Mauritania boat
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Mauritania boat

© Creative Commons / Ferdinand Reus

Mauritania Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,030,700 sq km (397,955 sq miles).

Population

3.5 million (2014).

Population density

3.4 per sq km.

Capital

Nouakchott.

Government

Islamic Republic.

Head of state

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz since 2009.

Head of government

Prime Minister Yahya Ould Hademine since 2014.

Electricity

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.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 02 August 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.


Political situation

Since early 2012 there have been demonstrations in a number of locations across the country, including Nouakchott. In general, demonstrations have been 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. Protests have been located near the Presidency and main market area. Smaller demonstrations have taken place in other towns, including Nouadhibou. There is a possibility of further demonstrations.

You should avoid political gatherings and demonstrations and take local advice about places to avoid. Always observe instructions given by the local security services.

Crime

Crime levels are moderate but steadily increasing. There have been several incidents of carjacking involving foreigners in the capital as well as reports of robbery, rape and assault. 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.

Local travel

Crossing the border from Senegal can be time-consuming and officials may request payments to cross the border. There have been reports that some southern border crossings have closed because of an Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea and neighbouring countries. You should check local advice before travelling.

Road travel

The conditions of paved roads in Mauritania are generally poor, and overland travel is difficult. Use four wheel drive vehicles, check the tide times, travel in convoy and make sure you have adequate supplies of water and fuel.

Rail travel

The national mining company, SNIM, runs a train service for passengers and vehicles between Nouadhibou and Atar (80km from Choum). You have to book in advance. 

Air travel

Mauritania Airways runs flights linking Nouakchott to Nouadhibou (daily), Zouerate, Atar, Kaedi, Kiffa, Tidjikja, Aioun and Nema. Significant deficiencies have been identified in the level of safety oversight Mauritania gives to aircraft on its register and to the airlines that it certifies.

Sea travel

Sailing in the port at Nouadhibou can be dangerous because of the number of shallow shipwrecks.

Consular assistance

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 and German 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

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