Nouakchott (/nwɑːkˈʃɒt/; Arabic: نواكشوط; Berber: Nwakcoṭ, originally derived from Berber Nawākšūṭ, "place of the winds")[1] is the capital and largest city of Mauritania. It is one of the largest cities in the Sahel.[2] The city also serves as the administrative and economic center of Mauritania.


Nwakcoṭ (Berber)
نواكشوط (Arabic)
Nouakchott City View
Map of Mauritania showing Nouakchott
Coordinates: 18°6′N 15°57′W
Country Mauritania
Capital districtNouakchott
  Council presidentFatimatou Abdel Malick
  Total1,000 km2 (400 sq mi)
7 m (23 ft)
 (2013 census)
  Density960/km2 (2,400/sq mi)
WebsiteOfficial website

Nouakchott was a mid size 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 drought and increasing desertification since the 1970s have displaced a vast number of Mauritanians who resettled in Nouakchott. This caused massive urban growth and overcrowding, with the city having an official population of just under a million as of 2013. The resettled population inhabited slum areas under poor conditions, but the living conditions of a portion of these inhabitants have since been improved.

The city is the hub of the Mauritanian economy and is home to a deepwater port and Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport, one of the country's two international airports. It hosts the University of Nouakchott and several other more specialized institutes of higher learning.


Nouakchott was a large, fortified fishing village (ksar) in pre-colonial times and under French rule. As Mauritania prepared for independence, it lacked a capital city and the area of present-day Nouakchott was chosen by Moktar Ould Daddah and his advisors. Ould Daddah desired for the new capital to be a symbol of modernity and national unity which ruled out existing cities or towns in the interior. The village was selected as the capital city for its central location between Saint-Louis, Senegal, the city from which the colony of Mauritania was governed, and Nouadhibou. Its location also meant that it avoided the sensitive issue of whether the capital was built in an area dominated by the Arab-descended Moors or Black Africans.[3]:369

Construction began in March 1958 to enlarge the village to house a population of 15,000 and the basics were completed by the time that the French granted independence on 28 November 1960.[4] Nouakchott was planned with the expectation that commerce and other economic activities would not take place in the city. Nouakchott's central business district was planned with broad streets and a grid-like structure; the new Cinquième Quartier (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.[3]:369

The city was attacked twice in 1976 by the Polisario Front during the Western Sahara conflict, but little damage was caused by the guerrillas. The city has had massive and unconstrained growth, driven by the North African drought, since the beginning of the 1970s; hundreds of thousands moved there in search of a better life. The official censuses showed 134,000 residents in 1977 and 393,325 in 1988, although both figures were probably smaller than reality.[3]:370 The population is now estimated to consist of at least one third of the country's population of 3.2 million[5] and the 2013 census showed a population of 958,399.[6]


Nouakchott seen from the Spot Satellite
Population density and low elevation coastal zones. Nouakchott is especially vulnerable to sea level rise.

Located on the Atlantic coast of the Sahara Desert, it lies on the west coast of Africa. With the exception of Friendship Port and a small fishing 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.[7] Nouakchott is largely flat and only a few meters above sea level. It is threatened by the sand dunes advancing from its eastern side which pose a daily problem.[8] There have been efforts to save particular areas, including work by Jean Meunier.[9]:168 Owing to the rapid build-up, the city is quite spread out, with few tall buildings. Most buildings are one-story.

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.[10]:50–57 Other major streets are named (in French) for notable Mauritanian or international figures of the 1960s: Avenue Abdel Nasser, Avenue Charles de Gaulle, Avenue Kennedy, and Avenue Lumumba, for example.[11]

The kebbe consists of cement buildings that are built overnight and made to look permanent to avoid destruction by the authorities. In 1999, it was estimated that more than half of the city's inhabitants lived in tents and shacks, which were used for residential as well as business purposes.[12] The city is broken into nine arrondissements, sub-divided into alphabetised Îlots. These are Teyarett, Ksar, Tevragh Zeïna, Toujournine, Sebkha, El Mina, Dar Naïm, Arafat and Riad. The Sebkha (Cinquième) Arrondissement is home to a large shopping area.[11]:116−17


Nouakchott features a hot desert climate (Köppen: BWh) with hot temperatures throughout the year, but cool winter night temperatures. Due to the city's oceanside location, Nouakchott is generally not quite as hot as other cities with this climate. Still, the city can experience very hot days. 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. Average rainfall in the city is 95 mm (3.7 in) a year.[13]

Climate data for Nouakchott (1981–2010, extremes 1934–2012)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 39.9
Average high °C (°F) 29.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 21.5
Average low °C (°F) 14.5
Record low °C (°F) 3.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 0.7
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 0.2 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.8 2.6 3.0 0.7 0.2 0.3 8.3
Average relative humidity (%) 36 39 43 49 54 60 70 72 69 55 44 35 52
Mean monthly sunshine hours 232.5 220.4 260.4 270.0 282.1 240.0 238.7 254.2 228.0 260.4 243.0 217.0 2,946.7
Mean daily sunshine hours 7.5 7.8 8.4 9.0 9.1 8.0 7.7 8.2 7.6 8.4 8.1 7.0 8.1
Source: Deutscher Wetterdienst[13]


