Nouakchott Profile

Although today Nouakchott is the largest city not just in Mauritania but in the Saharan region with a population of just over 800,000, 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.

Nouakchott SlumsIt 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, Côte 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. However during the 1970s and 1980s the region suffered numerous droughts with many 'Mauritanians', who typically led a nomadic lifestyle, flocking to the emerging city effectively as refugees pushing its population up to 800,000; one in four of the country's overall population. Today, some estimate that its population has topped one million however in the absence of any census the actual figure is hard to establish.

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. Its home to the University de Nouakchott, the country's only 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. Three miles from the centre is its port which was upgraded in the 1980s into a deep water harbour which is used mainly for imports.

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Nouakchott Profile

Nouakchott Profile

Nouakchott Profile

Nouakchott Profile



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Nouakchott Profile: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

Nouakchott Profile

Facts, video and information about Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, together with a brief history and interactive map.


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