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الجمهورية الإسلامية الموريتانية
République islamique de Mauritanie

al-Jumhūriyya al-Islāmiyya al-Mūrītāniyya
Islamic Republic of Mauritania
Flag of Mauritania
Seal of Mauritania
flag seal
Motto : شرف ، إخاء ، عدالة
("Sharaf, Ichā ', ʿadāla")
Arabic ,
"Honor, brotherhood, justice"
Official language Arabic
Capital Nouakchott
Form of government Islamic Republic
Government system Presidential system
Head of state President
Mohamed Ould Ghazouani
Head of government Prime Minister
Ismail Ould Bedde Ould Cheikh Sidiya
surface 1,030,700 km²
population 4,301,000 (July 2016)
Population density 3.6 inhabitants per km²
Population development   + 2.20% (2016) per year
gross domestic product
  • Nominal
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nominal)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
  • $ 4.717 billion ( 151. )
  • $ 16.418 billion ( 147. )
  • 1,243 USD ( 155. )
  • 4,328 USD ( 141. )
Human Development Index 0.513 ( 157th ) (2016)
currency Ouguiya (MRU)
independence November 28, 1960
(from France )
National anthem National anthem of Mauritania
National holiday November 28th
(Independence Day)
Time zone UTC ± 0
License Plate ج ا م (RIM)
ISO 3166 MR , MRT, 478
Internet TLD .mr
Telephone code +222
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Mauritania ([ ma͜ureˈtaːni̯ən ], officially Arabic الجمهورية الإسلامية الموريتانية al-Jumhūriyya al-Islāmiyya al-Mūrītāniyya  'Islamic Republic of Mauritania', French Mauritanie ) is a state in northwestern Africa on the Atlantic . The presidential republic borders the states of Algeria in the north-east, Mali in the east and south-east, Senegal in the south-west, and in the north and north-west on the western Sahara strip , which wasproclaimedthe Democratic Arab Republic of the Sahara by the Polisario Front. The country is almost three times the size of Germany and, with the exception of a thorn-bush savanna zone from the capital Nouakchott, consists of desert along the southern border. After a coup on August 8, 2008, there was a brief military dictatorship . Presidential elections were held again in 2009, as well as in 2014 and 2019.


National nature

The surface shape of Mauritania offers a fairly uniform picture. The flat compensation coastline between the Senegal estuary and Cap Timiris in the south and the steep coast with many coves and islands in the north is followed by an extensive lowland inland, which with its sand dune fields forms the western edge of the Sahara . A short steep ascent leads to the largely flat highlands (300–500 m above sea level) in the central part of the country. Here are the sandstone plateaus of Adrar, Tagant and Affollé as well as individual island mountains, including the Kediet Ijill , the highest point in the country at 915 m. Central in the Sahara, on the border between the administrative regions of Tiris Zemmour and Adrar , is the natural wonder of Guelb er Richat . Towards the east, the plateaus, which are predominantly covered by scree fields, descend to form the drainless, sand-filled basin El Djouf. The only permanent water-bearing river in Mauritania is Senegal , which forms the state border to the neighboring country of the same name.


Located in the northern tropic, Mauritania has a largely dry and hot desert climate . Cooling is only brought about by the cold Canary Islands current off the coast, which often leads to fog formation in the coastal area. In the northern half of the country, precipitation falls in winter, but rarely more than 100 mm per year, in the extreme south it is 300–400 mm, mainly from July to October. The average January temperatures are around 20–24 ° C, the July temperatures around 30–34 ° C, with summer maximum values ​​of up to 50 ° C.

Flora and fauna

Grass and bush areas as well as acacias mark the transition from the desert steppe to the thorn savannah of the Sahel . In the oases mainly grow date palms , in the flood savannah of Senegal also raphia palms , baobabs and bamboo . There are extensive salt marshes in the coastal area.

Animals of the savannah are antelopes , elephants and hyenas ; the desert steppe still offers enough food for gazelles , ostriches , warthogs , leopards and black cats . There are also numerous scorpions and snakes in the dunes .

