For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Nouakchott.


From the top to bottom-right, View of the City, Saudi Mosque, Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière Tower, Presidential Palace, Avenue Général de Gaulle
City view of Nouakchott
Nouakchott is located in Mauritania
Map of Mauritania showing Nouakchott
Nouakchott is located in Africa
Nouakchott (Africa)
Coordinates: 18°05′09″N 15°58′43″W / 18.08581°N 15.9785°W / 18.08581; -15.9785[1]
Country Mauritania
 • BodyRegional Council of Nouakchott
 • Council presidentFatimatou Abdel Malick (El Insaf)
 • Total1,000 km2 (400 sq mi)
7 m (23 ft)
 (2019 census)
 • Total1,195,600
 • Density1,200/km2 (3,000/sq mi) Edit this at Wikidata

Nouakchott (/nwækˈʃɒt, nwɑː-/; French: [nwakʃɔt]; Arabic: نواكشوط, romanizedNuwākshūṭ; Berber: Nwakcoṭ, originally derived from Berber: Nawākšūṭ, 'place of the winds')[2] is the capital and largest city of Mauritania. Located in the southwestern part of the country, it is one of the largest cities in the Sahara.[3] The city also serves as the administrative and economic center of Mauritania.

Once a mid-sized coastal village, Nouakchott was selected as the capital for the nascent nation of Mauritania, with construction beginning in 1958. It was originally designed to accommodate a population of 15,000, but experienced significant population growth in the 1970s when many Mauritanians fled their home villages due to drought and increasing desertification. Many of the newcomers settled in slum areas of the city that were poorly maintained and extremely overcrowded. By the mid-1980s, Nouakchott's population was estimated to be between 400,000 to 500,000.[4]

As of 2019, the city had a population of nearly 1.2 million people and serves as the hub of the Mauritanian economy. It is home to a deepwater port and Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport, one of the country's two international airports. It also hosts the University of Nouakchott and several other more specialized institutions of higher learning.


Not too long ago, Nouakchott was known for being a small fishing town,[5] fortified fishing village (ksar) in pre-colonial times and under French rule. As Mauritania prepared for independence, it lacked a capital city. The area of present-day Nouakchott was chosen by Moktar Ould Daddah, the first President of Mauritania, and his advisors. Ould Daddah desired the new capital to symbolize 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 Arabs, Amazigh (Berbers) or Sub-Saharan Africans.[6]: 369 

Construction began in March 1958 to enlarge the village to house a population of 15,000, in 1959 Nouakchott started with its founding by indigenous people from the surrounding region,[7] and the basics were completed by the time that the French granted independence on 28 November 1960.[8] 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.[6]: 369 

The city was attacked twice in 1976 by the Polisario Front during the Western Sahara conflict, but the guerrillas caused little damage. 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.[6]: 370  The population is now estimated to consist of at least one third of the country's population of 3.3 million,[9] and the 2013 census showed a population of 958,399.[10]


Satellite image of Nouakchott with district names
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 harbor.[11] 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.[12] There have been efforts to save particular areas, including work by Jean Meunier.[13]: 168  Owing to the rapid build-up, the city is quite spread out, with few tall buildings. Most buildings are one-story.[14]

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.[15]: 50–57  Other major streets are named (in French) for notable Mauritanian or international figures of the 1960s: Avenue Gamal Abdel Nasser, Avenue Charles de Gaulle, Avenue Kennedy, and Avenue Lumumba, for example.[16]

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.[17] The city is broken into nine arrondissements, sub-divided into alphabetized Îlots. These are Teyarett, Ksar, Tevragh-Zeïna, Toujounine, Sebkha, El Mina, Dar-Naïm, Arafat and Riad. The Sebkha (Cinquième) Arrondissement is home to a large shopping area.[16]: 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 sweltering 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.[18]

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
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 29.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 21.5
Mean daily minimum °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[18]

Climate change

A 2019 paper published in PLOS One estimated that under Representative Concentration Pathway 4.5, a "moderate" scenario of climate change where global warming reaches ~2.5–3 °C (4.5–5.4 °F) by 2100, the climate of Nouakchott in the year 2050 would most closely resemble the current climate of Khartoum. The annual temperature would increase by 2.3 °C (4.1 °F), and the temperature of the warmest month by 2.8 °C (5.0 °F), while the temperature of the coldest month would decrease by 0.3 °C (0.54 °F).[19][20] According to Climate Action Tracker, the current warming trajectory appears consistent with 2.7 °C (4.9 °F), which closely matches RCP 4.5.[21]


