Mauritania, a closed desert

A photo essay exploring the different aspects of the unknown and minsundertood african country.


Religion is one of the key elements of the Mauritanian society. in the past during colonization in the XIX century, Islam was regarded as a unifying principle between the maures and the black population against the Europeans. In this way, during the independence in 1960, the country officially became the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
The constitution says ( Article II ) : « The religion of the people of Mauritania is Islam », turning it in a state religion.

Because of the ethnic and tribal divisions in the country, religion is seen by the government as essential for national unity. Walking in the streets, you might hear student repeating verses of the quran. Inside of the Mahdara, a Cheikh gives classes to a group of around 40 children, boys and girls, Learning the text of the holy book on prayer board.


The drop of the iron value, one of the principal exportation resources of the country, stopped the economic growth of the country. However, Mauritania should benefit in the next following years by creating income through hydrocarbons, a offshore gas field located at the frontier by Senegal.

The field of fisheries represent 40 000 employments and 20 % of the income of the state as the country is located among one of the richest region of the world regarding fishing resources. At the Nouakchott harbor, around 5 pm, hundreds of traditional boats make it back to the fish market, creating a unique atmosphere, as fishermen sing while tidying up fishing nets.

Despite of these various activities, the unemployment rate remains high, at 10,2 % in 2017, leading some young Mauritanian to immigrate, as the country is located at a strategic position on western Africa, at the transition between sub Saharan African and Maghreb


Ten years ago, thousands of tourists were helping to increase employment for the locals through booking hotels, tour guides, car rentals, restaurants, and shopping at local markets. After the murder of four French people in the South West of the country in 2007, the French government eventually prohibited touristic trips in the country. After ten years without attacks, the tourists are slowly coming back. “All of a sudden, everything was over. We, the guides, had to find other jobs during this period. I became a commercial manager but I was unhappy and ill,” explained one of the local guides. Last year, only 1,500 tourists visited the country throughout the entire year. 

Since 2011, there has not been any attacks on the country. In 2008, French special forces formed, among the Mauritanian army, small forces with a high mobility and knowledge of the desert to fight against jihadists on the Eastern frontier. The government also wants to create more contact with the desert tribes and population in order to prevent any propagation of the ideology. For 10 years the country has been ruled by Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, prioritizing country security and developing the Mauritanian army


One of the most surprising things about Mauritania is how « authentic » the country remains. Unlike other countries in northern Africa, There are no tour operator, fancy hotels and tourist buses around the cities. Most of the time, in the street of the popular district in Nouakchott, you will be the only visitor. As a matter of fact, people will be intrigued and, for some of them, surprised that you choose to visit their country rather than Senegal or morocco.

You will not find any nightclubs or bars in the capital of Nouakchott. « Here, you meet with friends at restaurant or at home. One of the most important things is to get a car. Everybody wants a car, the city is so vast. And you also want one for finding a girlfriend.. ». a local said.


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