Furthermore, Nile crocodiles have been discovered in Mauritania , which mostly live on Gueltas and use the low rainfall as much as possible to retreat into cool crevices under the earth during the dry season. In doing so, they reduce their metabolism to a minimum and lapse into a rigidity that allows them to survive for months without water or food.

Between 1990 and 2000, the forest population decreased by 2.7 percent.

National parks

There are two national parks in Mauritania :


Population pyramid Mauritania 2016
Population development in millions of inhabitants

The previously high proportion of nomads has fallen sharply. In 1957 90 percent of the population lived as nomads in tents, there were no larger cities. By contrast, 40 percent of the population lived in cities in 2005. Four fifths of the population live on 15 percent of the country's area, mainly in the south. The population growth in 2005 was 2.9 percent. 43 percent of the population were younger than 15 years. Life expectancy between 2010 and 2015 was 62.6 years (men: 61.2 years, women: 64.1 years).

Population development

year population
1950 660,000
1960 858,000
1970 1,149,000
1980 1,534,000
1990 2,030,000
2000 2,709,000
2010 3,610,000
2016 4,301,000

Source: UN

Ethnic groups

In Mauritania, Arab, Berber and black African ethnic groups come together who have strongly mixed with one another, so that percentages on individual ethnic groups are hardly possible. About 70 percent of the population speak Hassania . They belong to the Arab-Berber Moors . About half of these Hassania speakers are called Bidhan or White Moors and belong to the two upper strata of the traditionally strongly hierarchical Mauritanian society, the Hassani (warriors) and Marabout (scholars of Islam). The other half is called Haratin . These, on average, slightly darker-skinned people have ancestors who were once slaves. The remaining 30 percent of the total population is shared by several black African peoples (together Soudans ) who live mainly along the Senegal River in the south. A similar division estimates roughly 30 percent (white) Moors, 40 percent dark-skinned Moors and 30 percent blacks for 2010. The black African peoples include the mostly arable Tukulor and the Fulbe , traditional cattle herders. Both are grouped together as halpulaars because of their common language Pulaar . Smaller ethnic groups are the Sarakolé , Wolof and Bambara . About 5000  Europeans (mostly French) live in the country.

The compromise between the different cultures of Mauritania is important for the cohesion of the nation. Traditionally, the country - also geographically - is divided according to these ethnic groups into the so-called Ard al-Bīdān , which means "land of the whites", and Ard as-Sūdān , "land of the blacks". However, these often used terms are not thought of in a pejorative way . The classification is more economic-traditional than ethnic. In fact, many black Africans belong to the nomadic world, the designation "Moors" or "Bīdān" applies to all those nomadic groups that have been culturally Arabized - regardless of their ethnic origin, including the " Moors " with a black African background. The category “Black Africans” (négro africains) includes all non-Arabic-speaking Mauritanians. An even more extensive classification propagated by black nationalists also includes the Arabic-speaking Haratins as “Black Mauritanians(négro-Mauritaniens) , with the intention of being able to form a larger front against the “white” Mauritanians. Today, Islam is seen as a bond between the various ethnic groups and is the only popular legitimation for any law.

In 2017, 3.8% of the population was born abroad. Most of the foreigners come from Mali, Senegal and France.


The only official language today is Arabic ; French , officially spoken during the colonial period, has been preserved as the language of work, trade and education. French is the language of instruction alongside Arabic.

Most spoken is Hassania , the Moorish variety of Arabic. The West Atlantic languages Pulaar and Wolof as well as the Mande language Soninke are also recognized national languages. In addition, the Berber languages Imeraguen and Zenaga are spoken, but they are almost extinct.


Almost 100 percent of the population are now Sunni Muslims who belong to the Maliki school of law. The tiny minority of Mauritanian Christians , predominantly Catholics, play no role in public life.

Social situation

A village in the Sahara in southern Mauritania

Social legislation and the health system are still inadequate. Although there is general compulsory schooling for 6 to 11 year olds, only around 75% of children go to school. The illiteracy rate in 2015 was 58.4% for women and 37.4% for men. In 1983 the University of Nouakchott was founded. It takes a substantial number of foreigners - more than 15% of the workforce in modern industries - to meet the demand for skilled labor. At the same time, more than 600,000 Mauritanians left their country looking for employment in West Africa , the Middle East and Western Europe .