Responding to a 450% projected increase in electricity demand between 2010 and 2030, Nouakchott's Sheikh Zayed solar power plant was completed in 2012 and is considered the largest solar power plant in Africa.[22] The desert climate causes dust accumulation, which negatively impacts the performance of photovoltaic solar panels.[23]


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 Urban Community that it replaced. Fatimatou Abdel Malick was elected Council president in September 2018, and re-elected in May 2023.[24][25]

Nouakchott was initially divided into four departments in 1973. In 1986 the current nine departments were created.[26]

Formerly a district, in 1990 Nouakchott became a region of Mauritania.[27] On 25 November 2014, it was split into the three current regions,[28] with the previous governor of Nouakchott Mahi Ould Hamed becoming the first governor of Nouakchott-Nord.[29]


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.[9] The 2013 census gave the city's population as 958,399.[10]

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 neighborhood of "Kosovo", popularly named for its high crime rate and poor services.[citation needed] 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 neighborhood.[30]

In 2013, it was reported that "slums have been replaced by social dwellings for the poorest",[31] 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.[32] Now in 2024 the population is approximately 1.6M people.[33]


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.[17]


Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport

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.[11] 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).[34] As of 2011, the World Bank was investigating funding a new shipping container facility at the port.[35]

Air service is provided by Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport, which replaced the previous Nouakchott International Airport in June 2016.[36]

The Cairo–Dakar Highway leg from Nouakchott to Nouadhibou was paved in 2004, although the Nouakchott-Rosso leg was paved before independence.[37] A 1,100-kilometre (680 mi) road (Route de l'Espoir (Road of Hope)) connects the city with Néma via Boutilimit and Kiffa.[38]: 235  In the city, there is a public transport and commuter system, with vehicles serving major boulevards.[17]

In July 2022 a tramway project was presented, without a scheduled opening date.[39][40]


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 2,800 students. There are also many international schools more specifically the american school tlc international school.

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.[38]: 105 

There are many primary and secondary schools, among the most prominent are the American International School of Nouakchott,[41] the Lycée Français Théodore Monod, and TLC International School.[42][43]


National Museum of Mauritania

Attractions in Nouakchott include the National Museum of Mauritania, the National Library, the Port de Péche,[44] and the National Archives.[45] The city hosts several markets, including the Marocaine market and the beaches. One beach is devoted to fishing boats where fish can be bought fresh at the Fish market. Nouakchott is a principal selling place of native Saharan meteorites.[46]

The Saudi Mosque, one of Nouakchott's twelve mosques

Places of worship

Among the places of worship, they are predominantly Muslim mosques like the Saudi Mosque and the Sudanese Embassy Mosque.[47]

There are also Christian churches and temples: Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott (Catholic Church), Protestant churches, Evangelical Churches.


Nouakchott hosts ten of the fourteen teams of the Mauritanian Super D1 as of the 2023-2024 season, including ACS Ksar, AS Douanes, AS Garde Nationale, ASAC Concorde, ASC Police, ASC Tidjikja, FC Gourel Sangue, FC Tevragh-Zeina, Kaedi FC, and Nouakchott Kings. There is also the stadium olympique next to bon prix which is a place with a lot of sport activities

Twin towns – Sister cities

Nouakchott is twinned with:

