Mauritania (Arabic: موريتانيا Mūrītānyā, Berber: Muritanya or Agawej, Wolof: Gànnaar, Soninke: Murutaane, Pulaar: Moritani), officially known as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (Arabic: الجمهورية الإسلامية الموريتانية al-Jumhūriyyah al-ʾIslāmiyyah al-Mūrītāniyyah, Berber: Tagduda Tislamant n Muritanya ⵜⴰⴳⴷⵓⴷⴰ ⵜⵉⵙⵍⴰⵎⴰⵏⵜ ⵏ ⵎⵓⵔⵉⵜⴰⵏⵢⴰ, French: République Islamique de Mauritanie, Wolof: Republik bu Lislaamu bu Gànnaar), is a West African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean, as well as Mali, Senegal, Algeria, and Western Sahara. It was named after the ancient Kingdom of Mauretania, which was actually located to the north in present-day Morocco. While geographically West African, the country is ethnically and culturally closer to North Africa. It mainly speaks an Arabic variety (Hassaniya Arabic) and is part of the Arab League.
After the Arab conquest of North Africa, control of the area passed back and forth between various Arab, Berber, and sub-Saharan African kingdoms until it was gradually incorporated into the French Empire in the late 19th century. The country achieved independence in late 1960. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, and its prime exports are minerals (especially iron) and fish.
Mauritania has less than 4 million people spread over 1 million km2 of area, making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. This is because more than 75% of the country is desert and less than 1% of the land is suitable for agriculture. Due to climate change and human activities (deforestation, overgrazing, etc.), the desert is getting bigger by the year.
The country is infamous for being one of the last nations on Earth to abolish slavery - but roughly 2% of the population are still illegally enslaved, and a solid half live below the global poverty index (6% live on less than US$1.90 a day). As if illegal slavery and poverty aren't enough, human trafficking, child labour, and female genital mutilation are also major human rights issues.
Mauritania would be better, if not for the fact that the country has a very tumultuous political history since independence, with a dictatorship that lasted 11 years, followed by a 28-year-long military junta rule. Just when the country was getting its act together in 2007, another military coup followed a year later, which placed Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (known for being a leading figure for a coup in August 2005) as president. He eventually won the elections in July 2009 (which he ran for since April). Ould Abdel Aziz was an ally of the West during the recent Islamist insurgency plaguing West Africa and, to his credit, was largely responsible for keeping the country safe from insurgents, as what is currently happening in neighboring Mali. After two terms, he announced that he would not run for president again, paving the way for the first peaceful transfer of power since the country's independence in 2019. The president elected, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, was handpicked by Ould Abdel Aziz, however.
Also, note that many Mauritanian names have Ould in their names. That means "son of" in Hassaniya Arabic and is the equivalent of Bin/Ibn in Eastern Arabic.
- Timbuktu (2014) is the first film from Mauritania to ever get an Oscar nomination for Foreign Language Film. (Timbuktu is actually in Mali.)
The Mauritanian flag