More than any other city, Nouakchott reflects the problems caused by rapid and uncontrolled urbanization . Initially established as a small central administrative office with around 30,000 inhabitants in 1959, it already reached more than 40,000 inhabitants in 1970 and grew by 15 to 20% per year in the 1970s. This rapid growth continues at the beginning of the 21st century: in 2005 the city had just under a million inhabitants. The resulting lack of water and housing is a major problem. Most of the newcomers end up in so-called kebbas (suburbs), which have emerged in the vicinity of the capital. In 1983 a French researcher estimated that more than 40% of the population of Nouakchott lived in the kebbas and that the proportion would continue to increase. The Mauritanian government tried to solve this problem by offering soil, seeds and transportation to all those willing to return to the rural areas. The implementation of the ambitious program proved difficult in view of the permanent drought .

The White Moors elite have long held most of the political power, while an estimated hundreds of thousands of Black Moors still live in slavery and the Soudans have been oppressed. Conflicts between white Moors and Soudans culminated in 1989 when tens of thousands of Soudans fled across the border into Senegal following attacks. In 2007, the new Mauritanian government signed an agreement with Senegal to allow these refugees to return.


Slavery in Mauritania continues despite its repeated official abolition - most recently in 2007 - and affects the descendants of people who were enslaved generations ago and who have not yet been released. The number of slaves in the country is estimated to be on the order of hundreds of thousands. The proportion of slaves in the total population is the highest in the world.


Around 48% of the population (women: 59 and men: 37%) are illiterate despite increasing primary school attendance . In 2013, the country only spent 2.9% of its already small economic output on education. The school system used to be divided into a (dominant) Arabic-speaking and a (smaller) French-speaking branch. Since 1999, all classes in the first year of primary school have been in Arabic , but French classes have become compulsory for all pupils and students. Science subjects are generally taught in French at universities. The country owns the University of Nouakchott , the École Normale Superieure de Nouakchott and the Chinguetti Modern University . Public health spending was 10.1% of government spending over the period 2000–2007. The proportion of working children among the ten to fifteen year olds was probably over 20% in 2000; Child slavery is common.


The life expectancy at birth is about 62 years (2015). In 2004, health care expenditure was US $ 43 per capita (purchasing power parity). Public health expenditure was 2% of GDP in 2004 and private health expenditure was 0.9% of GDP. In the early 21st century there were 11 doctors for every 100,000 people. The infant mortality rate was 7.8% of live births.

The largest and most modern hospital is the Center Hospitalier National de Nouakchott (National Hospital ) in the state capital, completed in 2001 . In 1995, the regional hospital in Kaédi ( Hôpital de Kaédi ) received an architecture prize for its ecologically adapted design .

Different ethnic groups in Mauritania practice female genital mutilation to varying degrees . From the results of the Mauritanian population and health study (EDSM - Enquête Démographique et de la Santé) of 2000/01, GTZ concludes that 71% of women and girls are affected. A law from December 2005 now makes “an intervention in the sexual organs of a female child” a punishable offense, “if it has suffered damage as a result”. The Association des Imams et des Oulémas issued a fatwa against female genital mutilation in 2006 . In contrast to most other African countries, AIDS is not a major problem in Mauritania. In 2015 only 0.5% of the population was affected.

Due to the insecure food security in the country, almost 20% of children under the age of five were underweight in 2012.

Development of life expectancy in Mauritania

Period Life expectancy Period Life expectancy
1950-1955 38.6 1985-1990 57.8
1955-1960 41.7 1990-1995 58.9
1960-1965 45.2 1995-2000 59.9
1965-1970 47.3 2000-2005 60.3
1970-1975 50.2 2005-2010 61.3
1975-1980 52.7 2010-2015 62.6
1980-1985 55.8

Source: UN


The earliest evidence of settlement by nomadic Berbers and black African peoples can be found as early as 10,000 BC. The country name is derived from the Saharan tribe of the Moors . Hence the names of the Roman provinces on the African Mediterranean coast, Mauretania Tingitana and Mauretania Caesariensis , which geographically have nothing to do with today's country of Mauritania.

