The Mauritania Railway: Backbone of the Sahara

The most extreme railway in the World

The sun shines on the Mauritania Railway tracks before a massive train runs across it in the Sahara desert.

Nicknamed the “Backbone of the Sahara,” it boasts some of the longest and heaviest trains in the world running on a 700km (430miles) train route.

Its journey begins in Zouerat, North-Western Africa, Mauritania, where 22,000 tons of iron ore are mined daily and transported across the searing desert to the port city of Nouadhibou, on Africa’s Atlantic coast.

Sometimes the train also carries passengers—merchants who travel illegally atop the train to transport food and supplies to remote Saharan communities. The ride is treacherous. Many die en route.

The story of these people is retold by director, producer, narrator and independent filmmaker Miguel de Olsa (nicknamed Macgregor).

Guided by his camera, we’ll experience a dry and desolate world populated by small communities, railway workers, illegal travelers and a massive train with iron ore cargo.

The sounds of the train echo through the sand dunes for miles, introducing itself to any community awaiting its coming.

Shot in 4k resolution, the documentary cinematography instills an otherwise inhospitable desert to become dream-like and alive. It becomes a small paradoxical bubble; where time stands still for the people living by the railways, and where men aboard the train endure seemingly eternal hours of burning heat.

The Mauritania Railway: Backbone of the Sahara
  • Info
  • Release date2017
  • Full runtime
  • Director(s)Miguel de Olsa
  • Production companyBlack Milk