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Flag of Mauritania


Introduction   Geography   People   Government   Economy
Communications   Transportation   

Map of Mauritania


   Introduction    Mauritania
Independent from France in 1960, Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara) in 1976, but relinquished it after three years of raids by the Polisario guerrilla front seeking independence for the territory. Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA seized power in a coup in 1984. Opposition parties were legalized and a new constitution approved in 1991. Two multiparty presidential elections since then were widely seen as flawed, but October 2001 legislative and municipal elections were generally free and open. A bloodless coup in August 2005 deposed President TAYA and ushered in a military council headed by Col. Ely Ould Mohamed VALL, which declared it would remain in power for up to two years while it created conditions for genuine democratic institutions and organized elections. For now, however, Mauritania remains an autocratic state, and the country continues to experience ethnic tensions among its black population and different Moor (Arab-Berber) communities.
   Geography    Mauritania
Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara
Geographic coordinates:
20 00 N, 12 00 W
total: 1,030,700 sq km
land: 1,030,400 sq km
water: 300 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than three times the size of New Mexico
Land boundaries:
total: 5,074 km
border countries: Algeria 463 km, Mali 2,237 km, Senegal 813 km, Western Sahara 1,561 km
754 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
desert; constantly hot, dry, dusty
mostly barren, flat plains of the Sahara; some central hills
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Sebkhet Te-n-Dghamcha -5 m
highest point: Kediet Ijill 915 m
Natural resources:
iron ore, gypsum, copper, phosphate, diamonds, gold, oil, fish
Land use:
arable land: 0.2%
permanent crops: 0.01%
other: 99.79% (2005)
Irrigated land:
490 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
hot, dry, dust/sand-laden sirocco wind blows primarily in March and April; periodic droughts
Environment - current issues:
overgrazing, deforestation, and soil erosion aggravated by drought are contributing to desertification; very limited natural fresh water resources away from the Senegal, which is the only perennial river; locust infestation
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note:
most of the population concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country
   People    Mauritania
3,177,388 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 45.6% (male 726,376/female 723,013)
15-64 years: 52.2% (male 818,408/female 839,832)
65 years and over: 2.2% (male 28,042/female 41,717) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 17 years
male: 16.8 years
female: 17.3 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.88% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
40.99 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
12.16 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 69.48 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 72.44 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 66.43 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.12 years
male: 50.88 years
female: 55.42 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
5.86 children born/woman (2006 est.)
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and Rift Valley fever are high risks in some locations
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis (2005)
noun: Mauritanian(s)
adjective: Mauritanian
Ethnic groups:
mixed Maur/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%
Muslim 100%
Arabic (official), Pulaar, Soninke, French, Hassaniya, Wolof
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 41.7%
male: 51.8%
female: 31.9% (2003 est.)
   Government    Mauritania
Country name:
conventional long form: Islamic Republic of Mauritania
conventional short form: Mauritania
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Islamiyah al Muritaniyah
local short form: Muritaniyah
Government type:
Administrative divisions:
12 regions (regions, singular - region) and 1 capital district*; Adrar, Assaba, Brakna, Dakhlet Nouadhibou, Gorgol, Guidimaka, Hodh Ech Chargui, Hodh El Gharbi, Inchiri, Nouakchott*, Tagant, Tiris Zemmour, Trarza
28 November 1960 (from France)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 28 November (1960)
12 July 1991
Legal system:
a combination of Shari'a (Islamic law) and French civil law
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Col. Ely Ould Mohamed VALL, whose Military Council for Justice and Democracy deposed longtime President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA in a coup on 3 August 2005
head of government: Prime Minister Sidi Mohamed Ould BOUBAKAR (since 8 August 2005)
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a six-year term; last held 7 November 2003 (next to be held in March 2007); prime minister appointed by the president
election results: President Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed TAYA reelected for a third term with 60.8% of the vote
Legislative branch:
bicameral legislature consists of the Senate or Majlis al-Shuyukh (56 seats; a portion of seats up for election every two years; members elected by municipal leaders to serve six-year terms) and the National Assembly or Majlis al-Watani (81 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 9 and 16 April 2004 (next to be held NA); National Assembly - last held 19 and 26 October 2001 (next to be held November 2006)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - PRDS 79%, RDU 3.5%, UDP 3.5%, AC 5%, UFP 3.5%, FP 1.5%; seats by party - PRDS 64, UDP 3, RDU 3, AC 4, RFD 3, UFP 3, and FP 1
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Cour Supreme; Court of Appeals; lower courts
Political parties and leaders:
Action for Change or AC (no longer active) [Messoud Ould BOULKHEIR]; Alliance for Justice and Democracy or AJD [Cisse Amadou CHEIKHOU]; National Union for Democracy and Development or UNDD [Tidjane KOITA]; Party for Liberty, Equality, and Justice or PLEJ [Ba Mamdou ALASSANE]; Party of Democratic Convergence or PCD [Cheikh Ould HORMA]; Popular Front or FP [Ch'bih Ould CHEIKH MALAININE]; Popular Progressive Alliance or APP [Messoud Ould BOULKHEIR]; Progress Force Union or UFP (no longer active) [Mohamed Ould MAOULOUD]; Rally of Democratic Forces or RFD [Ahmed Ould DADDAH]; Rally for Democracy and Unity or RDU [Ahmed Ould SIDI BABA]; Republican Party for Democracy and Renewal or PRDR (formerly ruling Democratic and Social Republican Party or PRDS) [Boullah Ould MOGUEYA]; Right Way or SAWAB [Cheikh Ould Sidi Ould HANANA]; Union for Democracy and Progress or UDP [Naha Mint MOUKNASS]; Union of Forces of Progress or UFP [Mohamed Ould MAOULOUD]