When Arab warriors carried Islam into the Maghreb in the 7th century , nothing changed in the life of the international community south of the Sahara . Islam spread along the trade and caravan routes through the Sahara, but remained a religion of "foreign traders" for centuries until the upper class in African urban communities became interested in this religion and converted to Islam. Even when the great empires of West Africa converted to Islam in the 11th century and Islam continued to invade the area from Lake Chad (Kanem-Bornu) and the Niger ( Gana , Songhai , Mali ) , the life of the traditional religions remained animistic Rural population preserved. Muslims had - as reported from the Niger Arc - their own city away from the royal city, they led an independent life within the kingdoms, and if the ruler and his family converted to Islam, then this did not also mean the Islamization of the connected throughout the state. Chinguetti was considered the seventh holiest site in Islam and for a long time was the religious center of a large area and a meeting point for pilgrims on their way to Mecca .

At the beginning of the 11th century, Islamic Moors founded the Almoravid Empire, which in its heyday in the 11th and 12th centuries also incorporated the Empire of Gana and extended to the Ebro in Spain . This empire collapsed in 1147; the north of Mauritania remained loosely connected with Morocco , the south with Mali. Towards the end of the 15th century then began the nomadic Kunta - Arabs the lesson again to preach Islam. Around the middle of the 16th century, the Qadiriyya Brotherhood, which also included the Kunta Arabs, began to spread Islam throughout western Sudan . It was only during this time that Islam changed from a mere “ruling religion” to the religion of the individual, but non-Islamic rulers ruled in old Muslim strongholds until the 18th century. Then began a reform of Islam among the Fulbe and other tribes, which went hand in hand with ideologization and radicalization.

Colonial times

Since the country's coast was poorly accessible and the colonial powers had no knowledge of the mineral resources available for centuries, they showed little interest in Mauritania until the end of the 19th century (cf. Arguin ). At the turn of the 20th century, the French began to subjugate the country from the south, which for them was primarily of strategic importance as a link between West and North African possessions. In 1904 the area became French territory as part of French West Africa (AOF), and in 1920 a French colony, but it was not until 1934 that the French succeeded in suppressing the last uprisings in the north. After the Second World War , Mauritania became an overseas province as part of the French decolonization policy and thus a member of the Union française .

According to the Loi Lamine Guèye of 1946, all citizens had the right to vote in elections to the French parliament and also in local elections. The right to stand as a candidate was not specifically mentioned in the law, but it was not excluded either. In the elections to the Paris Parliament, French West Africa , which included Mauritania, had no two-tier suffrage as in other French colonies, but there was for all local elections. Until 1955 there were still areas in the east of the country that were unknown to Europeans: In that year the French Théodore Monod was the first European to cross the El Djouf region. On June 23, 1956, still under French administration, the loi-cadre Defferre was introduced, which confirmed universal suffrage. The first elections took place in 1957. In 1959 Mokhtar Ould Daddah became head of government.


Despite Moroccan claims to Mauritania , the country received its independence on November 28 (national holiday) 1960. On May 20, 1961, active and passive women's suffrage was adopted in the now independent state. Ould Daddah, who could also be called "Father of the Fatherland", was also President from 1961 and from 1964 General Secretary of the Parti du Peuple Mauritania (PPM), which was formed from several parties. The disputes of the neighboring countries over the ownership of the former Spanish overseas province of Spanish Sahara ( Western Sahara ), which had existed since around 1970, ended in 1976 after Spain withdrew from the territory with the annexation by Morocco and Mauritania. Since then, the Saharan guerrilla movement Polisario has been fighting to establish its own state. This conflict had catastrophic economic consequences for Mauritania, which ultimately led to the fall of Ould Daddah in 1978 and the ban on the PPM. In August 1979, Mauritania relinquished all claims to the Western Sahara Territory. In the years that followed, Mauritania saw several overturns and government reshuffles. Colonels Mustafa Ould Salek (1978–1979), Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Louly (1979–1980) and Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla (1980–1984) ruled successively . Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya came to power on December 12, 1984 . In early 1991 he announced a democratic transformation of the country. In accordance with a constitution passed in July 1991, free parliamentary and presidential elections took place in 1992, but these were contested by the opposition.

