A map of Mauritania Mauritania is one of the emptiest countries in the world. Nearly all its land lies in the Sahara Desert. In the west, flat, sandy plains give way to towering dunes while in the centre of the country, rocky escarpments rise steeply from the desert. The far southern part of Mauritania dips into the semi-desert region called the Sahel. Here, the climate is not so harsh; this region is home to about two-thirds of the country’s people and nearly all of its farmland. Mauritania has an extremely hot climate and its northern regions are very dry. Although there is a short rainy season between July and September, nearly all of the rain falls in the south.
More than two-thirds of Mauritanians are a people called Maures, or Moors, descended from a mixture of Arab and Berber peoples. Black African peoples, such as the Hal-pulaar, Soninke and Wolof, make up the rest of the population. Many of Mauritania’s rural dwellers are nomads. The Fula are traditionally cattle-herders who graze their cattle on the Sahel. A combination of recent droughts and overgrazing have forced them to move to the cities in search of work.
Mauritania was one of the last countries to abolish slavery. It became illegal only in 1981. Even today, more than 150,000 Malians are illegally enslaved.
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