The houses here are quite different than what we see in the US, but then again, our climates are also very different too. Here you’ll never find a house that has a heater because it’s simply not needed. There are a variety of homes available in the RIM, each suited to its population’s economic status and climate. The pictures I have are of places I live(d) and other volunteers’ homes. Although these are for the most part “Americanized”, you can still get the basic picture.
Rosso Home: I lived here with a host family for 2 months during stage. We had a compound with a main house area (single entry door) with 2 rooms, a salon, and a “kitchen”. They did not really use the kitchen for anything put storage of dishes and the refrigerator, but it still existed. All of these rooms will typically be shared by everyone in the family. With Peace Corps policy, we need one room completely to ourselves, so I had one of the rooms, and the family had the other. Outside the main house area there was a lumbar, bathroom, magasin (another room which many people will use as a boutique, but my family used as storage), and goat/cow pen. It’s very common to have colorful plastic woven mats for sitting on the sand outside, and carpets inside. The house has water and electricity… however the definition of running water in this case is having a robinet (a water spicket) inside the compound. In Rosso the water was on almost all day, except for around noon until 3 or 4. To get through that time the family would fill up buckets and other containers for water. There were some families in Rosso who did not have robinets, and had to have water delivered via donkey cart, or use their neighbor’s robinet.
A view from inside the compound. The lumbar is on the left, main house on the right and goat/cow pen is the red door. The bathroom is just behind me.
The family’s goat/cow pen
The family lumbar in Rosso… notice the mosquito netting to cut down the probability of contracting Malaria.
The main entrance to the main home within the compound. Notice the satellite TV dish… very common throughout Mauritania.
Akjoujt Home: I have a compound now that has 2 rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a lumbar. The kitchen was designed to be next to the bathroom, but I like to have it away from there. It’s a fairly typical Mauritanian home for the area with the exception of the fact that I do not have running water. I go to my landlord’s home a few times a week to ask them to pass a hose through the wall so that I can fill a 200 liter barrel. I then will siphon the water out into buckets as needed. Another aspect of my home is that I have a garden. Although it is not unheard of for Mauritanians to have gardens in the home, it is not the norm. Other things that differentiate my house from a typical Mauritanian home would be that I have a “dresser” made of tomatoe crates, I don’t have matalas (colored foam mattresses) laying around the outside of the room, and I don’t have a separate salon.
This is a typical toilet in the RIM… some may be porcelain and/or flushable, but the pit style is what I’ve seen most of.
This is my lumbar… also use it to hang laundry on laundry day. The kitchen is in the upper right hand corner, and the main room is just off the right hand side of the photo.
Cooking in Akjoujt. I have my range set up on wooden planks, but most Mauritanians will cook on the ground.
Getting water out of the barrel.
Another volunteer’s home in Akjoujt: This compound is slightly larger than mine, with a robinet, separate toilet from shower area, but no lumbar. I would say about half of the homes have some sort of a lumbar/outside shelter inside the compound.
A view of the kitchen, magasin, toilet and shower areas
The two main rooms
Other homes in Akjoujt: Here are some pictures of other homes in Akjoujt, seen from just the outside. It is important to note that traditionally the Moors were a nomadic people traveling around setting up tents anywhere they would go. The lumbar is sort of similar to that, and many people simply live in a lumbar or other such tents.
It might be hard to see, but if you look close and zoom in you might be able to see the permanent tent-like structures that are people’s homes.
Chinguetti: One of my friends lives up in Chinguetti and has an interesting house that is much more suited to the climate there. As you know from previous blog entries, Chinguetti is right on the boarder of the Sahara, and gets both very cold and very hot. His house is quite similar to mine in that it is compound-style with separate entries into rooms: kitchen, room, bathroom, but he has a “khyma” aka tent instead of a lumbar.
This tent can be put up and taken down in a matter of minutes. The wooden “floor” stays out all the time though. I just wanted a closer view of the wooden plank. It’s set up on bricks because the sand is so cold in the winter and so hot in the summer.
Nouahdibou: Some other friends live up in Nouahdibou that may have a more similar home to what you might expect. The standard of living for inhabitants of Nouahdibou is generally higher than other regions due to the strong economic activities and development there (namely fishing). These homes are comparable to homes in the capital, and that’s why volunteers in those two places are afforded more in a monthly stipend as their homes also cost more to rent. That is not to say that everyone in Nouahdibou and Nouakchott live in homes like this. There are also shanty towns with homes made of scrap metal for people who come looking unsuccessfully for jobs.
A little closer to a mainstream US kitchen. Fridge, oven, stove, sink with running water at all times that there is electricity. In the first picture is the oven along side the refillable gas container.
A room complete with wardrobe, light fixtures, screened and glassed windows, and rug in the middle.
Now here’s some green technology for you! Every so often you’ll see this hole in the ceiling with thick glass to prevent air, rain and other elements getting in. During the day it lights up the rooms better than lights can… even when it’s cloudy! The roofs here are often flat as there’s not much worry of rain drainage, and it’s used as an extra level of the home sometimes too.
And the bathroom… once again, running water, shower, sink, and toilet (western-style). There’s another bathroom in this house that also that has a bathtub/shower.
A more or less typical Mauritanian salon… minus the computers. The matalas on the ground, pillows as back supports, and a run in the middle. Going back to the green lighting technology developed in the 1960s here… there are no lights on in this room, and no flash on the camera.