the bead sellers were ladies and a fun .. but somewhat exhausting in the high temperatures ... time was had
going from one area of the market to another, being offered a large selection of similar modern beads, but luckily with one or two notable exceptions that were well worth buying. As much entertainment as in the actual
bargaining, was watching the 'deals within deals' that were being arranged .. supposedly without us noticing ..
between our guide and the seller or the seller's assistants. Knowing full well that first prices would be higher
than normal, considering we were on a tourist route, I was not too surprised when they were sometimes much higher. Mauritanian bead-dealing ladies are very adept at noticing when you are interested in items which are other than
just the normal tourist fodder and tenaciously stick to their sometimes exorbitant first prices, with looks of grim determination on their faces.
However, it is all a game and many
times we would walk away from a failed deal, only to be called back for more conclusive discussions, or our guide would disappear for a few minutes, re-negotiate the price and reappear with the item in his hand, for the price I
had originally stuck at. He would happily, but surreptitiously, accept the cash for what had supposedly been agreed with the owner and scurry off to pay them. Sometimes not quite completely concealing the "commission" he was
extracting before the money reached its eventual recipient !! In such situations this is normal practise, ensuring the 'spoils' are better distributed amongst the people associated with trading in the markets and is of little
consequence to me, as long as the price I pay is a mutually fair one !