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Mauritania Information - Page 2
History
The original inhabitants of Mauritania were Bafours followed by the Berbers.

Mauritania, on the trans-Saharan trade route, became part of the Almoravid Empire.

The Portuguese, in 1445, were the first Europeans to trade in Mauritania. About the same time the Arabs also started settling in the country. In the nineteenth century the French took over Mauritania's trade in gum arabic and slaves.

It was not until the end of the 1950s that Mauritania became a Republic and independent from France.

In 1976 Mauritania annexed the adjacent part of the Spanish Sahara resulting in warfare with the Saharan Nationalists, the Polisaro Front. Mauritania decided to withdraw from western Sahara in 1979.

In 1984 a coup took place led by Taya. He was eventually elected President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

Economy
Mauritania was badly affected by droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. A build-up of foreign debt qualified the country for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative.

Approximately half of the population relies on agriculture and livestock (cattle, sheep, goats and camels) for its livelihood; thus droughts have had a particularly bad effect on the people of Mauritania.

Droughts have also contributed to desertification and in some parts of Mauritania the Sahara Desert directly threatens farm land.

Agricultural crops include dates, millet, sorghum, rice, maize, pulses and yams. Farming takes place mainly along the Senegal River. Some of Mauritania's food supplies have to be imported.

Fishing is an important industry and fish are a major export. The fishing grounds off the Atlantic coast are among the most productive in the world. As with fishing grounds off the South American coast it is cold ocean currents which support the fisheries.

Manufacturing is on a relatively small scale. Fish processing is an important industry in this sector of the economy. Local crafts include carpet and rug production, leatherwork, jewellery and silverwork.

Iron ore is also important and accounts for a large proportion of commodities exported. Copper, gold, diamonds, phosphates, gypsum, sulphur and salt are also produced. Oil has been discovered eighty kilometres offshore: exploration and appraisal took place in 2008.

Arts
The art of Mauritania is influenced by Islamic and African art.

The Koran forbids the use of images of living creatures in works of art: geometric and floral designs in brilliant colours are a feature of Islamic art.

Most African art is not produced for the sake of art but lies in the decoration and design of everyday or religious objects, all of which have a function of their own. Ceremonial masks are one example of the type of religious objects.

Mauritanian music is influenced by the West African music of Mali and by Arabic North African music.

Sport
Fishing along the Atlantic coast attracts many tourists for sports fishing. Snorkelling and diving are also popular.

For the local people football is probably the most popular sport as it is throughout Africa.

Holidays
Islamic celebrations take place at the End of Ramadan the Feast of the Sacrifice; the Birthday of the Prophet and the Muslim New Year. The main national holiday is Independence Day.

The few Christians in Mauritania celebrate Christmas and Easter, as do their counterparts throughout the world.

News
Until recently the Chaab was the only daily Mauritanian newspaper. News from Africa can be found in Newslink.

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