note: the Party of Democratic Convergence was banned in October 2005 because it was regarded as Islamist and therefore in breach of Mauritanian law
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Arab nationalists; Ba'thists; General Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CGTM [Abdallahi Ould MOHAMED, secretary general]; Independent Confederation of Mauritanian Workers or CLTM [Samory Ould BEYE]; Islamists; Mauritanian Workers Union or UTM [Mohamed Ely Ould BRAHIM, secretary general]
International organization participation:
Flag description:
green with a yellow five-pointed star above a yellow, horizontal crescent; the closed side of the crescent is down; the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam
   Economy    Mauritania
Economy - overview:
Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though many of the nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for nearly 40% of total exports. The decline in world demand for this ore, however, has led to cutbacks in production. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In the past, drought and economic mismanagement resulted in a buildup of foreign debt which now stands at more than three times the level of annual exports. In February 2000, Mauritania qualified for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and in December 2001 received strong support from donor and lending countries at a triennial Consultative Group review. A new investment code approved in December 2001 improved the opportunities for direct foreign investment. Ongoing negotiations with the IMF involve problems of economic reforms and fiscal discipline. In 2001, exploratory oil wells in tracts 80 km offshore indicated potential extraction at current world oil prices. Mauritania has an estimated 1 billion barrels of proved reserves. Substantial oil production and exports are scheduled to begin in early 2006 and may average 75,000 barrels per day for that year. Meantime the government emphasizes reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and promoting privatization of the economy.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$6.198 billion (2005 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$1.356 billion (2005 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
5.5% (2005 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$2,000 (2005 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 25%
industry: 29%
services: 46% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
786,000 (2001)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 50%, industry 10%, services 40% (2001 est.)
Unemployment rate:
20% (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line:
40% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.5%
highest 10%: 30.2% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
39 (2000)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
7% (2003 est.)
revenues: $421 million
expenditures: $378 million; including capital expenditures of $154 million (2002 est.)
Agriculture - products:
dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn; cattle, sheep
fish processing, mining of iron ore and gypsum
Industrial production growth rate:
2% (2000 est.)
Electricity - production:
185.6 million kWh (2003)
Electricity - consumption:
172.6 million kWh (2003)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2003)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2003)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption:
24,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)
Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day
Oil - imports:
NA bbl/day
Oil - proved reserves:
1 billion bbl (2005)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2003 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2003 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (2005)
$784 million f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports - commodities:
iron ore, fish and fish products, gold
Exports - partners:
Japan 13.1%, France 11%, Spain 9.7%, Germany 9.7%, Italy 9.6%, Belgium 7.5%, China 6.1%, Russia 4.6%, Cote d'Ivoire 4.1% (2004)
$1.124 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
Imports - partners:
France 14.1%, US 7.6%, China 6.4%, Spain 5.8%, UK 4.6%, Germany 4.3%, Belgium 4.2% (2004)
Debt - external:
$2.5 billion (2000)
Economic aid - recipient:
$305.7 million (2002)
Currency (code):
ouguiya (MRO)
Exchange rates:
ouguiyas per US dollar - NA (2005), NA (2004), 263.03 (2003), 271.74 (2002), 255.63 (2001)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
   Communications    Mauritania
Telephones - main lines in use:
39,000 (2004)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
522,400 (2004)
Telephone system:
general assessment: limited system of cable and open-wire lines, minor microwave radio relay links, and radiotelephone communications stations (improvements being made)
domestic: mostly cable and open-wire lines; a recently completed domestic satellite telecommunications system links Nouakchott with regional capitals
international: country code - 222; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) and 2 Arabsat
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 14, shortwave 1 (2001)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (2002)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
21 (2005)
Internet users:
14,000 (2005)
   Transportation    Mauritania
24 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 (2005)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 16
1,524 to 2,437 m: 9
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 1 (2005)
717 km
standard gauge: 717 km 1.435-m gauge (2004)
total: 7,660 km
paved: 866 km
unpaved: 6,794 km (1999)
Ports and terminals:
Nouadhibou, Nouakchott
   Military    Mauritania
Military branches:
Mauritanian Armed Forces: Army, Navy (Marine Mauritanienne; includes Naval Infantry), Air Force (Force Aerienne Islamique de Mauritanie, FAIM) (2005)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age (est.); conscript service obligation - two years; majority of servicemen believed to be volunteers; service in Air Force and Navy is voluntary (April 2005)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 18-49: 606,463
females age 18-49: 607,955 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 18-49: 370,513
females age 18-49: 384,269 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$19.32 million (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1.4% (2005 est.)



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