Mauritania Country Facts

By | June 20, 2024
موريتانيا‎ Mūrītāniyā
Capital city Nouakchott
Surface 1,030,700 km²
Population 4,301,000
Road network length 2,070 km
Length of highway network 0 km
First highway N/A
Motorway name N/A
Traffic drives Right
License plate code RIM

Mauritania (Arabic: موريتانيا, Mūrītānyā), formally the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (الجمهورية الإسلامية الموريتانية, al-Jumhūrīyah al-Islāmīyah al-Mūrītānīyah) is a large country in western Africa. The country is approximately 26 times the size of the Netherlands and has 4 million inhabitants. The capital is Nouakchott.


Mauritania is a large country in western Africa, located on the Atlantic Ocean. The country borders Morocco (Western Sahara), Algeria, Mali and Senegal clockwise. The country measures a maximum of 1,100 kilometers from west to east and 1,300 kilometers from north to south. The capital Nouakchott is located slightly inland in the west of the country.

Large parts of Mauritania consists of desert, part of the western part of the Sahara. Only the extreme south has a slightly more cultivated character. Sand dunes creep into the capital Nouakchott. The Senegal River forms the border with the country of the same name, this is the only part of Mauritania where agriculture is possible on any scale. Mauritania is relatively flat, with large sandy deserts and rocky terrain with low cliffs here and there. There are a number of low plateaus that lie between 300 and 500 meters. The 915 meter high Kediet ej Jill is the highest point in Mauritania.

Almost the entire country has a hot desert climate with virtually no precipitation. Average maximum temperatures in Nouakchott range from 29°C in winter to 37°C in summer. There is barely 100 mm of precipitation per year, most of which falls in August and September.


Mauritania had only 700,000 inhabitants in 1950, the result of a largely uninhabitable desert. This grew to 2.7 million in 2000 and more than 4 million by 2020. Population growth is growing, especially in and around the capital Nouakchott, which has 1 million inhabitants, almost a quarter of the total Mauritanian population. The only other place with more than 100,000 inhabitants is Nouadhibou.

The population of Mauritania is divided into three primary groups, the Bidhan, Moors and Haratin. Most are of Arab-Berber descent. Arabic is the official language of Mauritania. French is widely spoken in the media and by the more educated part of the population.


Mauritania is rich in raw materials but is a poor country with a very low GDP per inhabitant. The population was traditionally nomadic, but because of the drought and desertification they mainly settled around Nouakchott. Iron ore accounts for approximately 50% of exports, the country also exports oil on a small scale. In 1986, Nouakchott’s first deep-sea port opened, allowing the country to export its raw materials.


The Berbers were the traditional tribes in this region. In the late 19th century, France began to colonize the area from Senegal. From 1920 the area was part of French West Africa, first as a protectorate, later as a colony. In the colonial period, 90% of the population was nomadic and the area actually had no real cities or infrastructure. The capital under the French period was Saint-Louis, which after independence, however, came to lie in Senegal. In 1960 Mauritania became independent from France and Nouakchott became the new capital, which at the time was barely more than a fortress.

Mauritania has had major economic problems since independence. Desertification forced the nomads to abandon their lifestyle and mainly settled around the capital Nouakchott, which grew rapidly but had little infrastructure and facilities. Mauritania also had a conflict in the border area with Senegal in the 1980s. The country is considered a dictatorship where slavery is still prevalent. The country experienced coups in 2005 and 2008.

Road Network

The road network is limited, with only a few main routes, most of which are not completely paved. The difficult climate makes maintaining the road network problematic. In the 2000s, the road from Nouakchott to the northern port city of Nouâdhibou was paved. From Nouakchott you can take four directions, the N2 to Nouâdhibo in the north and Rosso in the south, the N1 to Atâr and the N3 to Kiffa. The paved road leads to Néma in the east. The paved road network is more than 2,000 kilometers long, of which the N1 to N4 make up the lion’s share. In the middle, east and north there are no roads at all.

The road network in Nouakchott is not very developed, but in the center most roads are paved. One problem is walking sand dunes, which flood not only roads, but entire neighbourhoods. A number of 2×2 roads run through Nouakchott, which cross each other by means of roundabouts. Gas stations even exist in the desert. In 2016, the country’s first grade-separated intersection opened between the N2 and the new airport north of Nouakchott.

Road numbering

The road network is divided into Route Nationales and Route Regionales. The N roads mainly run from the capital Nouakchott. The R-roads are numbered eastwards.


  • N1 Nouakchott – Atâr: 440 km
  • N2 Nouadhibou – Nouakchott – Rosso – Kiffa – Nema: 1,550 km
  • N3 Nouakchott – Kiffa: 600 km


Little is known about the signage, but white signs with black letters are used, in English and Arabic.


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