Mauritania Country Overview
Where is Mauritania located? The Presidential Republic of Mauritania is located in northwest Africa and accordingly borders on the Atlantic. In the “Islamic Republic of Mauritania” elections will not take place again until 2009, as a military dictatorship previously ruled. The time zone map places Mauritania in a world time zone called “Greenwich Mean Time” (GMT) with no time shift from coordinated universal time. It stays that way all year round, as there is no changeover to daylight saving time.
As of 2023, the latest population of Mauritania is 4,005,475, based on our calculation of the current data from UN (United Nations).
|Population growth rate||2.09%|
|Birth rate||30.40 births per 1,000 people|
|65 years and above||3.81%|
|Median age||20.10 years|
|Gender ratio (Male to Female)||0.93|
|Population density||3.89 residents per km²|
|70% Arab-Berber Moors (Bidhan and Haratin); Black Africans (7% Wolof, 5% Toucouleur, 3% Sarakolé, 1% Fulbe; Bambara, Soninke etc.)|
|Human Development Index (HDI)||0.527|
|HDI ranking||161st out of 194|
People in Mauritania
Mauritania forms a border from North Africa to Black Africa. This is what the area of Africa south of the Sahara is called. North Africa is inhabited by peoples with lighter skin color, predominantly Arabs and Berbers. Darker-skinned people live in sub-Saharan Africa. Both groups meet in Mauritania.
Moors and Black Africans
There are two main groups of people in Mauritania. 70 percent are Moors and have Arab-Berber roots. They speak Hassania, an Arabic dialect. Of these 70 percent, about half belong to the Bidhan (White Moors), the other half to the Haratin. The Haratin are descendants of former slaves. Haratin means “the liberated”.
They all speak Arabic and feel part of the Arabic culture. They live more in the north of the country. Your society is structured strictly hierarchically. Right at the top are the warriors (Hassan) and the religious leaders (marabouts) as nobility. They are followed by the Zenaga (descendants of the people who pay tribute to the nobility) and then the craftsmen. At the bottom are the Haratin.
The remaining 30 percent of the population of Mauritania belong to black African peoples. These are called Soudans. They live mainly along the Senegal River, in the south of the country. These peoples include the Tukulor, the Fulbe, the Soninke, the Wolof and the Bambara. No more precise figures are available, they are no longer published because that led to race riots. An estimate from 1982 says: 18 percent Tukulor and Fulbe, four percent Soninke, one percent Wolof.
To this day there are slaves in Mauritania. It was not until 2007 that a law made slavery a criminal offense. Even today, slavery secures the power of the elite of the white Moors. The slaves are almost always Haratin.
The children of Mauritania
Every woman in Mauritania has more than four children on average. That is much. With us, each woman has an average of only 1.4 children. Children and young people in Mauritania make up a large proportion of the population. A little less than half of the population is under 18 years of age.
Infant mortality is 3.3 percent, child mortality 5.2 percent (as of 2018, ours: 0.2 and 0.3 percent). That means: more than three out of 100 newborn children die, more than five out of 100 do not celebrate their first birthday. The numbers have been going down over the past few decades, but they’re still too high.
Urban and countryside
54 out of 100 people in Mauritania live in the city, 46 out of 100 in the countryside. More and more people are moving to the cities. While in 1957 90 percent of the population lived as nomads, today it is only a few percent. A quarter of all Mauritanians live in Nouakchott alone.
Languages in Mauritania
The Moors, majority of the population in Mauritania, speak Hassania. It’s an Arabic dialect. It is written in Arabic script. Arabic is also the country’s official language.
French has been preserved as a commercial language from the colonial times. Like Arabic, it is also the language of instruction.
The black African peoples of the Soudans speak their own languages. The Tukulor and Fulbe speak Fulfulde. The Soninke speak Soninke and the Wolof speak Wolof.
Religions in Mauritania
Almost all Mauritanians are Muslims, so they belong to Islam. Islam is the state religion, it is also called in the official country name: Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Islamic law and Sharia apply.