Mauritania

This Arab Maghreb country is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest. It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which later became a province of the Roman Empire. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast. Sitting mostly between latitudes 14° and 26°N, and longitudes 5o and 17oW (small areas are east of 5° and west of 17°), Mauritania became an independent nation on 28 November 1960. The official language spoken is Arabic, which is also the national language, and the official currency is the Ouguiya.

The principal ethnic majority are the Moor or Maure who account for 81.5% of the population. The remainder belongs to the Fulbe, Toucouleur, Soninke, Wolof and Bambara tribal groups.

Notable Places to Visit

Banc d'Arguin National Park

This Nature reserve lies on the west coast of Mauritania between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. Also a World Heritage Site, it is is an important stopover and a major breeding site for multitudes of migratory birds. Much of the breeding is on sand banks including the islands of Tidra, Niroumi, Nair, Kijji and Arguim. The surrounding waters are some of the richest fishing waters in western Africa and serve as nesting grounds for the entire western region. The park extends 200km (124mi) north from Cape Timiris. The feathered residents include broad-billed sandpipers, over two million of which have been recorded here in the winter. Other species include pink flamingos, white pelicans, grey pelicans, royal terns, gull-billed terns, black terns, white-breasted cormorants, spoonbills and several species of herons, egrets and waders. The best viewing time is December and January, which is also the mating season. The best way to see them is by traditional fishing boat, called a lanche - a recommended, ecofriendly excursion. The park's vast expanses of mudflats provide a home for over two million migrant shorebirds from northern Europe, Siberia and Greenland heading for Southern Africa.

Ancient Cities of the Sahara 

CHINGUETTI  Regarded as the 7th Holy City of Islam, Chinguetti was a religious centre and famous intellectual with many Koranic schools and universities. The city attracted many scientists. A caravan city, Chinguetti played a significant commercial role. The influence of Chinguetti largely exceeded the borders of current Mauritania. Its scholars were renowned as far as the Orient. The Libraries of Chinguetti contain hundreds of invaluable manuscripts and well preserved according to traditional methods. They are jealously protected within family libraries. This sleepy date-palm oasis, once a splendid Saharan trading city is situated at the edge of fat, rolling dunes that fill the horizon. It's Mauritania's biggest tourist destination, mainly because it's the most accessible of the desert towns, with the most to see, and a popular starting point for desert treks. The highlight of any visit is a wander through the labyrinthine lanes of Le Ksar (the old town). The modern town, which has a delightful market, is separated from the old town by a broad, flat wadi where palm trees grow.

 

OUADANE  Ouadane attracts visitors by the architecture of its houses built in cliffs. The first glimpse of the city classified as part of the World Inheritance to humanity by UNESCO, is arresting. The old quarter that stretches atop the hill is one of the most enchanting semi-ghost towns of the Sahara. As you arrive across the sands or plateau from Atâr or Chinguetti, the stone houses of Le Ksar al Kiali (old quarter) seem to tumble down the cliff like an apparition. From the base of the town, the lush gardens of the oasis stretch out before the desert again takes hold. Ouadâne was founded in 1147 by Berbers, and sits on the edge of the Adrar plateau. For 400 years, it was a prosperous caravan centre and a transit point for dates, salt and gold. Like Chinguetti, Ouadâne was a place of scholarship and is home to over 3000 manuscripts held in 23, mostly private, libraries. There's also a small museum housing various artefacts from the ancient caravans.

OUALATA  Oualata or Walata is a small oasis town in south east Mauritania that was important in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries as the southern terminus of a trans-Saharan trade route. It is a World Heritage Site. The town originally formed part of the Ghana Empire and grew wealthy through trade. At the beginning of the thirteenth century Oualata replaced Aoudaghost as the principal southern terminus for the trans-Saharan trade and developed into an important commercial and religious centre. By the fourteenth century the city had become part of the Mali Empire.

The Oasis at Terjit

An oasis that nestles in a cut on the edge of an arid plateau, and stretches a few hundred metres alongside a stream that emerges from the rock. There is a modest fee to enter and tourists can pay to stay in tents in the palm grove. The area sandy, alongside a freshwater stream, nestling in a narrow gorge beneath a massive cliff face, which is covered in Maidenhead Ferns and stalactites.

National Museum

Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania is known for its traditional Berber architectural style buildings The museum showcasing important pieces of art and artifacts allows visitors to experience and understand the history and culture that was prevalent in Mauritania. It is located just to the southwest of Hotel Mercure Marhaba, west of Hotel de Ville, northwest of Parc Deydouh and northeast of Mosque Ould Abas. It has notable archaeological and ethnographical collections.  There are two galleries that showcase collections of sherds, arrowheads, and local costumes.

Other top places to visit in Nouakchott include the Mousquee Saudique Plage du Wharf, Kasr and its African and camel markets. Besides this, the Maison de la Culture, crafts center and carpet factory are also worth visiting.

 

Notable Events

  • African Liberation Day
  • National Independence Day
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