Berbers moved south into the area of today's Mauritania beginning in the 3rd century. Beginning in the 8th century, Mauritania experienced a slow but constant infiltration of Arabs and Arab influence from the north, pressing the Berbers, who resisted assimilation, to move farther south. One particular Arab group, the Bani Hassan, continued to migrate southward until, by the end of the 17th century, they dominated the entire country. Having finally been defeated, Berber groups turned to clericalism to regain a degree of ascendancy. At the bottom of the social structure were the slaves, subservient to both the Arabic warriors and Islamic Berber holy men. All of the social rivalries were fully exploited by the French as they colonized Mauritania in the late 19th century. 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. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA seized power in a coup in 1984 and ruled Mauritania with a heavy hand for more than two decades. A series of presidential elections that he held were widely seen as flawed. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council that oversaw a transition to democratic rule. Independent candidate Sidi Ould Cheikh ABDALLAHI was inaugurated in April 2007 as Mauritania's first freely and fairly elected president. His term ended prematurely in August 2008 when a military junta led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel AZIZ deposed him and installed a military council government. AZIZ was subsequently elected president in 2009 and reelected in 2014 to a second and final term. He was replaced in 2019 by Mohamed Cheikh El GHAZOUANI. The country continues to experience ethnic tensions among three major groups: Arabic-speaking descendants of slaves (Haratines), Arabic-speaking "White Moors" (Beydane), and members of Sub-Saharan ethnic groups mostly originating in the Senegal River valley (Halpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof). Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) launched a series of attacks in Mauritania between 2005 and 2011, murdering American and foreign tourists and aid workers, attacking diplomatic and government facilities, and ambushing Mauritanian soldiers and gendarmes. A successful strategy against terrorism that combines dialogue with the terrorists and military actions has prevented the country from further terrorist attacks since 2011. However, AQIM and similar groups remain active in neighboring Mali and elsewhere in the Sahel region and continue to pose a threat to Mauritanians and foreign visitors.



20.0° N, 12. 0° W
Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara


1,030,700 sq km
1,030,700 sq km
0 sq km

land boundaries

5,002 km


754 km


desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty


mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills


276 m
lowest point
Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha
-5 m
highest point
Kediet Ijill
915 m

natural resources

  • iron ore
  • gypsum
  • copper
  • phosphate
  • diamonds
  • gold
  • oil
  • fish

land use

arable land
0.4 %
permanent crops
0 %
permanent pasture
38.1 %
0.2 %
61.3 %

population distribution

with most of the country being a desert, vast areas of the country, particularly in the central, northern, and eastern areas, are without sizeable population clusters; half the population lives in or around the coastal capital of Nouakchott; smaller clusters are found near the southern border with Mali and Senegal



  • 4,005,475
  • 128
    global rank


  • Mauritanian(s)
  • Mauritanian

ethnic groups

black Moors
40 %
white Moors
30 %
Sub-Saharan Mauritanians
30 %


  • Arabic
    official and national
  • Pular
  • Soninke
  • Wolof
    all national languages
  • French


100 %

birth rate

  • 29
    per 1,000 population
  • 36
    global rank

death rate

  • 7.5
    per 1,000 population
  • 105
    global rank

urban population

55.3 %

major urban areas

  • Nouakchott
    pop. 1,315,000

life expectancy

  • 64.5
    total population
  • 201
    global rank

adult obesity rate

  • 12.7%
    percent of adults
  • 132
    global rank


country name


  • Islamic Republic of Mauritania
    long form
  • Mauritania
    short form


  • Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah
    long form
  • Muritaniyah
    short form

government type

presidential republic


18.4 N, 15.58 W


national holidays

  • Independence Day
    28 November

legal system

mixed legal system of Islamic and French civil law

age of suffrage


flag description

green with a yellow, five-pointed star between the horns of a yellow, upward-pointing crescent moon; red stripes along the top and bottom edges; the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam; green also represents hope for a bright future; the yellow color stands for the sands of the Sahara; red symbolizes the blood shed in the struggle for independence

national colors

  • green
  • yellow

national anthem

"Hymne National de la Republique Islamique de Mauritanie" (National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania)



Mauritania's economy is dominated by extractive industries (oil and mines), fisheries, livestock, agriculture, and services. Half the population still depends on farming and raising livestock, even though many nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s, 1980s, 2000s, and 2017. Recently, GDP growth has been driven largely by foreign investment in the mining and oil sectors. Mauritania's extensive mineral resources include iron ore, gold, copper, gypsum, and phosphate rock, and exploration is ongoing for tantalum, uranium, crude oil, and natural gas. Extractive commodities make up about three-quarters of Mauritania's total exports, subjecting the economy to price swings in world commodity markets. Mining is also a growing source of government revenue, rising from 13% to 30% of total revenue from 2006 to 2014. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, and fishing accounts for about 15% of budget revenues, 45% of foreign currency earnings. Mauritania processes a total of 1,800,000 tons of fish per year, but overexploitation by foreign and national fleets threaten the sustainability of this key source of revenue. The economy is highly sensitive to international food and extractive commodity prices. Other risks to Mauritania's economy include its recurring droughts, dependence on foreign aid and investment, and insecurity in neighboring Mali, as well as significant shortages of infrastructure, institutional capacity, and human capital. In December 2017, Mauritania and the IMF agreed to a three year agreement under the Extended Credit Facility to foster economic growth, maintain macroeconomic stability, and reduce poverty. Investment in agriculture and infrastructure are the largest components of the country’s public expenditures.


17,280,000,000 USD

agriculture products

  • dates
  • millet
  • sorghum
  • rice
  • corn
  • cattle
  • camel
  • sheep

poverty level



  • 1,354,000,000
    revenue (USD)
  • 1,396,000,000
    expenditures (USD)



    fixed lines

  • 59,959
    total subscriptions
  • 156
    global rank

    mobile cellular

  • 4,566,502
    total subscriptions
  • 124
    global rank

broadcast media

10 TV stations: 5 government-owned and 5 private; in October 2017, the government suspended all private TV stations due to non-payment of broadcasting fees; as of April 2018, only one private TV station was broadcasting, Al Mourabitoune, the official TV of the Mauritanian Islamist party, Tewassoul; the other stations are negotiating payment options with the government and hope to be back on the air soon; 18 radio broadcasters: 15 government-owned, 3 (Radio Nouakchott Libre, Radio Tenwir, Radio Kobeni) private; all 3 private radio stations broadcast from Nouakchott; of the 15 government stations, 3 broadcast from Nouakchott (Radio Mauritanie, Radio Jeunesse, Radio Koran) and the other 12 broadcast from each of the 12 regions outside Nouakchott; Radio Jeunesse and Radio Koran are now also being re-broadcast in the regions (2019)


country code


  • 798,809
  • 20.8
    % of population
  • 145
    global rank


electricity access



air transport

    national system

  • 1
    registered air carriers
  • 248,158
    annual passenger traffic


  • 30
  • 9


728 km
total length


12,253 km
total length



expenditures here

service age