Mauritania, formally the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a nation in western North Africa’s Maghreb area. It is Africa’s eleventh biggest nation, bordering to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the north by Morocco and the remains of Western Sahara, to the northeast by Algeria, to the east and southeast by Mali, and to the southwest by Senegal.
The country takes its name from the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which flourished in the far north of modern-day Morocco from the third to the seventh centuries BC. Because the Sahara covers around 90% of Mauritania’s area, the population is concentrated towards the south, where precipitation is slightly greater. Nouakchott, the capital and largest city, is located on the Atlantic coast and is home to roughly one-third of the country’s 3.5 million inhabitants. On August 6, 2008, the government was deposed in a military coup led by then-General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. Aziz resigned from the military on April 16, 2009, in order to compete for president in the July 19 elections, which he won.
Approximately 20% of Mauritanians live on less than US$1.25 per day. Mauritania suffers from a number of human rights violations, including slavery, which enslaves an estimated 4% (155,600 individuals) of the country’s population against their will, primarily political opponents.
Mauritania | Introduction
Mauritania is a desert and ocean country. It’s no surprise that the desert in the Adrar and Tagant regions (near Atar) and the ocean at Banc d’Arguin are the primary draws for most visitors (a natural reserve with dunes ending in the sea, full of millions of birds and protected by UNESCO).
Mauritania is a Muslim-majority country. Don’t be frightened of this political position unreasonably; most Mauritanians are not radicals, even though the bulk of the population in the north is conservative and restrained. The danger of abduction and eventual killing for individuals from outside the Maghreb, on the other hand, is extremely high.
The southern portion of the nation is full with nice people who are extremely hospitable, even if they are unfamiliar with visitors.
Charter flights from France to Atar are now available throughout the winter, making it simpler to visit Mauritania. Tourist information and guides are readily available. Visa cards will not function in local ATMs since Mauritania is not linked to the international financial system. In Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, there are now foreign ATMs at BNP and Societe Generale, although credit cards are accepted virtually nowhere else. In Nouakchott, changing euros, dollars, and CFA is simple.
Extremes in temperature, as well as sparse and unpredictable rainfall, define the climate. Although annual temperature changes are minor, diurnal variations may be dramatic. During the lengthy dry season, the harmattan, a hot, dry, and sometimes dusty wind, comes from the Sahara and is the predominant wind, except near the short coastal strip, which is affected by oceanic trade winds. The majority of rain occurs during the brief rainy season (hivernage), which runs from July to September, and average annual precipitation ranges from 500 to 600 millimetres in the extreme south to less than 100 millimetres in the northern two-thirds.
Mauritania is the world’s 29th biggest nation, covering 1,030,000 square kilometers (397,685 square miles), 90 percent of which is desert (after Bolivia). It is about the same size as Egypt. It mainly lies between latitudes 14° and 26°N, and longitudes 5° and 17°W (with a few exceptions east of 5° and west of 17°).
The vast desert plains of Mauritania are broken up by occasional hills and cliff-like outcroppings. These plains in the middle of the nation are bisected longitudinally by a series of scarps that face south-west. The scarps also divide a succession of sandstone plateaus, the tallest of which, at 500 meters, is the Adrar Plateau (1,640 ft). Some of the scarps have spring-fed oases at their base.
Isolated peaks rise above the plateaus, typically rich in minerals; the lesser peaks are known as guelbs, and the bigger ones as kedias. A notable feature of the north-central area is the concentric Guelb er Richat (also known as the Richat Structure). The tallest mountain, Kediet ej Jill, is located near the city of Zouîrât and stands at 915 meters (3,002 feet).
Mauritania is desert or semi-desert for around three-quarters of the country. Since the mid-1960s, the desert has been spreading as a consequence of prolonged, severe drought. Between the coast and the plateaus, to the west, there are alternating regions of clayey plains (regs) and sand dunes (ergs), some of which change from place to place when strong winds move them. The size and movement of the dunes tend to grow as you go north.
In 2013, the population of Mauritania was estimated to be 3,537,368 people.
Bidhans, Haratins, and West Africans are the three major ethnic groups in the area. The Bidhan, or Moors, make up about a third of the population. They are mainly of Sahrawi Berber ancestry and speak Hassaniya Arabic. The Haratin account for around 40% of the population. They are descended from former slaves and speak Arabic as well. The remaining 30% of the population is made up of of people of West African ancestry from different ethnic groupings. The Niger-Congo-speaking Halpulaar (Fulbe), Soninke, Bamara, and Wolof are among them.
Mauritania is almost entirely Muslim, with the majority of the population belonging to the Sunni faith. The Tijaniyah, a minority Sufi brotherhood, has had significant impact not just in the nation but also in Senegal and Morocco. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott, established in 1965, serves Mauritania’s 4,500 Catholics. In Mauritania, freedom of religion and belief is severely restricted; it is one of thirteen nations in the world that punishes atheism with death.
The Abdallahi administration was generally seen as corrupt, and access to official information was severely limited. Sexism, racism, female genital mutilation, child labor, human trafficking, and the political marginalization of ethnic groups mostly from the south remained issues.
Following the 2008 coup, Mauritania’s military administration faced harsh international sanctions as well as domestic turmoil. Amnesty International accused it of using torture against criminal and political prisoners in a systematic manner. Amnesty International has accused the Mauritanian judicial system of operating without respect for legal process, a fair trial, or compassionate incarceration both before and after the 2008 coup. According to the group, the Mauritanian government has used torture in an organized and ongoing manner throughout its post-independence history, under all of its leaders.
Mauritania has a low GDP despite its natural resource wealth. Despite the fact that most nomads and many subsistence farmers were pushed into the cities by repeated droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, the bulk of the population still relies on agriculture and livestock for a living. Iron ore reserves abound in Mauritania, accounting for almost half of the country’s total exports. Gold and copper mining firms are expanding their operations in the interior as metal prices increase.
In 1986, the country’s first deepwater port, in Nouakchott, opened. Drought and economic mismanagement have led in an increase in foreign debt in recent years. In March 1999, the government agreed to a $54 million expanded structural adjustment facility with a combined World Bank-International Monetary Fund mission (ESAF). For the years 1999–2002, economic goals have been established. One of the most important problems is privatization. Mauritania is unlikely to achieve the ESAF’s yearly GDP growth targets of 4%–5%.
The offshore Chinguetti field in Mauritania was found with oil in 2001. Despite the fact that it has the potential to be important for the Mauritanian economy, its total impact is impossible to estimate. Mauritania is a “desperately impoverished desert country that straddles the Arab and African worlds and is Africa’s newest, though small-scale, oil producer,” according to the BBC. There may be more oil deposits inland in the Taoudeni basin, but extraction will be costly due to the hostile climate.