2005 military coup

Due to the permanent stagnation and the lack of reforms, there were repeated attempts at coups against Taya, which were finally successful on August 3, 2005. On that day, a group of officers called the Military Council for Justice and Democracy ( Conseil Militaire pour la Justice et la Démocratie CMJD) occupied the army headquarters, the headquarters of the state radio and television, as well as the ministries and the presidential palace in Nouakchott and declared President Taya deposed. The putschists had taken advantage of Taya's stay abroad on the occasion of the funeral of King Fahd in Saudi Arabia and suspended the constitution. Taya did not return to Mauritania, but found a place in Qatar after stops in Niger and Gambia . The coup plotters appointed Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall , the long-time chief of police and intelligence , as the country's new leader. The new military government announced that it would introduce democratic conditions in Mauritania within two years. Colonel Vall was appointed chairman of the 17-member military council and thus head of state and government. On August 5, Mauritania was temporarily excluded from the African Union (AU) “pending the restoration of constitutional order” .

In a constitutional referendum in June 2006, a new, more democratic constitution was approved by the population. The first round of parliamentary elections took place on November 19 with a turnout of 69.5%, the second round on December 3, 2006. The members of the military government had promised in the run-up to the elections not to run for public office themselves. Almost half of the seats were won by independent candidates, including many members of the former ruling party who did not want to be associated with the overthrown regime and Islamists whose parties had been banned. In the run-up to the elections, the opposition and civil society groups had accused the military government of weakening the established parties and promoting independent candidacies in order to preserve a greater influence on the political process. Election observers described the elections as free and fair. On January 21 and February 4, 2007, the Senate was elected in indirect elections by 3,688 local councils.

In the presidential elections on March 11, none of the 20 candidates was able to achieve the absolute majority required. Former finance minister Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi , who was considered a candidate for the military government and had lived abroad for 15 years, achieved the best result with a turnout of 70.2% with 24.8% of the votes, just ahead of the candidate from the opposition CFCD, Ahmed Ould Daddah , with 20.7%. Daddah is a half-brother of Mauritania's first post-independence president, Mokhtar Ould Daddah . Since 2000, Daddah had become the main opponent of the ousted President Taya and had been imprisoned several times. The third strongest candidate was the former central bank chief Zeine Ould Zeidane . While the two candidates from the black African minority did astonishingly well with eight to almost ten percent, the two candidates from the Islamist camp fell well short of expectations with just under two to almost eight percent. The runoff election on March 25th, with a turnout of 67.4%, resulted in Abdallahi's victory, which won 52.9% of the vote after Zeidane and other candidates recommended his election to their supporters. Daddah recognized his defeat. On April 19, Abdallahi appointed Zeidane as the new Prime Minister.

After the 2008 military coup

On August 6, 2008, there was a new military coup against the country's president and head of government. The military had brought both politicians into their power in the capital Nouakchott. First the French Foreign Office announced that a group of Mauritanian generals had arrested the head of government, Yahya Ould Ahmed El Waghef. Eyewitnesses told foreign press representatives of troop movements in Nouakchott. Accordingly, the radio and television stations stopped their broadcasts. The military junta was led by four high-ranking officers who had recently been dismissed for opposing an increasing turn to Islamist forces. The self-proclaimed “Council of State” made up of eleven members of the army is led by the former commander of the Presidential Guard, General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz . Previously, only 69 of the 95 members of parliament called for President Abdallahi's resignation.

Presidential elections 2009 to 2019

On July 18, 2009, presidential elections were held for the first time since the coup. There were nine candidates, including former junta leader Aziz. The election was monitored by 250 international observers. On July 20, the Ministry of the Interior announced that Abdel Aziz had won 52.6 percent of the vote. This was the election winner. The four most promising competitors accused Aziz of electoral fraud.

In the second presidential election after the coup, which took place in June 2014, Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz received more than 80 percent of the votes cast, according to the provisional official count. The turnout this time was more than 56 percent. Aziz had four opponents, with the larger opposition parties calling for a boycott of the election.

