By every entry and exit of the cities they stand and always they ask ”where are you going? For how long are you staying?” the gendarmerie. The men in dark green uniforms staying in small huts and often carrying a weapon on the shoulder. It’s a natural part of life here, and a big comfort for travelers.
”Once we went into a city in the south, the gendarmerie asked if we were staying. ‘no just passing through ‘ we said.” a friend told me once. ”but in the city we met a friend of my boyfriend, so we stayed a little extra. As we left the city on the Other side, the gendarmerie there said ‘where were you? We were told you were gonna pass and then you never came. We got worried maybe something had happened to you’. I was surprised, they really do have control.” she said.
More similar stories has been told over the past days. The amazing thing about Mauritanian gendarmerie is that they always know in what area you are, and if someone report you as missing they know where to look. Also when you fear a friend might have got lost, you just call the gendarmerie and ask if they have been seen. They will tell you immediately if your fear is necessary or not.
They always want to know where you are, but they never restrict your travels or tell you where to go. Some westerners might find it uncomfortable, not being able to move freely without having to tell anyone where you are going, but with a big dessert (with sandstorms, a changing landscape and all that comes with) it is easy to get lost. With the gendarmerie knowing where you are the worries are less, they know the dessert and will find you and help you to find your way again.