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1. Geography
2. Political situation
3. Economy
a. Figures
4. Defense
5. Health
6. Education
a. Universities
7. Demographics
8. Religions
a. Freedom
9. Peoples
10. Languages
11. Human rights
12. History
13. Cities and Towns

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Mauritania /

Historical periods
1. Pre-History
2. The Sanhaja
3. The Almoravids
4. French influence
5. Independence and dictatorship
6. Uneasy recovery under Ould Taya
7. Military coups


The Guelb er-Richat, of the gigantic meteor.


The Passe d'Amogjar, on the route to Atar.


Oasis of Rashid.

5000 BCE: The oldest traces of settlement in Mauritania. The people were blacks, and forming hunter-gatherer communities and. Around this time, Mauritania was mainly grassland.
Middle 3rd millennium BCE: Climatic changes in the region, leading to a much dryer climate.

The Sanhaja
3rd century CE: Berbers of the Sanhaja confederation moves into Mauritania. Over the following centuries, the Berbers became the leaders of trade in Mauritania, controlling trade routes between Koumbi Saleh, Aoudaghoust and Timbuctu (today's Mali). The most important goods were slaves, gold, ivory, copper and salt.
Before 8th century: The kingdom of Ghana is established in modern Senegal, Mali and southeastern Mauritania. The capital was in Koumbi Saleh in today's Mauritania.
990: Ghana attacks and takes control over Aoudaghost.

The Almoravids
1039: Ahdallah Abdallah bni Yasin, the founder of the Almoravids, declares holy war against the Sanhaja berbers, who he considered as "heathen".
1054: The Almoravids have succeeded in taking full control over the Sanhaja. Their weak Sanhaja confederation had been replaced by a theocratic empire.
1076: Together with the Almoravids, the Sanhaja berbers razes Koumbi Saleh. Still Ghana survives for some 150 years more.
Middle of 13th century: Nomads of Arab origin, especially the Beni Hassan tribe, move into Mauritania. This brought on a number of conflicts between the immigrants and original population. This conflict lasted for about 400 years, with numerous wars and clashes.
1445: Portuguese traders set up a trading base on Arguin Island in northern Mauritania. This is the regions first contact with Europeans. The main trading product is acacia tree gum.
15th century: Northern Mauritania is conquered by the Beni Hassan Arabs. With this a process of Arabization starts, and Berber language and identity is eventually replaced.
1677: The final battle between the Arabs and the Berbers, makes the Arabs victors. From this time on, the social status inside the Mauritanian society has been established, with Arabs on top, Berbers in the middle (divided into 2 groups: religious scholars called zawiyas and farmers and herders called znaga, and the blacks on the bottom (also divided into 2 groups: former slaves called haratani and slaves, abid.

French influence
17th century: French, English and Dutch traders install themselves in Mauritania. They all fight for control over the gum trade, while the Portuguese were losing their influence. For France, soon the slave trade also became very important. For the Mauritanians the slave trade soon developed into a very important source of income, as they sold black slaves to the French in exchange for firearms, cloth and sugar.
1727: The Dutch traders pull out of Mauritania.
18th century: Mauritania gets divided into several emirates, Trarza, Brakna, Adrar and Tagant, which all were isolated from each other.
19th century: Civil war breaks out between the emirates, with France playing an important part in strengthening tensions.
1814: With the Treaty of Paris, France gets territorial rights over Mauritania – this was an agreement with other European states, nobody asked the Mauritanians.
1820: Official end of commercial slavery.
1857: In an agreement between France and Britain, British traders pull out, and install themselves in Gambia. This leaves Mauritania in the hands of the French.
1860's: The French governor Louis Faidherbe creates the first comprehensive map of northern Mauritania.
1899: A process of pacification over Mauritania starts, and is administered by Xavier Coppolani. He cooperates with Berber groups to split Arab leaders. The importance of Mauritania, and the need for pacification, was only indirect — as a link between French interests in Morocco (north) and Senegal (south).
1902: Coppolani has succeeded in taking control over large parts of southern Mauritania.
1903: The areas subdued under the leadership of Coppolani is turned into a French protectorate.
1905: Coppolani is killed, and he is followed by Colonel Henri Gouraud, who continues his work further north and east.
1908: Adrar in the north is occupied by France.
1911: Hodh in southeast is also occupied by France.
1912: France forges an agreement with Spain over zones of influence, leaving Mauritania fully in the hands of France.
1920: Mauritania's status is changed into a more subordinate colony, and becomes part of French West Africa. Mauritania is governed from Saint-Louis of Senegal. The southern parts saw more of direct rule from the French, while the north was governed indirectly through cooperation with local chiefs. But even now, not all of Mauritania is under French control – some nomad lords waged guerilla war against the French. For one northern group, resistance was to last until as late as 1955.
1946: Mauritania becomes an overseas territory of the French Union.
— Horma Ould Babana of Berber origin becomes Mauritanian deputy to the French National Assembly. In many ways this represents the start of modern political organizations in Mauritania. Until this time, there had been no political parties.
1947: The Union progressiste mauritanienne is formed, the first political group of the country.
1951: Elections for a National Assembly in Mauritania. Groups and individuals cooperating with the French colonial powers become the victors. Sidi l-Mokhtar becomes deputy of Mauritania, after defeating Babana who had become unpopular for his socialist ideas.
1955: Tribal chiefs of the Rigaibat region gives in to the French authorities.
1956: New elections, this time with more nationalist representation in the National Assembly. Sidi l-Mokhtar stays on as deputy.
— Moroccan independence gives power to similar movements in Mauritania, even if many here are in favour of joining Morocco, which they believed to be the homeland of the Moors.
1957: Elections for a Territorial Assembly, gives the conservative Union Progressiste Mauritanienne 33 of the 34 seats. Mokhtar Ould Daddah is elected vice-president of the governing council. He first sets out on a campaign for a larger Mauritania, where he wants the people of today's Western Sahara to become part of larger Mauritania.
1958 November 28: The Republique Islamique de Mauritanie is proclaimed and becomes an autonomous part of the French community.
1959: National elections made Ould Daddah prime minister. His party, the Parti du Regroupement Mauritanie had won every seat in the National Assembly.