Six candidates ran for the election on June 22, 2019. The previous incumbent Abdel Aziz was not allowed to run again. His party colleague Mohamed Ould Ghazouani received the required absolute majority of the votes in the first ballot and was inducted into his new office in August. Since then, the new president has distanced himself further and further from his predecessor and isolated him from political influence. At the same time, Ghazouani is cultivating a more inclusive political style by consulting more often with representatives of civil society and the opposition.


The Islam is the state religion . Islamic law ( Sharia ) applies . A Muslim who converts to another religion is threatened with the death penalty under Article 306 of the Criminal Code for apostasy ( Ridda ) , which has not yet been imposed. Mauritania is a member of the United Nations , the African Union ( AU ), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Union of the Arab Maghreb (UAM) and the Arab League . It was one of the few member states of the Arab League that had diplomatic relations with the State of Israel . Israel had an embassy in the capital of Mauritania until it was closed after previous protests against the Gaza war in 2009 under pressure from the Arab League and has not yet been reopened.

Political system

According to the 2006 constitution, Mauritania is a presidential Islamic republic . The parliament consists of the National Assembly , whose 95 members are elected every five years, and the Senate, whose 56 members (three representatives of Mauritanians abroad) are elected indirectly every six years. The head of state is elected directly by the people every five years. It appoints and dismisses the government. Men and women have the right to vote from the age of 18. After the last parliamentary elections in 2006, the Coalition des Forces du Changement Démocratique (CFCD) won a total of 41 seats, the former ruling party Parti Républicain, Démocrate et Social (PRDS) only seven and other parties and independent candidates a total of 47 seats. In the Senate, the independents have 38 and the CFCD 15 seats.

In the 2019 democracy index of the British magazine The Economist, Mauritania ranks 116th out of 167 countries and is considered an "authoritarian regime".

Human rights

In its 2010 annual report, the human rights organization Amnesty International made particular reference to disproportionate violence and systematic torture against demonstrators, prisoners and the civilian population. Amnesty International continued to receive reports of harsh and arbitrary penalties in 2009. The prisons are overcrowded.

A UN Special Rapporteur on modern forms of slavery, including their causes and consequences, visited Mauritania in October and November 2009. She praised the efforts of the government and civil society to end slavery. At the same time, however, she underlined that an approach to combating all forms of discrimination and poverty had to be found that was based on greater holism, cooperation and sustainability. This approach must also encompass the whole of society. Slavery was officially abolished in 1980, but it is still practiced across the country. The anti-slavery organization SOS Esclaves estimates that there are 600,000 slaves in Mauritania. Another UN Special Rapporteur on modern forms of racism expressed concern about the persistent discrimination against Mauritania's black population in politics, economy and society. Mauritania signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2000 , but targeted attacks are still common. On April 19, 2009, security forces mistreated numerous women, including former ministers, parliamentarians and human rights defenders, with kicks and blows. They used sticks and belts. The women had gathered for a sit-in in front of the United Nations Representation in Nouakchott. Former Education Minister Nebghouha Mint Mohamed Vall and her daughter were beaten by the police. Another woman, who was also beaten, passed out and had to be hospitalized.

Child labor is another major problem. According to the United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF , 16% of all 5-14 year old children work. The situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Mauritania is difficult; they are persecuted, threatened and punished. Homosexuality is punishable by death.

In the 2017 press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders , Mauritania was ranked 55th out of 180 countries. According to the non-governmental organization, there are “recognizable problems” with the situation of press freedom in the country, but it is one of the better in Africa.

After the Corruption Perception Index ( Corruption Perceptions Index ) of Transparency International was Mauritania in 2017 by 180 countries, along with Bangladesh , Kenya , Guatemala and Lebanon on the 143rd place, with 28 of a maximum of 100 points.


The Mauritanian Armed Forces comprise 15,870 soldiers. The military is divided into the armed forces army , air force and navy . In 2016, Mauritania spent just under 4.1 percent of its economic output or 136 million US dollars on its armed forces.

