Mauritanian Islamic Republic
Al-Jumhuriyah al-Islamiyah al-Muritaniyah
République Islamique de Mauritanie



Located in northwestern Africa, bordered by Western Sahara (occupied by Morocco) and Algeria on the north, by Mali on the east and south, by Senegal on the southwest, and by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the country has an area of 1,030,700 square kilometers (398,000 square miles), making it slightly larger than 3 times the size of New Mexico. Its total estimated boundary length is 5,828 kilometers (3,622 miles), including 754 kilometers (469 miles) of coast on the Atlantic Ocean. The capital, Nouakchott, is situated on the Atlantic coast in the southwest.


The population of Mauritania was 2,667,859 in 2000. Its average population density was 2 inhabitants per square kilometer (5.18 per square mile) in 1994, or the third lowest in the world. Deserts occupy 90 percent of the territory; 90 percent of the population lives in the south, along the Senegal River and the Atlantic Ocean. In 2000, the birth rate was 43.36 per 1,000 population, while the death rate equaled 13.97 per 1,000. With a fertility rate of 6.29 children born per woman, the population growth rate was 2.94 percent. The rapidly growing population is very youthful, with 46 percent below the age of 15 and 2 percent 65 or older.

Arabic-speaking Moors of Arab and Berber ancestry form 30 percent of the population, Arabic-speaking descendants of former slaves of mixed Moor and black African stock comprise 40 percent, and black Africans of the Wolof, Toucouleur (Peul), and Soninke groups constitute 30 percent. While the Moors are traditionally nomadic herders, the black Africans are engaged mostly in agriculture along the Senegal River. Communities are organized in some 150 distinct clans or tribes. Virtually all Mauritanians are Sunni Muslims. Arabic is the official language, though French and several African languages are also widely spoken. Sixty percent of the people lived in urban areas in 2000. The population of Nouakchott, the capital, was 1,070,000 in 1999; other major cities include Nouadhibou, Zouérat, and Kaédi.


Mauritania has no territories or colonies.


Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Mauritania. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. <> . Accessed August 2001.

Handloff, Robert E. Mauritania: A Country Study. 2nd ed.Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1996.

"Mauritania." MBendi: Information for Africa. <> . Accessed August 2001.

United Nations Development Program. Human Development Report, Mauritania. New York, 2000.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <> . Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. Country Commercial Guides for FY2000: Mauritania. <> . Accessed August 2001.

—Valentin Hadjiyski




Ouguiya (UM). One ouguiya equals 5 khoums. There are coins of 1 khoum and 1, 5, 10, and 20 ouguiyas, and notes of 100, 200, 500, and 1,000 ouguiyas.


Fish and fish products, iron ore, gold.


Machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods.


US$4.9 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$425 million (f.o.b., 1997). Imports: US$444 million (f.o.b., 1997).

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