Moktar Ould Daddah

Moktar Ould Daddah, president 1961-1978.

Independence and dictatorship
1960 November 28: Mauritania becomes an independent nation state, and Ould Daddah president. But Mauritania is not allowed into the United Nations, as the establishment was against the interests of Morocco, which was close to Soviet Union at that time.
— At the start, Mauritania involves itself strongly in several ambitious projects in order to develop the country. Most important is the development of the iron mines of Fderik, the completion of the railway from the iron plants to the coast near Nouadhibou, and the building of the new capital at Nouakchott.
1961 December: Ould Daddah was also involved in weakening possible political opposition, and forced the 4 largest parties to become one, the Parti du Peuple Mauritanien (PPM). With this Mauritania was in reality a one-party country.
— A new constitution, a presidential one, is formed.
1966: Arabic becomes the compulsory teaching language in Mauritanian schools. This leads to strong reactions among the black population, and the capital saw many demonstrations leading to several deaths.
1968: Hassaniya Arabic and French become the official languages of Mauritania.
— A long conflict starts over the status of the trade unions, which PPM tries to take over. The reaction among the Mauritanian population was strikes and riots over the following 4 years. Most poignant was the 2 month iron strike in 1971.
1969: Morocco formally recognizes Mauritania.
— The iron company MIFERMA is nationalized.
— Mauritania replaces the post-colonial currency of CFA Francs with their own Ougiya.
Early 1970's: Heavy drought drives many people from their villages, and into the larger cities (mainly Nouakchott).
1973: Mauritania is admitted into the Arab League.
1975: Mauritania enters into war with the Western Sahara army Polisario over the rights of the southern 1/3 of the land, called Tiris al-Gharbia. This war soon became highly unpopular among Mauritanians, who both sympathized with the Sahrawis, and didn't understand why Mauritania should spend its limited resources on conquering empty and worthless desert. Also, Polisario performed many successful actions inside Mauritania proper, affecting many people.
1976: Polisario attacks Nouakchott.
1978 July 9: A bloodless military coup is conducted by military leaders, and ousts Mokhtar Ould Daddah from power. A Comité Militaire de Redressement National (CMRN) is established with Mustafa Ould Salek as its chairman.
1979 April: Following much unrest inside the CMRN, a new Commité Militaire de Salut National (CMSN) is founded. Lt-Col Muhammad Luliy becomes prime minister.
August 5: Mauritania signs a peace treaty with Polisario. Mauritania withdraws from the southern one third of Western Sahara they had occupied. This is, however, now occupied by Morocco.
1980 January: Lt-Col Muhammad Khuna Haidalla performs a new coup, and takes control over the government by becoming president. He soon starts a policy of more political freedom.
Sharia is introduced as the foundation of Mauritanian law.
— A cooperation is started with the Ba'th party of Iraq.
— Slavery is officially abolished, but in many villages all over southern Mauritania the custom persists.
1981: After a coup attempt from the Parti Islamique fails, Haidalla stops the political liberalization process.
— Lt-Col Ma'awiya Sid' Ahmad Ould Taya is appointed prime minister by the CMSN.
1983: Severe drought over Mauritania, which forces many people to move into the larger cities.
— Sharia becomes the law in all fields, except banking and insurance.
— Connections with the Ba'th party are closed.