Administrative division

Nouakchott Trarza Dakhlet Nouadhibou Brakna Gorgol Guidimaka Assaba Tagant Inchiri Hodh El Gharbi Adrar Tiris Zemmour Hodh Ech Chargui Senegal Mali Marokko Spanien (Kanarische Inseln) Westsahara: de-facto teils zu Marokko und vollständig von Marokko beansprucht Algerien
Map with the regions of Mauritania

Mauritania is divided into 15 regions, three of which form the capital Nouakchott. In addition to the names of the regions, the following list shows the associated capitals in brackets.

  1. Adrar ( Atar )
  2. Assaba ( Kiffa )
  3. Brakna ( Aleg )
  4. Dakhlet Nouadhibou ( Nouadhibou )
  5. Gorgol ( Kaédi )
  6. Guidimaka ( selibaby )
  7. Hodh Ech Chargui ( Néma )
  8. Hodh El Gharbi ( Ayoûn el-Atroûs )
  9. Inchiri ( Akjoujt )
  10. Nouakchott North
  11. Nouakchott Ouest
  12. Nouakchott Sud
  13. Tagant ( Tidjikja )
  14. Tiris Zemmour ( Zouérat )
  15. Trarza ( Rosso )

The regions are further subdivided into départements.

Economy and Infrastructure


Old fishing port in Nouadhibou

Mauritania is one of the poorest countries in the world and suffers from rural exodus, inadequate infrastructure in the cities, poor transport conditions and an uncertain political situation that prevents investments from abroad. The basic industries in Mauritania are agriculture , fishing and ore mining. In terms of mineral resources, the mining of iron ore in the F'dérik / Zouérat area comes first , while copper and gold are mined on a smaller scale near Akjoujt . Since 2006, oil has been extracted from the Chinguetti oil field off the coast in the Atlantic . Millet , legumes , rice and maize are grown using conventional methods in the Senegal Valley, mainly for self-sufficiency ; the cultivation area is limited to only 0.2% of the national area. With the help of new dam projects on the Senegal River, new irrigation areas are to be developed. Livestock farming with sheep , goats , cattle and camels was the main branch of the economy until 1960 and is operated by nomads and in the south by semi-nomadic farmers.

The coastal waters of Mauritania are very rich in fish, but their ability to regenerate is endangered by excessive catches. From 1975 the state-controlled establishment of its own fishing industry began, with the aim of finding a way out of the economic crisis caused by the drought years and the Western Sahara conflict. The fishing zone was extended to 200 miles . Through joint ventures with foreign fishing companies, which the Mauritanian state entered into in 1979, the revenues from the fishing industry in the 1980s and 1990s exceeded the revenues from iron ore exports. Having your own fleet turned out to be less profitable than granting concessions to European, Russian and Chinese fishing companies.

The agriculture contributed 22.5% in 2017, the industry 37.8% and services 39.7% to gross domestic product (GDP) had grown this year by 3.8%. In 2014, however, 50% of the workforce were employed in agriculture and only 1.9% in industry. In 2017, goods worth US $ 2,190 million were imported, primarily petroleum products and industrial products, export products were iron ore , fish and fish products, gold and copper. Mauritania obtained 21% of its imports from Belgium , 11.5% from the UAE , 9.2% from the USA and 7.5% from China . Exports totaled US $ 1,606 million and 31.2% went to China, 14.4% to Switzerland , 10.1% to Spain and 8.2% to Germany. The inflation rate was 2.1% in 2017, the unemployment rate was 11.7% in 2016. The underemployment rate is very high.

In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Mauritania was ranked 137th out of 138 countries (as of 2016-17). In 2017, the country ranked 131st out of 180 countries in the Index for Economic Freedom .

Key figures

All GDP values ​​are given in US dollars ( purchasing power parity ).

year 1990 1995 2000 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
(purchasing power parity)
3.75 billion 4.86 billion 5.91 billion 8.32 billion 10.20 billion 10.76 billion 11.09 billion 11.06 billion 11.73 billion 12.53 billion 13.51 billion 14.56 billion 15.64 billion 15.95 billion 16.42 billion 17.25 billion
GDP per capita
(purchasing power parity)
1,880 2.118 2,235 2,731 3,453 3,545 3,556 3,454 3,571 3,720 3,911 4.116 4,321 4,304 4,328 4,444
GDP growth
... 9.8% −0.4% 9.0% 18.9% 2.8% 1.1% −1.0% 4.8% 4.7% 5.8% 6.1% 5.6% 0.8% 1.6% 3.2%
(in percent)
... 6.5% 3.3% 12.1% 6.2% 7.2% 7.5% 2.2% 6.3% 5.7% 4.9% 4.1% 3.8% 0.5% 1.5% 2.3%
Public debt
(as a percentage of GDP)
... ... 234% 155% 83% 73% 78% 90% 81% 72% 74% 71% 80% 98% 99% 91%


