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Monday 29th May
Mauritania Information - Page 1
Geography
Mauritania lies on the Atlantic coast of West Africa and is bordered by the Western Sahara, Algeria, Mali and Senegal. Nouakchott is the country's capital.

The Sahara Desert forms a large part of the country.

The climate is hot and dry. There is little rain although the southern part of Mauritania does have a rainy season. Water is found in the desert oases and towns such as Atar have grown up around them. Mauritania has only one permanently flowing river: the Senegal.

Environment
In the desert and Sahel (the region to the south of the Sahara) plants and animals have difficulty finding water. There is little plant life and few animals can survive here.

Those plants which can survive the desert conditions have large underground root systems which search out water from deep underground and fleshy leaves. Some animals such as gazelles get their moisture from plants. Many small animals stay underground during the heat of the day and come out to forage or hunt by night.

In the Sahel there are scattered low grasses, bushes and acacia thorn trees. Baobab trees grow in the South and date palms in the oases.

Desert animals include sandfish, gerbils, foxes and many insects such as centipedes and millipedes. Larger animals, for example, lions and monkeys, live in other areas of Mauritania.

Many birds (thrushes, pigeons, swallows and nightingales) pass through Mauritania on their migration route from Europe to Africa. Mauritania is a bird watcher's paradise: starlings, weaver birds, pelicans, cormorants, herons, terns and ducks are among the birds which can be seen. A variety species of birds can be found in the Banc d'Arguin National Park.

Fishing is important to Mauritania and the country attracts many tourists for sports fishing off the Atlantic coast. Fish common in the area are dolphins, sea bass, rays and sharks.

The combination of overgrazing by animals with deforestation, drought and soil erosion have led to desertification.

Architecture
The architecture of Mauritania ranges from wattle and daub structures with thatched roofs and old buildings which are the reminders of French occupation to the modern city of Nouakchott.

Since Mauritania is a Moslem country mosques are amongst its most important public buildings. The Great Mosque in Nouakchott was financed and built by Saudi Arabia.

Population
The population of 3,364,940 (2008) consists of Moors (descended from Arabs and Berbers), nomadic peoples and African farmers. Over a quarter of Mauritania's people live in the country's towns and ties.

Languages
Arabic is the official language although French is also spoken.

Religion
By the ninth century Islam had reached the countries of West Africa through its trade routes. Today almost the entire population of Mauritania follows Islam.

Food
Rice is the staple food of the people of Mauritania. Fish is an important part of the national diet because of the rich resources of the Atlantic coastline. Meats such as lamb, goat and camel are also eaten. The favourite drink is mint tea.

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