- Continent: Africa
- Area: 1,030,700 km²
- Population: 3,069,000
- Capital city: Nouakchott
- ISO code: MR
- National language: Arabic
- International dialing code: +222
- Currency: Ouguiya
- License plate number: RIM
- Flight routes from Mauritania: 315
- Flight routes to Mauritania: 303
- Popular airports: Nouadhibou (NDB), Nouakchott (NKC), Zouerate (OUZ)
- Large cities: Nouakchott, Hassi Guendres, Zreïg, Zreïf el Azra, Zréf, Zouérat, Ziouaz, Zénégué Toucouleur, Zénégué Maure, Zénégué Bou, Zegueha, Zaïnat, Youmane Yiré, Yéro Djibel, Yéni
- Airlines based in Mauritania: Mauritania Airlines International, Mauritania Airways
Mauritania travel guide (Africa)
The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is in the north-west of the African continent on the Atlantic Ocean and borders clockwise on Algeria, Mali and Senegal and on Western Sahara, a territory annexed by Morocco. The name of the country is derived from the Phoenician word "Mahurim" meaning “the man of the west”.
Geography: Mauritania consists mainly of a large desert that is interspersed with sand dunes, rocky plateaus, deep canyons and hills. Fertile ground is only to be found in the oases and on the flat coastal plains in the south, which are crossed by the Senegal, a river that also forms the border to the neighbouring Senegal. The Senegal is also the only river in the country to contain water throughout the year; otherwise there are also a few wadis in the country that contain water at some times of the year.
Mountains and rivers: the highest point in Mauritania is the 915 m (3000 ft) high Kediet Ijill near Zouérat, the largest city in the north of the country. The longest river in Mauritania is the Senegal in the south of the country with a length of about 1,430 km (888 km).
Climate and best time to visit: Mauritania has a very hot and dry desert climate with hardly any rainfall. The extremely hot air may reach temperatures of 50°C in the interior of the country, and this is further exacerbated by the hot desert wind, the Harmattan, in the summer months. The south on the border to Senegal is the only part of the country with a rainy season between the months of July and October. This is why Mauritania, with the exception of the far south, is a good travel destination throughout the year. The coast is the only region where the climate is refreshing and physically bearable. Here, a cold ocean current from the Canaries means that fog forms in this region every day. This weather phenomenon can also be observed on other westerly coastal region such as the Namib desert or the Atacama desert in the north of Chile.
Language and communication: the official and national language is Arabic. Members of individual tribes also speak Solinke, Pulaar and Wolof. The common language of education is French. English is hardly understood. Knowledge of French is therefore essential when travelling in Mauritania.
Health and vaccinations: vaccination against hepatitis A, typhoid, diphtheria, polio and tetanus is recommended. Long clothing should be worn to provide protection against mosquitoes and other insects, and a locally purchased insect repellent should also be used. There is a high malaria risk in the southern parts of the country especially during the rainy season between July and October. The entire north is, however, free of malaria. Please seek advice from your GP on effective anti-malaria medication. Medical care is only of a sufficient standard in Nouakchott. Visitors are advised to take out comprehensive medical and travel insurance that covers repatriation costs. A first aid kit should be packed and fruit and vegetables peeled or boiled before being eaten
Entry requirements: visas are needed to enter Mauritania and may be obtained from the Mauritanian Embassy in London. Passports must be valid for at least three months from the date of arrival. Some countries ask for documentary evidence of parental responsibility before permitting single parents to enter or leave the country: further information may be obtained from the Mauritanian embassy.
Arrival and onward journey: only the national airline Air Mauritanie (MR) and Air France (AF) currently have non-stop flights going from European airports to the international airport Nouakchott (NKC). All flights leave from Paris (PAR). Air Algerie (AH) fly from many airports such as London (LHR), Frankfurt (FRA) or Brussels (BRU) and involve a stop over in Algiers (ALG). Air Mauritanie serves national airports such as Nouadhibou (NDB), Kiffa (KFA) and Zouerate (OUZ).
Capital city: Nouakchott has 1 million inhabitants and is by far the biggest city in the country and at the same time in the whole of the Sahara. The Nouakchott Museum, the many markets, the old town and the many beautiful beaches on the Atlantic Ocean are all worth seeing.
Places of interest: a large part of Mauritania consists of a dry desert landscape. Mauritania’s beauty is a mixture of West African cultural influences on the coast and the oriental lifestyles in the oases of the Sahara. in particular the traditional Moorish architecture and the different traditional central African musical influences are fascinating and unique due to the fact that Mauritania is directly on the border between Arabic and sub Saharan Africa. This can also be observed in the structure of the population. Artistic expression on the other hand is concentrated on the west Arabic oriental style as the depiction of animal and human forms is forbidden in the Koran.
The caravan cities in the north-western Sahara are under the protection of the UNESCO. These include Ouadane, Chinguetti and Atar, as well as the caravan oases of Qualata and Tichit in the interior and fortresses from the middle ages. Local travel agents also provide longer unforgettable jeep or camel tours from Atar and Chinguetti into the interior of the country. For many visitors these form the highlight of their visit. Not to be missed is the Adrar massif located between the caravan oases. The region consists entirely of pink and brown coloured plateaus with majestic gold coloured sand dunes. The round shaped volcanic crater “Richat Structure” has never erupted and is another of Mauritania’s attractions. It is located near Ouadane and has an unbelievable diameter of almost 50 km that is visible from space.
Mauritania has a large number of prehistoric relics thanks to the conserving climatic conditions. Notable are the unbelievable finds in El Beyed and in Akreijit, that are assumed to date back about 700,000 years along with the rock drawings of El Gleitat and Amogjar. An archaeological highlight is the ruined city of Koumbi Saleh, near Timbefra and the border to Mali in the south of the country. In the 11th century this was the biggest city of the African continent and also the capital of the then realm of "Gana", which controlled all the caravan routes in the central Sahara and which, thanks to its wealth in minerals such as gold, silver and gemstones, was extremely rich.
Ornithologists and animal lovers will get their money’s worth in the national park of Banc d’Arguin. The national park is on the desert coast between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and has been under the protection of the UNESCO since 1989 as it is the biggest bird conservation area in the world. The winter months are especially good for bird watching, as more than 2 million North European migrating birds gather here to breed and spend the winter months. The sand banks and the islands of Kiji, Nair, Tidra and Niroumi with their good fishing opportunities are breeding grounds that are particularly worth seeing. The different forms of landscape are also worth seeing. The park includes sand dunes, coastal swamps, numerous islands and flat coastal waters. Diawling, another of Mauritania’s national parks, is in the southwest on the Senegalese border. This green oasis is a sanctuary for many animals and is famous especially for the large numbers of pelicans, black storks and flamingos. Due to the many sources of water, monkeys, warthogs and wild donkeys may also be watched here.
Religion: the official religion in Mauritania is Sunni Islam with a total of 99%. There is also a small minority of Christians.
Major Cities and accommodation: Nouakchott, Nouadhibou, Rosso, Adel Bagrou, Boghe, Kiffa, Zouerat and Kaedi.