Nouadhibou train station. Iron ore train inland

The entire road network in 2010 comprised around 10,628 km, of which 3,158 km are paved.

The only railway line runs from a mine near F'dérik in the north of the country across the Sahara to the port city of Nouadhibou . The trains that run here are among the longest and heaviest in the world. Over 200  wagons are pulled by up to four locomotives . The cargo: up to 21,000  tons of iron ore . The greatest enemy of the railroad is sand . A desanding squad is stationed every hundred kilometers, whose task it is to shovel the tracks that have been filled in with sand . The sand is so aggressive that the tracks and wear parts of the train only have a sixth of their normal lifespan.

The only international airport regularly served from abroad is in Nouakchott . Nouadhibou and the oasis city of Atar have international airports with irregular or seasonal connections abroad.

State budget

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures equivalent to US $ 1,430 million , which was offset by revenues equivalent to US $ 1,143 million. This corresponds to a budget deficit of 8.1% of GDP. The national debt was 99.6% of GDP in 2016.

In 2006, the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was as follows:


The culture of the Moors is shaped by the formerly dominant nomadic way of life. The highly developed handicraft tradition produced jewelry and household items (wooden bowl gdah ) intended for life in a tent ( chaima ) and for transport by camels (riding saddle rahla ). In the tent, the luggage is stored on a frame ( amchaqab ). The armrest cushion surmije was taken over from the tent in the common rooms of the houses. Handicraft centers are Boutilimit (silver and leather goods) and Mederdra (wood carving and blacksmithing) in the Trarza administrative region .

The demanding music of the Bidhan historically belongs to the ruling class of the Hassani (warrior caste) and is influenced by Arabic music . The complex music theory is based on the musical possibilities of the inland spit lute tidinit , which is only played by men. Women play the ardin bow harp as the only melody instrument . The usual rhythm instrument for women is the kettle drum t'bol . Professional musicians traditionally belong to the Iggāwen (Sing. Iggīw ) musician caste , who, according to their social function as storytellers , are counted among the West African griot . In today's urban music scene, the tidinit has largely been replaced by the louder-sounding electric guitar .

The Arab-West African influenced folk music of the Haratin and craftsmen ( maʿllemīn ) differs from the music of the Bidhan. Her musical instruments for private entertainment are the single-stringed calabash skewer lute gambra (cf. gimbri ) and the single-stringed string lute rbāb (cf. ribāb ). There are also various flutes and percussion instruments, such as the calabash rattle daghumma . The music of the black African Soudans is based on the musical styles of Mali and Senegal.

Due to the dry and hot desert climate, vegetables usually have to be imported to Mauritania at great expense, which is why they are rarely on the menu in Mauritanian cuisine. Fish and seafood are also rarely on the table, although Mauritania is on the Atlantic. Popular types of meat are beef, lamb and chicken, but pigeons and antelopes are also popular.

In Mauritania, couscous is the national dish . Other typical Mauritanian specialties are Maru we-llham (rice with meat) and Al mechwi (meat cooked in heated sand). Popular drinks are tea, which is usually heavily sweetened, as well as milk, sour milk and zrig , a chilled drink made from yogurt or milk, water and sugar. A cooking culture could not develop in a nomadic everyday life, which was characterized by the search for pastureland, water and always by scarcity. The basic food in the desert is camel or cow milk and dates . It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the tea culture from Morocco spread across the entire country and green tea with peppermint became the national drink.


Web links

Commons : Mauritania  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Mauritania  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikimedia Atlas: Mauritania  - geographical and historical maps
Wikivoyage: Mauritania  - Travel Guide

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Coordinates: 20 °  N , 11 °  W