Nouakchott Profile

Nouakchott Profile

Although today Nouakchott is the largest city, not just in Mauritania but in the Saharan region with a population of 1,372,244 (2021), even as recently as 1958 it was just a small fishing port with around two hundred inhabitants. The French moved into the area known as Mauritania in 1814 however it wasn't until 1904 following treaties with local emirates, that they had established the country as a colonial territory as part of its West African interests. It was a further eight years before northern emirate of Adrar was defeated in battle and subsumed into the colony.

In 1920 Mauritania became part of the Federation of French West Africa comprised of itself, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger and then became an autonomous member of the French Community before being granted independence in 1960. As the country moved to independence a need was identified for a capital as during the colonial period it was administered from Saint-Louis, in Senegal. In 1957 planning started for the new capital with architects anticipating a population of some 15,000 built around the tree lined central Avenue Abd an-Nasir or (Gamal Abdel Nasser Avenue). Following independence in 1960, Nouakchott formally became the new country's capital in 1962 and within five years its population was already 20,000.

Nouakchott City Profile

However during the 1970s and 1980s the region suffered numerous droughts with many 'Mauritanians', who typically led a nomadic lifestyle, flocking to Nouakchott effectively as refugees pushing its population up to 800,000; one in four of the country's overall population. This rapid expansion has led to a somewhat sprawling city with an unkempt and rubbish strewn appearance. By the late 2000s many of the outlying areas had degenerated into shanty tin roofed slums, one even being nicknamed "Kosovo" because of its high crime rate. The government is currently in the process of knocking down these slums with tens of thousands being relocated in the process. Some unwilling to be resettled have simply left and returned to their former nomadic lifestyle in the desert.

Nouakchott is home, perhaps unsurpringly, to the University de Nouakchott, the country's only national university although the city is also home to the private Lebanese International University, as well as acting as Mauritania's economic and administrative centre, with numerous markets, mosques, internet cafes and a cinema together with a stadium, National Library and National Museum. Nearby is Nouakchott-Oumtounsy International Airport which connected to the city by the Sheikh Zayed Road. Three miles from the centre of Nouakchott is its port which was upgraded in the 1980s into a deep water harbour which is used mainly for imports.

Nouakchott Profile: Volunteer in Mauritania

African Volunteer Work: Mauritania

Check out all the latest fee paying and free African volunteer work placements and charity work job opportunities abroad with local projects and volunteering organisations in Mauritania.

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Nouakchott Profile: Nouakchott City Map

Nouakchott City Map

A satellite map of Nouakchott, capital city of Mauritania, which you can use to zoom in to explore each street of the city and its major tourist attractions.

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Nouakchott Profile: Child Sponsor Mauritania

Child Sponsor Mauritania

Details of how to sponsor children in Mauritania with Mauritanian child sponsor organisations, charities, programs and projects.

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Nouakchott Profile: Mauritania Country Profile

African Country Profiles: Mauritania

In another of our African country profiles, find out all about Mauritania in a series of information articles, latest daily news, videos, and images together with volunteering and child sponsorship opportunities.

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