Mauritania is considered both a part of North Africa’s Maghreb region and West Africa’s Sahel region. It is mostly the barren, flat plains of the Sahara, with some central hills. The highest point in Mauritania is Kediet ej Jill at 915 meters.
Mauritania has a desert climate, constantly hot, dry, and dusty. Natural hazards include the hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind, primarily in March and April, as well as periodic droughts. Environmental issues include overgrazing, deforestation, and soil erosion (aggravated by drought) which contributes to desertification, limited natural freshwater resources away from the Senegal River (Mauritania’s only perennial river), as well as infestations of locust.
There are 9 protected areas listed for Mauritania, including 2 national parks, 1 satellite reserve, 1 biosphere reserve, 1 natural world heritage site, and 4 wetlands of international importance. The biosphere reserve, Senegal River Delta, is a “transboundary biosphere reserve” shared with the neighbouring country of Senegal. The two national parks are Banc d’Arguin and Diawling National Park. Banc d’Arguin National Park is also a natural world heritage site, and Diawling forms part of the Senegal River Delta biosphere reserve.
The ministry of environment and sustainable development (Ministère de l’Environnement et du Développement Durable) maintains a French language website. Members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Mauritania include the association for the protection of the environment (Naforé), the fiduciary fund for Banc d’Arguin and coastal and marine biodiversity (BACoMaB), the Mauritanian association for the conservation of nature (Nature Mauritanie), and the national park Banc d’Arguin (Parc National du Banc d’Arguin). The civil society organisation, ONG Agir en Faveur de l’Environnement, advocates for the environment, the protection of children, and the family.
- Delta du Fleuve Sénégal, 2005
Since most of Mauritania is desert, vast areas of the country (particularly in the central, northern, and eastern areas) are without sizeable population. Half the population lives in or around the coastal capital of Nouakchott. The second largest city in Mauritania is Nouadhibou, which serves as a major commercial centre.
Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960. It has been a dictatorship for much of its modern history. Mauritania continues to experience ethnic tensions among its three major groups, Arabic-speaking descendants of slaves (Haratines), Arabic-speaking “White Moors” (Sahrawi), and members of Sub-Saharan ethnic groups mostly originating in the Senegal River valley (Halpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof). Since 2011, a successful strategy against terrorism that combines dialogue with the terrorists and military actions has prevented the country from terrorist attacks.
The ministry of commerce, industry and tourism (Ministère du Commerce, de l’Industrie et du Tourisme) maintains a French language website at commerce.gov.mr. The national tourist office (Office National du Tourisme) maintains a French language website at tourisme-mauritanie.mr. Famously, there is a 704 kilometre railway line linking the iron mining centre of Zouerate with the port of Nouadhibou, operatered by SNIM (Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière). Bab-Sahara, in the town of Atar, is a campground popular with overland travellers.
Natural World Heritage:
- Banc d’Arguin National Park (1989)
Cultural World Heritage:
- Using multivariate statistics to assess ecotourism potential of water-bodies: A case-study in Mauritania – F Santarém, JC Campos, P Pereira, D Hamidou… – 2018
- Mauritania, tourism – J Lucas – 2015
- Orientalism and Imperialism in French West Africa. Considerations on travel literature, colonial tourism, and the desert as a “commodity” in Mauritania – J Lucas – 2013
- Cultural Heritage and Tourism: A Complex Management Combination: The Example of Mauritania – JM Arnoult – 2010