1. It’s located in northwest Africa and is the 11th largest country on the continent.
2. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott.
3. One-third of the population lives in the capital city.
4. Major languages: Arabic (official), French, Hassaniya Arabic Berber, Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof
5. Major ethnic groups: Haratine [Black Moors] (40%), Bidhan [Arab/Amazigh] (30%), Sub-Saharan Mauritanian: Halpulaar, Fulani, Mande, Wolof, Bambara (30%)
6. Major religions: Islam (99.9%), Christianity (0.1%)
7. It is a former French colony and gained independence from France in November 1960.
8. Approximately 90% of its land is located in the Sahara Desert.
9. It was the last country in the world to abolish slavery in 1981, though it was not criminalized until 2007. Slavery is still deeply rooted in the culture and closely tied to the country’s ethnic makeup. An estimated 10-20% of the population is enslaved.
10. Travel and tourism has been limited due to security concerns, but it is becoming easier with charter flights. Mauritania has much to offer adventurous travelers.
11. It has two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Banc d’Arguin National Park and Ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata.
12. Tourism largely centers around the desert, ocean and historical sites. Attractions include the beautiful desert scenery, historical cities and rock paintings in the Adrar region, UNESCO sites, “the world’s longest train” (over 200 cars) that links Nouadhibou and Zouerat, fishermen at Port de Peche, and bird migrations at Banc d’Arguin, where the desert meets the Atlantic Ocean.
13. Things to see and do in the capital include: the African market, the Camel Market, the Crafts Center, the House of Culture, the fine carpets factory, traditional Berber architecture, and the Ksar, an old Moorish settlement.