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Info Nouakchott


Nouakchott (place of the winds) is the capital and by far the largest city of Mauritania. It is one of the largest cities in the Sahara. The city is the administrative and economic centre of Mauritania.

Nouakchott was a small village of little importance until 1958, when it was chosen as the capital of the nascent nation of Mauritania. It was designed and built to accommodate 15,000 people, but droughts since the 1970s have displaced a vast number of Mauritanians, who resettled in Nouakchott. This caused rapid urban growth and overcrowding, with the city having an estimated population of 2 million in 2008 despite the official figures being under a million. The resettled population inhabited slum areas under poor conditions, but the living conditions of a portion of these inhabitants have since been ameliorated.

Nouakchott is the hub of the Mauritanian economy and is home to a port that handles 500,000 tonnes of cargo per year and one of the country's two international airport. The city hosts the University of Nouakchott and several markets.

POPULATION : City: 958,399
LANGUAGE : Arabic (official), Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof , French
RELIGION : Muslim 100%
AREA : 1,000 km2 (400 sq mi)
ELEVATION : 7 m (23 ft)
COORDINATES : 18°6′N 15°57′W
SEX RATIO : Male: 50.40% 
 Female: 49.60%
ETHNIC : mixed Moor/black 40%, Moor 30%, black 30%


A tiny, fortified fishing village  of 200 people until 1958, Nouakchott was little mentioned during pre-colonial and colonial history. It is possible that the Berber Muslim Almoravids were originally from the area. As Mauritania prepared for independence, it lacked a capital city and the area of present-day Nouakchott was chosen by Ould Daddah and his advisors. Despite its name, based on a Berber expression meaning "place of the winds", the city was selected as the capital city for its moderate climate and central location in the country. It also sat on one of the most valuable trade routes to West Africa.

Nouakchott's central business was planned with broad streets and a grid-like structure, the fifth district was located close to this area and became the location of a large open-air market and residential area within a few years. During the 1960s, the city obtained its own local government. By the 1970s, these new areas had grown so much that they replaced the old ksar in terms of importance, as they also hosted the governmental buildings and state enterprises.

The city was attacked in 1976 by the Polisario Front, as part of the Western Sahara independence movement. Between 1988 and 1989, racial tensions between Arabs and blacks escalated. There was discrimination and retaliation by Arabs and blacks.

There were three days of "bread riots" starting January 21, 1995.


Nouakchott features a hot desert climate with hot temperatures throughout the year, but mild winter night temperatures.

Nouakchott possesses a relatively mild temperature range compared to other cities with this climate.

While average high temperatures are relatively constant at around 33 °C (91 °F), average low temperatures can range from 25 °C (77 °F) during the summer months to 13 °C (55 °F) during the winter months.

Minimum temperatures can be as low as 10 °C (50 °F) during winter nights in Nouakchott.


Located on the Atlantic coast of the Sahara Desert, it lies on the west coast of Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean.

With the exception of Nouakchott Wharf and a deep water port, the coastal strip is mostly left empty and allowed to flood. The coastline includes shifting sandbanks and sandy beaches. There are areas of quicksand close to the harbour. Nouakchott is being covered by the sand dunes advancing from its eastern side (salmon-coloured on image to left), which pose a daily problem.

Owing to the rapid build-up, the city is quite spread out, with few tall buildings. Most buildings are one-story. Nouakchott often acts as an interface between urban Mauritanians and their nomadic fellow citizens.

Nouakchott is built around a large tree-lined street, Avenue Gamal Abdel Nasser, which runs northeast through the city centre from the airport. It divides the city into two, with the residential areas in the north and the medina quarter, along with the kebbe, a shanty town formed due to the displacement of people from other areas by the desert.


Salt, cement, insecticides, rugs, carpets, embroidery, and craft products are produced in Nouakchott, with the port also exporting copper.

In 2000, there were over 30 small or middle-size factories in the city. Administration and financial enterprises are also important. There is a large sugar refinery in the city, which has been active since 1977.

Nouakchott is the center of the Mauritanian economy, with three-quarters of service sector enterprises located in the city as of 1999. As of 1999, 90% of the city's economic activity consisted of informal transactions. Some inhabitants have multiple addresses and maintain strong ties with their regions of origin, at times returning for labor.


The city is divided into nine arrondissements:

Teyarett, Ksar, Tevragh Zeïna, Toujournine, Sebkha, El Mina, Dar Naïm, Arafat and Riad. The Sebkha (Cinquième) Arrondissement is home to a large shopping area.


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Mauritania - Travel guide