| We'd heard that at the embassy they would talk somewhat openly about this situation so we decided to head out there and see what they said. We were greeted warmly by the visa director and invited into his office. His name was Ahmed. Evelyn, speaking French, explained how much we wanted to visit his country. "Yes," Ahmed replied, "it is very beautiful." We explained that we wanted to go overland and Ahmed confirmed that we could but that he could only issue visas if we booked a flight. Here he got vague - he knew that certain travel agents would cooperate but he couldn't say which ones.
We returned to the city center with renewed confidence. If an embassy official himself was revealing the rules of the game, how difficult could it be?
We visited one travel agent, then another. Both times, we got the same story. They wouldn't play the game. Then they would tell us that other agencies might be able to help us. So we pounded the pavement - eventually visiting every travel agent we could find - about a dozen in all, returning to some more than once. Over the course of this rather tiresome escapade, we became less up-front, being careful not to mention the word "visa". Just simply asking to purchase tickets to Nouakchott. To this, the standard reply was, "do you have a visa?" We told them what they already knew - we couldn't get a visa without first having an air ticket. And they would say we can't issue you a ticket unless you have a visa. We weren't exactly making progress.
We finally found an agent that would issue us tickets if we gave her our word that we wouldn't cancel. She told us that regulations gave us the right to cancel but she wanted our utmost assurances that we wouldn't. We took down the fare information - about $500 round-trip Casablanca-Nouakchott - but weren't prepared to go back on our word so we delayed a purchase.
It was then well into the afternoon. We decided to go back to the embassy and explain to Ahmed that something, somewhere had changed. But Ahmed wasn't in. Evelyn spoke with another guy who, upon hearing our tale, raised his eyebrows and said it should be no problem - the travel agent should just issue the tickets. It's done all the time. Would Ahmed be back this afternoon? Maybe. Could we wait? Sure. And he pointed us to a waiting room.
Shortly, a woman came through and, seeing us there, asked if she could help. She then told us that Ahmed wouldn't be in until the morning. Dejected, we decided to go siteseeing.