Facts & figures

Full name: The Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Population: 3.6 million (UN, 2012)

Capital: Nouakchott

Area: 1.04 million sq km (398,000 sq miles)

Major languages: Arabic (official), French, others

Major religion: Islam

Life expectancy: 57 years (men), 61 years (women) (UN)

Monetary unit: 1 ouguiya = 5 khoums

Main exports: Fish and fish products, iron ore, gold

GNI per capita: US $1030 (World Bank, 2011)

Internet domain: .mr

International dialling code: +222




President: Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz

Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz took power in a coup in 2008, and was elected president the following year.

He gained another five-year term in June 2014 with almost 82% of the vote in an election boycotted by most of the opposition


Visa & travel advice


A passport valid for at least six months is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above to enter Mauritania.


Visas for Mauritania are required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.

You must provide an invitation letter with your visa application stating the purpose of your trip.

Nationals not referred to in the chart are advised to contact the embassy for visa requirements for Mauritania.

  • Best period

Mauritania’s rainy season lasts from July to September; average rainfall during the year is about 20 to 23 inches (51 to 58.5 centimeters.) The country is also a recipient of the harmattan, a trade wind that blows from the Sahara, bringing with it sand and limited visibility. The best times to visit Mauritania are between March through June, when the weather is generally calmer.

  • Safety

As mentioned before, women should take care not to follow men into enclosed environments, like offices or cars. If you are a woman, make sure you are always in sight of a group or a street.

Because of activity by organizations such as Al-Qaeda, the U.S. Department of State has issued a number of travel warnings for Mauritania. Be careful when traveling across the borders of Western Sahara and Mali as land mines and religious fundamentalist groups are present. Traveling from Morocco to Mauritania is also not advised. Keep apprised of travel warnings before traveling to Mauritania.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has created a security ratings system called the Ibrahim Index, wherein scores are based on each country’s quality of government. Before traveling to Mauritania or anywhere on the continent, check the index and do your research.


The original inhabitants of Mauritania were the Bafour, presumably a Mande ethnic group, connected to the contemporary Arabized minor social group of Imraguen ("fishermen") on the Atlantic coast.

The territory of Mauritania was on the fringe of geographical knowledge of Libya in classical antiquity. Berber immigration took place from about the 3rd century. Mauritania takes its name from the ancient Berber kingdom and later Roman province of Mauretania, and thus ultimately from the Mauri people, even though the respective territories do not overlap, historical Mauretania being considerably further north than modern Mauritania.

The Muslim conquest of the Maghreb in the 7th and 8th centuries did not reach as far south, and Islam came to Mauritania only gradually, from about the 11th century, in the context of the wider Islamization of the Sudan and medieval Arab slave trade.

Arts & Culture

  • Music :

The music of Mauritania comes predominantly from the country's largest ethnic group: the Moors. In Moorish society musicians occupy the lowest caste, iggawin. Musicians from this caste used song to praise successful warriors as well as their patrons. Iggawin also had the traditional role of messengers, spreading news between villages. In modern Mauritania, professional musicians are paid by anybody to perform; affluent patrons sometimes record the entertainment, rather than the musicians themselves, and are then considered to own the recording.


  • Literature

Mauritania literature focuses on the history, the culture, the beliefs and the religion. There are also a number of scientific books and travel diaries written on the Mauritania desert. From Theodore Monod to Saint-Exupery, this “terre des hommes” has always intrigued writers.

The oral tradition includes epics, storytelling, riddles, puzzles, and Islamic poetry and prose.


  • Film industry

 There is no Mauritanian national cinema as such, but a number of Mauritanians are actively involved with cinema, working largely from exile in Europe. The key figure, meriting a place in any list of major African filmmakers, is Med Hondo (b. 1936), who has made a number of documentaries and seven feature-length films in the course of thirty years - Soleil O (1970), The Black Wogs Your Neighbours / Les bicots-nègres vos voisins (1974), We Shall Have the Whole of Death to Sleep / Nous aurons toute la mort pour dormir (1977), West Indies West Indies / Les nègres marrons de la liberté (1979). Sarraounia (1986), Black Light / Lumière noire (1995) and Watani, A World Without Evil / Watani, un monde sans mal (1997).


  • Famous monuments


Chinguetti City















The Ksar






  • Architecture history

Without coherent national planning policies, construction in modern towns and cities is anarchic. Thus, architecture in Nouakchott is a mixture of traditional French concrete building with Spanish and Asian influences. Because of the fragile and sandy terrain, buildings are low.

As a result of drought and the attraction of urban centers, most residents have become totally or party urbanized. Colonization, rapid urbanization, modern education, technology, and mass communication have led to the emergence of two cultures. The modern elite live in Western-style houses, which have replaced thatched-roof houses and tents. Houses are used to shelter extended families and guests. Even in modern houses, there is little furniture and few wall decorations. Many houses have colorful traditional pillows and mats, teapots, trays, and carpets. Mattresses are placed along the walls with traditional pillows. Houses are crowded because of strong family bonds. An urban house normally is open to relatives and friends.

Apart from mosques, government buildings follow Western styles. Some Arab-Berbers put up tents in the courtyards of their villas. Normally, there are no plants inside the house.


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