See also


  1. ^ Nouakchott, Mauritania in (cc-by)
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "The Sahara: Facts, Climate and Animals of the Desert". Live Science. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2016.
  4. ^ Handloff, Robert E. (1990). Mauritania: A Country Study. Federal Research Division. p. 50. ISBN 9780160197970.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c Pazzanita, Anthony G. (2008). Historical Dictionary of Mauritania. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6265-4.
  7. ^,was%20a%20small%20fishing%20village.
  8. ^ Britannica, Nouakchott Nouakchott,, USA, accessed on July 7, 2019,
  9. ^ a b "Nouakchott Travel Guide". Archived from the original on 19 June 2017. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Mauritania: Regions, Cities & Urban Localities - Population Statistics in Maps and Charts". Archived from the original on 26 October 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Harbor in Nouakchott Marks China-Mauritania Friendship". 28 July 2009. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Nouakchott, Mauritania : Image of the Day". 9 January 2001. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  13. ^ Welland, Michael (2009). Sand: The Never-ending Story (1. ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520254374.
  14. ^ Spasevski, +Jugoslav (2013-09-29). "Nouakchott, Mauritania". Tourist Destinations. Retrieved 2023-11-21.
  15. ^ de Valicourt, Benedict (2000). Mauritanie. Paris: Editions Marcus. ISBN 9782713101533.
  16. ^ a b Hudgens, Jim; Trillo, Richard (2003). Rough Guide to West Africa (4th ed.). London: Rough Guides. ISBN 1843531186.
  17. ^ a b c 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.
  18. ^ a b "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.
  19. ^ Bastin, Jean-Francois; Clark, Emily; Elliott, Thomas; Hart, Simon; van den Hoogen, Johan; Hordijk, Iris; Ma, Haozhi; Majumder, Sabiha; Manoli, Gabriele; Maschler, Julia; Mo, Lidong; Routh, Devin; Yu, Kailiang; Zohner, Constantin M.; Thomas W., Crowther (10 July 2019). "Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues". PLOS ONE. 14 (7). S2 Table. Summary statistics of the global analysis of city analogues. Bibcode:2019PLoSO..1417592B. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0217592. PMC 6619606. PMID 31291249.
  20. ^ "Cities of the future: visualizing climate change to inspire action". Current vs. future cities. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  21. ^ "The CAT Thermometer". Retrieved 8 January 2023.
  22. ^ El Hacen Jed, Mohamed; Ihaddadene, Razika; Ihaddadene, Nabila; Elhadji Sidi, Cheikh ELBanany; EL Bah, Menny (2020-03-01). "Performance analysis of 954,809 kWp PV array of Sheikh Zayed solar power plant (Nouakchott, Mauritania)". Renewable Energy Focus. 32: 45–54. doi:10.1016/j.ref.2019.11.002. ISSN 1755-0084. S2CID 213995904.
  23. ^ Lasfar, Sara; Haidara, Fanta; Mayouf, Chiva; Abdellahi, Fatimatou Med; Elghorba, Mohamed; Wahid, Achraf; Kane, Cheikh Sid Ethmane (2021-08-01). "Study of the influence of dust deposits on photovoltaic solar panels: Case of Nouakchott". Energy for Sustainable Development. 63: 7–15. doi:10.1016/j.esd.2021.05.002. ISSN 0973-0826. S2CID 236250729.
  24. ^ "La Région de Nouakchott" (in French). International Association of Francophone Regions [fr]. 1 July 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  25. ^ "MyCeni - Résultats 2023". Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  26. ^ "Actualité du dimanche 01juillet 2001". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
  27. ^ Law, Gwillim. "Regions of Mauritania". Statoids. Archived from the original on 27 June 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  28. ^ "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.
  29. ^ "Les trois wali de Nouakchott connus". le calame. 12 December 2014. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  30. ^ "City versus slum". IRIN. 31 March 2009. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  31. ^ "The City of Nouakchott – Perspectives and Challenges". EcoMENA. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  32. ^ "Implementation Completion Report (ICR) Review - Urban Development Program". World Bank. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  33. ^
  34. ^ "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.
  35. ^ "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.
  36. ^ "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.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ a b Pazzanita, Anthony G. (1996). Historical dictionary of Mauritania (2. ed.). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow. ISBN 0-8108-3095-7.
  39. ^ "مذكرة تفاهم بإنشاء قطار في نواكشوط" [Memorandum of Understanding to establish a train in Nouakchott]. (in Arabic). 2022-07-21. Retrieved 2022-11-09.
  40. ^ "Mauritania extends for six months MoU with Cairo-based Arab Contractor to build tramway in Nouakchott – The North Africa Post". Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  41. ^ "American International School of Nouakchott". Archived from the original on 7 August 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Lycée Français Théodore Monod de Nouakchott, Mauritanie". Archived from the original on 30 October 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  44. ^
  45. ^ Ham, Anthony (2006). West Africa (6th ed.). Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet. ISBN 1740597710.
  46. ^ "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.
  47. ^ Britannica, Mauritania Archived 2019-04-09 at the Wayback Machine,, USA, accessed on July 7, 2019
  48. ^ "Twinnings and Agreements With Cities". ¡Madrid!. Archived from the original on 19 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  49. ^ "Amman's Relations with Other Cities". Municipality of Greater Annam. Archived from the original on 2 January 2008. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  50. ^ "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.
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?