Uniquely placed as the geographical and cultural crossroads between North Africa and western Sahara, Mauritania is a fascinating multi-ethnic Arab country with distinct French influences. A youthful nation with a proud nomadic past, three-quarters of its land is desert or semi-desert, the remainder interspersed with arid plains, ridges, and an Atlantic coastline. This region flourished as part of the trans-Saharan trade route in the 11th to 19th centuries, and the once-grand religious and cultural centres are now collectively registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander among the ancient ruins in Ouadane, a settlement dating from 1140 and imagine it in its heyday as a bustling caravan city connecting to Timbuktu. Sip glasses of coal-brewed sweet mint tea among the locals. If you consider yourself the ultimate adventure-seeker, how about a ride on the Iron Ore Train for an unparalleled experience? This world's longest Train de Desert is a 20-hour journey across 704km of Sahara Desert on one of 200+ iron-ore filled freight cars, a cacophony of open-air, swirling dust, and screeching metal that assaults your five senses but leaves you exhilarated for years to come.