GR’s Noreen Connoly: Reporting from Mauritania

When Noreen Connolly won the contest to accompany New York Times reporter Nick Kristoff on his reporting trip to Mauritania, she didn’t know she would be covering Al-Qaeda and interviewing local politicians and leaders. The Glen Ridge resident and journalism teacher at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark had more envisioned visiting schools and hospitals.

But with Kristoff being who he is, on the very first day, Connolly found herself in the lobby of the Tfeila Hotel In Nouakchott, Mauritania, chatting with a cloaked man who spoke familiarly of his country’s support of Al-Qaeda. Instantly, she was at the core of global politics, learning about the inner workings of terrorism first-hand. ” The Arab Spring changed things,” she wrote in a blog post for The New York Times.

Later in the day, Kristoff’s entourage — which included Connolly (pictured, far right) and her fellow contest winner, medical student Saumya Dave, as well as videographer Thomas Nybo — continued their adventures by visiting a flour mill and getting into a big fish fight.

Here’s what Connolly said:

We just returned from visiting a flour mill – the first in Mauritania that is producing fortified flour. It’s a big step in the battle against malnutrition.

On the way back we stopped at a fish market. Thomas, Saumya and I started taking pictures of this car that had fish coming out the windows, the trunk and on the top – totally full of fish. All of a sudden this huge guy comes at us – screaming. Tries to take Thomas’ camera – a mob starts to gather – the fighting escalates. Next thing our drivers – both from Senegal – are being attacked. It was very hairy for a bit – as the mob kept growing and other men joined in the pummeling of Thomas and the driver. Finally some kind of military guy arrived and was able to eventually disperse the mob. The driver later told us that fisherman are like this – a little nuts. “You work with the fish – you think like the fish!”

One commenter on the NYT blog asked if Connolly had to alter her behavior or style of dress during the trip. Do you have questions for Baristanet’s correspondent in Mauritania?

Read the full story here, and stay tuned for more.

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.