A partial view of the city

Nouakchott is divided into three administrative regions (wilayat) led by governors appointed by the central government, each of which contains three departments (moughataa):

Separate from the wilayat, a directly elected regional council was established in Nouakchott in 2018, which took over the roles of promoting social and economic development from the communauté urbaine of Nouakchott which it replaced. Fatimatou Abdel Malick was elected council president in September 2018.[14]

Nouakchott was initially divided into four departments in 1973. In 1986 the current nine departments were created.[15]

Formerly a district, in 1990 Nouakchott became a region of Mauritania.[16] On 25 November 2014, it was split into the three current regions[17] and its governor Mahi Ould Hamed became the first governor of Nouakchott-Nord.[18]


Historical population

For comparison, its population was only 20,000 in 1969. Part of the difficulty in estimating the city's population is that part of it is nomadic, setting up tents in suitable locations, then packing up when the need strikes. Some estimates put the 2008 population at over 2 million, estimated to be close to one-third of the country's population.[5] The 2013 census gave the city's population as 958,399.[6]

Slum resettlement

In 2009, the government of Mauritania announced that it would begin a process of clearing the slum on the outskirts of Nouakchott, as 24,000 families would eventually be relocated to planned housing in the city. The process was scheduled to begin with the relocation of 9,000 families from the outskirts into the poor Arafat department neighbourhood of "Kosovo", popularly named for its high crime rate and poor services. The government planned to begin moving families in June 2009, despite concerns from aid agencies that needed infrastructure could not be put in place in the receiving neighbourhood.[19] In 2013, it was reported that "slums have been replaced by social dwellings for the poorest",[20] with the World Bank reporting that the plan met with substantial success, resulting in access to improved services for 181,035 people in the slum areas.[21]


The beach in Nouakchott

Nouakchott is the center of the Mauritanian economy, with three-quarters of service sector enterprises located in the city as of 1999 with 90% of the city's economic activity consisting of informal transactions. Some inhabitants have multiple addresses and maintain strong ties with their regions of origin, at times returning for labor.[12]


Nouakchott has a Chinese-built deepwater port that opened in 1986. It was designed for a capacity of 500,000 tons deadweight (DWT) of cargo a year, but has been handling 1,500,000 tons (DWT) by 2009.[7] China agreed in 2009 to invest US$282 million in the port, aiming to extend the main quay by over 900 m (3,000 ft).[22] As of 2011, the World Bank was investigating funding a new shipping container facility at the port.[23]

Air service is provided by Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport, which replaced the previous Nouakchott International Airport in June 2016.[24]

The Cairo–Dakar Highway leg from Nouakchott to Nouadhibou was paved in 2004, although the Nouakchott-Rosso leg was paved before independence.[25] A 1,100-kilometre (680 mi) road (Route d'Espoir (Road of Hope)) connects the city with Néma via Boutilimit and Kiffa.[26]:235 In the city, there is a public transport and commuter system, with vehicles serving major boulevards.[12]


The city is home to the University of Nouakchott Al Aasriya, the main university in Mauritania, opened in 1981. As of 1995, it had 70 professors and 2800 students.

Other higher education facilities include the Lebanese International University of Mauritania, the National School of Administration, the College of Science and Technology and the Higher Scientific Institute.[26]:105

There are many primary and secondary schools, among the most prominent are the American International School of Nouakchott[27] and the Lycée Français Théodore Monod.[28]


The Saudi mosque, one of Nouakchott's twelve mosques

Attractions in Nouakchott include the National Museum of Mauritania, the National Library and the National Archives.[29] The city hosts several markets including the Nouakchott Silver Market, and the beaches. One beach is devoted to fishing boats where fish can be bought fresh. Nouakchott is a principal selling place of native Saharan meteorites.[30]

Places of worship

Among the places of worship, they are predominantly Muslim mosques.[31] There are also Christian churches and temples : Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott (Catholic Church), Protestant churches, Evangelical Churches.


Nouakchott hosts nine of the thirteen teams of the Mauritanian Premier League.

