August 13, 2022

Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic(s) of Mauritania, is located in West Africa and borders Western Sahara, Algeria, Mali and Senegal, and has a coast to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, located on the coast. The name comes from the old Berber kingdom of Mauretania.


With its 1,030,700 km², Mauritania is the 29th largest country in the world. The land area consists mostly of barren plains in the Sahara, some hills in central areas. The lowest point is Sebkha de Ndrhamcha at -3 m and the highest point is Kediet Ijill at 910 m. Mauritania is a dry country with a lot of desert and few mountainous areas. Two-thirds of the country is covered by the Sahara desert, where it hardly ever rains and only scattered shrubs can survive. This area is very sparsely populated, and experiences extreme temperature fluctuations, from 10 degrees in the middle of the night to up to 60 degrees during the day. The Sahel desert and the Senegal River lie further south in the country, and are slightly more fertile areas than the vast desert in the north. Along the long coast the climate is more temperate, but here too there is very little rainfall, and sparsely populated.


Mauritania's biggest environmental problem since the droughts of the 1960s and 70s has been the spread of desertification, where more and more fertile land is covered by barren sand plains. Lack of control over the felling of the sparse forest causes the soil to become depleted, and the soil blows away. The country is also struggling with a lack of access to clean water, both due to failing rainfall and due to a lack of cleaning of sewage and emissions from industry.


Mauritania has a population growth rate of 2.94% (2004 est.) and an average life expectancy of 50.76 years. The population is divided into Moors 30%, blacks 30% and 40% mixed Moors / blacks. 37.7% of the population over the age of 15 can read and write (estimated 1995). An estimated 600,000 people, about 20% of the population, are currently held as slaves in Mauritania. 100% of the population are Muslims.


From the 2nd to the 6th century, the Berbers came from North Africa and displaced the original people group in the area, the Baufors. In 1076, Arab, Islamic warrior monks (the Almoravids or al Murabitun) had conquered the southern part of the area from the empire of Ghana. Over the next 500 years, the Arabs took over the area against fierce resistance from the Berbers. France colonized the area in the 20th century, before the country became independent in 1960. In recent years, a number of military coups have changed the balance of power in the country. In 2007, the country had its first democratic elections since 1960. About 3,500 years ago, the Sahara desert was a fertile plain landscape, with rich animal and plant life and scattered settlements. Around 200 AD, Berbers from North Africa began to settle in the area. From the 8th century, the southern areas of today's Mauritania were dominated by empires in Mali and Ghana, while the northern areas were incorporated into the Muslim Almoravid Empire. In the 16th century, Moroccan forces conquered large parts of the country and introduced Arabic language, culture and social organization. At about the same time, European powers began to establish temporary trading posts along the entire West African coastal strip. During the Vienna Conference in 1815, France was granted full control over the coastal strip in present-day Mauritania and Senegal. Mauritania became part of the French West African Federation AOF in 1920, and independent in 1960. In 1975, Mauritania entered the Western Sahara to prevent Morocco from expanding its territory southwards. After protracted battles against the Western Saharan liberation movement Polisario and a military coup in 1978, the country withdrew from Western Sahara. In the following decades, the country was ruled undemocratically by changing governments, until 2005 when the government was deposed by the military. Elections were held in 2007 where Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was elected. In August 2008, the democratically elected government was overthrown and a mi was installed