Video Source: Youtube
Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Before the modern history of Mauritania began with the arrival of France, the country was inhabited by the Berbers, the Moors, and eventually by Arab settlers. In the late 1800s, French explorers arrived and annexed Mauritania as part of its swath of French West Africa. Slavery was abolished during this time, and despite one battle (known as a jihad in Mauritania) against France in 1912, relative peace was assumed. France withdrew from the country in 1960 and Mauritania declared independence, establishing Nouakchott as its capital.
In 1976, Mauritania, along with Morocco, annexed part of Western Sahara, but due to violent attacks by the Western Saharan nationalist group, the Polisario Front, Mauritania retreated in 1979 and Morocco took up its holdings.
Mauritania has witnessed a number of political coups by the military, the latest happening in 2008, when former president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was removed from
his post by troops led by General Muhammed Ould Abd Al-Aziz. Post-coup, in 2009, Abdallahi formally resigned his presidential post and Al-Aziz was voted as president in public elections. However, many African and European countries are still upholding sanctions against Mauritania that were installed after the 2008 coup.
The Top 4: Local Advice
1. Mauritania is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and by Western Sahara, Algeria, Mali, and Senegal along its borders.
2. Mauritania’s official name, reflecting the majority religion in the country, is the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. We advise keeping aware of local customs: women especially should take care to dress either modestly or conservatively. As well, if women are either traveling alone or with a group, take care—individual women should never follow a man alone, whether it’s a police officer or a potential travel guide. Use common sense and remain in public with strangers when you can.
3. Arabic and French are the predominant languages of Mauritania. Learn a few French phrases if you plan to spend the majority of your time in the cities or on the more populated beaches. Wherever you’re traveling, greeting people with the common Arabic phrase salaam aleikum will put you in good graces with anyone you’re communicating with.
4. Mauritania’s currency is called the ouguiya and is abbreviated as MRO. ATM machines are very few and far between, and credit cards are almost universally not accepted. Plan to change money and carry cash with you when arriving in the country. Nouakchott has a number of change bureaus.