Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania (Arabic: الجمهورية الإسلامية الموريتانية), is a sovereign state in Northwest Africa. It is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean, on the north and northwest by Western Sahara, on the northeast by Algeria, on the east and southeast by Mali, and on the southwest by Senegal. Mauritania is Africa's tenth biggest nation, with the Sahara covering 90 percent of its land area. The majority of the country's 4.4 million people reside in the temperate south, with around one-third concentrated in the capital and biggest city, Nouakchott, on the Atlantic coast.
The name of the nation is derived from the ancient Berber state of Mauretania, which is situated in modern-day Morocco and Algeria. Berbers first settled in what is now Mauritania around the third century AD. In the seventh century, Arabs invaded the region, bringing Islam, Arab culture, and the Arabic language with them. Mauritania was colonized by France as part of French West Africa in the early twentieth century. It gained independence in 1960, but has subsequently been subjected to coups and military dictatorships. General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz staged the most recent coup in 2008, and he went on to win presidential elections in 2009 and 2014. Following the 2019 elections, which were seen as Mauritania's first peaceful change of power since independence, he was replaced by Mohamed Ould Ghazouani.
Mauritania is a cultural and political component of the Arab world, with Arabic being the only official language. French, reflecting its colonial background, is widely spoken and used as a lingua franca. The official religion is Islam, and the majority of the population are Sunni Muslims. Despite its dominant Arab character, Mauritanian society is multiethnic: the Bidhan, or "white moors," account for 30% of the population, while the Haratin, or "black moors," account for 40%. Both communities are a synthesis of Arab and Berber race, language, and culture. The remaining 30% of the population is made up of diverse Sub-Saharan ethnic groupings.
Mauritania's economy is built mostly on agriculture, cattle, and fishing, despite a wealth of natural resources such as iron ore and petroleum. Mauritania is well-known for its terrible human rights record, including the persistent use of slavery as a consequence of a historical caste structure between the Bidhan and the Haratin. It was the world's last nation to abolish slavery in 1981, and finally criminalized it in 2007.