Twin towns – Sister cities

Nouakchott is twinned with:

See also


  1. Lorenz, Ralph D.; Zimbelman, James R. (2014). Dune Worlds: How Windblown Sand Shapes Planetary Landscapes. Heidelberg: Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-3-540-89725-5. Archived from the original on 2016-12-24. Retrieved 2016-07-10. page 273.
  2. "The Sahara: Facts, Climate and Animals of the Desert". Live Science. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  3. Pazzanita, Anthony G. (2008). Historical Dictionary of Mauritania. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6265-4.
  4. Britannica, Nouakchott Nouakchott,, USA, accessed on July 7, 2019
  5. "Nouakchott Travel Guide". Archived from the original on 19 June 2017. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  6. "Mauritania: Regions, Cities & Urban Localites - Population Statistics in Maps and Charts". Archived from the original on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  7. "Harbor in Nouakchott Marks China-Mauritania Friendship". 28 July 2009. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  8. "Nouakchott, Mauritania : Image of the Day". 9 January 2001. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  9. Welland, Michael (2009). Sand: The Never-ending Story (1. ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520254374.
  10. de Valicourt, Benedict (2000). Mauritanie. Paris: Editions Marcus. ISBN 9782713101533.
  11. Hudgens, Jim; Trillo, Richard (2003). Rough Guide to West Africa (4th ed.). London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1843531186.
  12. Lawrence, William. "Symptom of Crisis or Engine of Development? The Mauritanian Informal Economic Sector" (PDF). The Fletcher Journal of Development Studies. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 September 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  13. "Klimatafel von Nouakchott / Mauretanien" (PDF). Baseline climate means (1961–1990) from stations all over the world (in German). Deutscher Wetterdienst. Archived (PDF) from the original on 9 October 2019. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  14. "La Région de Nouakchott" (in French). International Association of Francophone Regions. 1 July 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  15. "Actualité du dimanche 01juillet 2001". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
  16. Law, Gwillim. "Regions of Mauritania". Statoids. Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  17. "Mauritanie: la capitale Nouakchott, sera découpée en trois wilayas". Alakhbar. 26 November 2014. Archived from the original on 16 October 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  18. "Les trois wali de Nouakchott connus". le calame. 12 December 2014. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  19. "City versus slum". IRIN. 31 March 2009. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  20. "The City of Nouakchott – Perspectives and Challenges". EcoMENA. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  21. "Implementation Completion Report (ICR) Review - Urban Development Program". World Bank. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  22. "China to Invest US$282 Million in Nouakchott Port Expansion - Dredging News Online". Archived from the original on 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  23. "Mauritania - Port of Nouakchott Development Project" (PDF). The World Bank: Documents and Reports. Archived (PDF) from the original on 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  24. "Mauritanie : inauguration du nouvel aéroport international de Nouakchott" [Inauguration of new Nouakchott international airport]. Jeune Afrique (in French). 27 June 2016. Archived from the original on 1 July 2016. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  25. Steck, Benjamin. "West Africa Facing the Lack of Traffic Lanes: A Study Case: The Nouakchott-Nouadhibou Road (Mauritania)". Archived from the original on 22 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  26. Pazzanita, Anthony G. (1996). Historical dictionary of Mauritania (2. ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-3095-7.
  27. "American International School of Nouakchott". Archived from the original on 7 August 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  28. "Lycée Français Théodore Monod de Nouakchott, Mauritanie". Archived from the original on 30 October 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  29. Ham, Anthony (2006). West Africa (6th ed.). Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet. ISBN 1740597710.
  30. "Nouakchott, Mauritania – "The Place of the Winds"". What's the Capital of...?. 11 September 2016. Archived from the original on 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  31. Britannica, Mauritania Archived 2019-04-09 at the Wayback Machine,, USA, accessed on July 7, 2019
  32. "Twinnings and Agreements With Cities". ¡Madrid!. Archived from the original on 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  33. "Amman's Relations with Other Cities". Municipality of Greater Annam. Archived from the original on 2 January 2008. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  34. "List of Gansu's Sister Cities by 2012". Archived from the original on 6 July 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2016.

Further reading

  • Armelle Choplin et Riccardo Ciavolella, 2008. " Marges de la ville en marge du politique ? Logiques d’exclusion, de dépendance et d’autonomie à Nouakchott (Mauritanie) », Autrepart, n°45. (in French)
  • Choplin A., 2006. Fabriquer des villes-capitales entre monde arabe et Afrique noire: Nouakchott (Mauritanie) et Khartoum (Soudan), étude comparée. Université Paris 1, 535 p. (in French)
  • Choplin A., 2006. Le foncier urbain en Afrique: entre informel et rationnel, l’exemple de Nouakchott, Mauritanie, Les annales de géographie, n°647, pp. 69–91. (in French)
  • Anne-Marie Frérot, Nouakchott, du puits nomade à la ville des pétroliers. Risques et représentations, Maghreb-Machrek, n°190, c. December 2006 – 2007. (in French)
  • Philippe Tanguy, « L'urbanisation irrégulière à Nouakchott: 1960-2000 », Insaniyat, n°22, October - December 2003, (vol. VII, 4). (in French)
  • Diagana I., 1993. Croissance urbaine et dynamique spatiale à Nouakchott, Thèse doct.: géographie: Lyon II, 314 p. (in French)
  • Pitte J.-R., 1977. Nouakchott, capitale de la Mauritanie. Paris : Univ. de Paris-Sorbonne, p. 200. (in French)
  • Mohamed Salem Ideidbi, Mauritanie : la Richesse d'une nation, Nouakchott, al-Manar, 2011.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.