World Travelling Guide
World Travelling Guide



Accommodation in Southern Africa and South Africa including accommodation in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo Province, North West Province, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga

List of Countries
Map of Africa

Mauritania Travelling Guide
Mauritania Travelling Guide

General background: Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976, but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991. Two multiparty presidential elections since then were widely seen as flawed, but October 2001 legislative and municipal elections were generally free and open. Mauritania remains, in reality, a one-party state. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions between its black minority population and the dominant Maur (Arab-Berber) populace.

Area comparative: Slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico.

Climate: Desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty

Terrain: Mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills

Population: 2,828,858 (July 2002 est.)

Ethnic groups: Mixed Maur/Black 40%, Maur 30%, Black 30%

Religions: Muslim 100%

Language: Hassaniya Arabic (official), Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof (official), French

Government type: Republic

Capital: Nouakchott

Legal system: A combination of Shari'a (Islamic law) and French civil law.

Economic overview: Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for half of total exports. The decline in world demand for this ore, however, has led to cutbacks in production. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In the past, drought and economic mismanagement resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In February, 2000, Mauritania qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and in December 2001 received strong support from donor and lending countries at a triennial Consultative Group review. Mauritania withdrew its membership in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 2000 and subsequently increased commercial ties with Arab Maghreb Union members Morocco and Tunisia, most notably in telecommunications. In 2001, exploratory oil wells in tracts 80 km offshore indicated potential viable extraction at current world oil prices. However, the refinery in Nouadhibou historically has not exceeded 20% of its distillation capacity, and it handled no crude in the year 2000. A new Investment Code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment.

Communication/Telephone system: Limited system of cable and open-wire lines, minor microwave radio relay links, and radiotelephone communications stations (improvements being made).

Places of interest: There are some nice spots for fishing, bird-watching and even surfing along the coast and a few caravan towns in the interior that might be of interest.

Travel tips: There are several disputes, landmines and conflict along the borders.