1,030,700 sq km (397,955 sq miles).
3.5 million (2014).
3.4 per sq km.
Head of state:
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz since 2009.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Yahya Ould Hademine since 2014.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are standard.
Mauritania is a mysterious, little-known Saharan country, where temperatures in the dry desert heat can reach 57°C (135°F). Much of the land is dry and inhospitable and many locations are difficult to reach without long journeys in 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Ouadâne, an oasis settlement in the north concealed by waves of coloured sand dunes, contains 3,000 manuscripts and an ancient mosque, justifying its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Northern Mauritania also contains the seventh holiest city of Islam, Chinguetti.
In the Middle Ages, Mauritania hosted the Almoravid movement that spread Islam throughout north Africa. The country has a colourful, indigenous nomad Moorish population.
The coast is an 800km (500 mile) sandy beach, devoid of most vegetation but supporting an astonishingly large and varied population of birds. The Parc National du Banc d’Arguin is a stopover for birds migrating between Europe and Africa.
Though it remains one of the world’s poorest countries, exploitation of Mauritania’s offshore reserves of oil and natural gas could bring prosperity in the future.
Last updated: 19 October 2015
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Demonstrations are generally peaceful, but some have involved clashes with police and the use of tear gas. On 3 March 2014 one person died and at least 15 were injured in Nouakchott during a demonstration over an alleged case of apostasy. You should avoid political gatherings and demonstrations and take local advice about places to avoid. Always observe instructions given by the local security forces.
Crime levels are moderate but steadily increasing. You should avoid the unlit and isolated beach at Nouakchott and ‘Le Cinquième’ district after dark. A number of thefts and violent incidents have been reported there in recent years.
Crossing the border into Mauritania can be time-consuming and officials may ask for payments before they allow you to cross. There have been reports that some southern border crossings were closed at the height of the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea and neighbouring countries. You should check local advice before travelling.
The conditions of paved roads in Mauritania are generally poor, and overland travel is difficult. Use four wheel drive vehicles, check the tide times on coastal roads, travel in convoy and make sure you have adequate supplies of water and fuel. Driving standards can also be poor.
Sailing in the port at Nouadhibou can be dangerous because of the number of shallow shipwrecks.
There is no British Embassy in Mauritania. If you need consular assistance, you can contact the British Embassy in Rabat, Morocco or any EU accredited diplomatic representation (i.e. Embassy) in Nouakchott. Details for the French, German and Spanish Embassies are as follows:
Embassy of France in Mauritania
Telephone: +222 529 96 99
German Embassy in Mauritania
Telephone: +222 525 17 29 / +222 525 10 32
Spanish Embassy in Mauritania
Telephone: +222 529 86 50 / +222 525 20 80 / +222 525 25 79