Home > Mauritania > Location and Population

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania is located in the north-west of the African continent, in the Sahel desert, between 15°-27° latitude degrees north of the Equator and 5°-17° longitude degrees west and is crossed by the Tropic of Cancer. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

Mauritania gained its independence from France on 28 November 1960.

With an area of 1030700 km2, it is thus the fifth Arab country in terms of area, after Sudan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Libya.

The longest Mauritanian distance from north to south is 1287 km and 1255 km from east to west, while the total length of its coastline on the Atlantic Ocean is 700 km.

Mauritania is bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, in the north-west by Western Sahara, in the north-east by Algeria, in the south by Senegal, and in the east and south-east by Mali. Thanks to its strategic location, Mauritania is considered a linking point between North and South Africa and between Africa and the Arab world. It also has marine borders, through the Atlantic, with Europe and the Americas.


Terrain in Mauritania consists mainly of mountain ranges, rocky basins and sandy plains, stretching over vast areas and there are some rocky peaks that locals call ‘Elguellaba’, which are medium-altitude plateaus where the height of Kedia Gel in the Tiris- Zemmour region (north of the country) tops them with 950 meters, followed by the height of Echetev, in the region of Tagant, and the Assaba mountain range. Mauritania’s terrain can be divided into several categories:

Series of Mauritanid Plateaus, a mountain range in the center of the country, which begins from the south of Inchiri Region towards the north and the north-east until the Malian border.
Series of Edhar Ergueibatt Mountain range: It covers the entire north and parts of the Adrar region.
Rocky basins: Semi-rocky basins covering parts of the Assaba region (center of the country) and the entire region of Hodh El Gharbi, in the south-east, where Taoudenni basin is. They are sediments which extend eastward and they are geologically known as sandy veins that form the Majâbat al-Koubrâ.
Chamama area: it is the fertile region or the northern bank adjacent to the Senegal River, which forms the natural border with Senegal.


Mauritania is located in the area north of the equator, where rainfall is rare and temperatures are high. The climate is generally Saharan, hot and dry most of the year, where temperatures in the summer, in some cases, vary between 27 and 42 degrees Celsius, especially in the areas far from the sea, except for certain periods, where the cold Canary current, coming from the northwest, affects the temperatures in the evening, especially in the areas adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, where these temperatures fall below 20 degrees in the day such as in the coastal city of Nouadhibou.

In the south and southwest regions a tropical climate prevails. It is hot and rainy in summer (300-400 mm), warm and dry in winter.

In the northern areas, which includes the regions of Inchiri, Adrar, Tiris- Zemmour and the northern parts of Tagant and Hodh Charghi, the climate is dry and Saharan par excellence, where temperatures are high in summer and low in winter.


The population of Mauritania is approximately 3,500,000; most of them are Arabs as well as other African components (Pulaar – Soninké – Wolof).

Religion and language:

Islam is the official religion of the people and the state and the official language is Arabic, alongside the national languages (Pulaar, Soninké and Wolof) while French is used as a second language.
Most important cities:

– Nouakchott, The political capital was founded in 1958 and is the largest city in the country with an estimated population of one million people, according to 2004 estimates.

It is located a few kilometers to the east of the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the most important Mauritanian cities, not only in terms of population size but also in terms of urbanization and economic activity as it hosts all the ministerial sectors and the most important service departments. But the decentralization policy pursued by the country for years, and which is currently working to gradually consolidate, may largely ease the centralization of services to facilitate the access to them and to bring the administration closer to them.

– Nouadhibou, the economic capital and is located along the Atlantic coast south of the Tropic of Cancer. Its continental scope includes what was formerly known as the Dog Bay Circle, then the region of Dakhlet Nouadhibou, which came with the first administrative reform after the country’s independence.

The city was founded in 1907 and it was dubbed during the French colonialism period ‘Port Etienne’. Today, it has become the second largest city in terms of trade and economic activity in the country, especially after the establishment of the Free Zone as it became an economic and investment pole frequented by large investors from different continents.

– Zouerate, The city of Zouerate, capital of the region of Tiris-Zemour, derives its importance from being a relatively newly established mining town, founded at the end of the fifties and early sixties of the last century. It is located in the extreme north of Mauritania, about 750 kilometers away from the capital, Nouakchott. It has a 650 km long railway linking it to the city of Nouadhibou to transport iron ore for export to overseas markets via the longest train that exceeds more than 2,500 meters.

– Rosso, capital of the region of Trarza, is located in southern Mauritania, on the border with the Republic of Senegal, and is famous for its abundant agricultural produce, fisheries and livestock, as it is considered the grain basket for the country and it hosts a number of agricultural projects and livestock products.

It is the country’s most fertile plain (Chamama) that contains tens of thousands of arable hectares. Various kinds, such as rice, wheat, fruits and vegetables, are grown there.

– Nema, capital of the region of Hodh Charghi, is located in the far east of Mauritania, about 1,200 kilometers east of the capital Nouakchott, along the eastern and southern Mauritanian border with Mali. It is characterized by its touristic sites, its diverse and enormous animal resources and the active two-way trade with the neighboring African countries.

– Kaedi, capital of the region of Gorgol, is located on the north bank of the Senegal River, more than 400 km away from the capital Nouakchott, and is characterized by its agricultural and pastoral nature and it possesses a great touristic reserve with the presence of such an important phosphate mineral capabilities.

– Aiuon, the capital of the region of Hodh Gharbi, is located in the east of Mauritania, 800 km away from Nouakchott. It has a significant population density and enjoys large touristic capabilities making it a destination for domestic and foreign tourism as it has rare landscapes and important historical and archaeological sites, in addition to large livestock that grow in its surroundings.

– Atar, capital of the region of Adrar, is located in the north of Mauritania, about 480 km away from Nouakchott. It has one of the most important palm oases and several touristic areas, such as Terjit and archeological sites like Azougui, where the mausoleum of Imam Hadramy is.

– Kiffa, capital of the region of Assaba, is located in the center of the country (about 600 km) from the capital to the south-east. It is characterized by its pastoral nature and its population density.

– Selibaby, capital of the region of Guidimagha, is located in the south of the country and derives its importance from being a city near the border with Senegal and Mali and having important agricultural, pastoral and forest capabilities.

– Tidjikja, capital of the region of Tagant, is located in the center of the country (about 700 km away from the capital). It is characterized by its natural landscape, its palm trees, its historical monuments and its symbolism as a city that resisted colonialism and witnessed the killing of its most prominent leader at that time.

– Aleg, capital of Brakna region, is located 250 kilometers to the south-east of the capital Nouakchott. It is an important agricultural and pastoral city.