Ould Taya

Ould Taya, president 1984-2005.

Uneasy recovery under Ould Taya
1984 December 12: One more coup, this time it is the prime minister Ould Taya who deposes president Haidalla. Ould Taya has himself appointed president.
1985: Ould Taya starts a programme of economic recovery in cooperation with the World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Foundation). More emphasis is put on fishing and agriculture. He also starts campaigns to crack down on corruption and profiteering in the Mauritanian society.
1986 April: Forces de Libération Africaine de Mauritanie (FLAM) publishes The Manifesto of the Oppressed Black Mauritanian, where they accuses the white Mauritanians of systematically suppressing the blacks of the country. The government's response was to arrest 30 FLAM members.
1987-88: Racial tensions in Nouakchott, followed by dismissals of about 500 black officers from the army, as well as killings of both blacks and Arabs.
1989 April: Tensions between Mauritania and Senegal grows into near-war situation. Everything had started with small everyday conflicts between Mauritanians and Senegalese, which were followed by killings of Senegalese performed by Mauritanian border guards. In Senegal people reacted by driving Mauritanians out of their shops and killing a dozen Mauritanians. In Nouakchott, more than 200 Senegalese were killed. By the time tensions came to a rest, 100,000 Senegalese had been expelled from Mauritania, together with 50,000 black Mauritanians. Senegal on its side had expelled altogether 240,000 white Mauritanians.
1991 July 20: Mauritania becomes a multi-party country following a referendum over a new constitution. The constitution process had been strongly opposed by many groups, as they felt that their interests were not well protected. Among these groups were the black peoples and Islamists.
— Diplomatic relations with Senegal are resumed.
— Pulaar, Soninke and Wolof are recognized as national languages.
1992: Free president elections with Ould Taya as the victor. There were numerous accusations of fraud, and an another candidate, Ahmad Ould Daddah (half brother of the former president) tried to have the results annulled by the supreme court. Taya tried to ease tensions in the country by appointing several blacks members of the government.
1994 October: Actions against Islamic groups, who were accused of cooperating with foreign organizations. About 60 people were arrested.
Mid 1990's: Discoveries of new iron ores bring some optimism to Mauritania's limping economy.
1995 January 21: Bread riots starts in Nouakchott and last for 3 days, with burning cars and looting of shops. Many political leaders are arrested for weeks, among them Ahmad Ould Daddah.
— Mauritania establishes diplomatic ties with Israel.
1996 January: Shaykh Afia Ould Muhammad Khouna is appointed prime minister.
October The party of the president, PRDS (Parti Republicain Démocratique et Social) wins 17 out of 18 seats in legislative elections.
1997 December: PRDS wins 97% of the votes in elections.
— Muhammad Lamin Ould Guig is appointed new prime minister.
1998 Khouna returns to the position as prime minister.
2001 May: Oil is discovered on the offshore Chinguetti field.
2002: Mauritania is struck by devastating drought, resulting in reduced winter crops and the slaughtering of livestock.
2003: A new winter of drought results in increased problems from the previous year.
June 8-9: A military coup against the president fails after one day of fighting, in protest of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Israel and the arrest of Islamist activists.

Ely Ould Mohamed Vall

Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, military leader and president 2005-2007.

Military coups
2005 August 3: A military coup removes President Taya from power, while he is abroad attending the funeral of King Fahd. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall has himself appointed interim president.
2006 June 26: A new constitution accepted by an official 97% of the votes in a referendum, that sets limit to the duration of a presidency.
November 19: Parliamentary elections are staged.
2007 March 11/25: Presidential elections are held, permitting the participation of several candidates. This is the first time open and free elections are held in Mauritania. Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi wins to become new president. Moktar Ould Daddah comes in runner-up, receiving 47% of the votes in the second round.
December 24: Islamists kill 4 French tourists near Aleg, in the interior of the country. 9 activists were arrested, government stated a link between them and Al-Qa'ida.
2008 January 31: Attack on the Israeli embassy in Nouakchott. No one were killed.
August 6: A second military coup, President Abdallahi, the prime minister and the minister of internal affairs are arrested. No new interim leadership is named, rather power is transferred to a military junta, headed by General Ould Abdel Aziz.

By Tore Kjeilen