Nouakchott has a few of the cultural attractions that you might expect from a capital city, and these places represent the best opportunities for expats to learn more about Mauritanian life and culture.
The contemporary Centre Culturel Francais St. Exupery stands out among the desert scenery with its sleek design, and has been set up by the French embassy to promote culture in the city. It offers a place for contemporary dance, plays, and screenings for the local community and international visitors.
Within the city center you'll also find the colorful Galerie Zeinart, which has many examples of native Mauritania arts and crafts on display. Those living in Nouakchott can pick up beautifully patterned textiles for around the home, or souvenirs such as beaded jewelry to send home.
Nouakchott started as a fishing village, and much of the city's life revolves around the Port de Peche, where fishing boats bring in the catch of the day. Take a stroll down there early in the morning, watch the colorfully painted boats coming in, and barter for fish freshly brought in from the ocean.
Nouakchott is the main center for healthcare in Mauritania, with the Grand National Hospital of Mauritania offering fairly modern facilities. There are also a couple of specialist hospitals dealing with ophthalmology and psychiatry. Expats can visit one of the city's private clinics, although they can be expensive, and so getting the right insurance cover is essential.
For expats coming from countries where yellow fever is encountered, the authorities require a proof of vaccination to enter Mauritania. Risk of malaria is high, and travelers are advised to take precautions against mosquitoes.
Mauritanians are generally friendly and welcoming, although they aren't particularly used to foreigners, and so might be a little suspicious. There are moderate crime levels around the city, and areas such as the beach and Le Cinquième should be avoided after dark.
You should also register your presence with the embassy of your home country, as they will be able to keep you up to date if any dangerous situations arise. There have been kidnappings of westerners in the area, and it's therefore important to follow security advice carefully.
It's also worth noting that, being a Muslim country, there's a more conservative standard of dress, and a different culture from what many expats are used to. It's important to learn the local customs and follow them for your own safety.