Founded after independence in 1960, Nouakchott is the sprawling capital of Mauritania. The intriguing city is short on traditional tourist attractions but has a laid-back, friendly atmosphere. Visitors can spend their days in the capital shopping at the wonderfully frantic markets, relaxing in comfy guesthouses or indulging in fresh seafood in intimate restaurants.
The fish market is an absolutely must-see and the star attraction of the capital. Extremely colorful and incredibly lively, the market bustles with hundreds of local men dragging in their fishing nets each afternoon. Younger boys rush back and forth, carrying trays of fish to be prepared and laid out to dry. Visit in the late afternoon to watch the vibrantly colored fishing boats come in with the day’s catch. The truly fantastic sights are not to be missed.
Do not leave Nouakchott without first taking a trip to the National Museum. The first level contains a prehistoric gallery highlight the area’s archaeological history, and the second level is dedicated to more contemporary ethnographic displays. Both provide a good background for better understanding of the country, its people and its culture.
The city’s skyline is dominated by the Grand Mosque, known to locals as the Mosque Saudique. The beautiful building is topped with slender minarets, and visitors are welcome to explore the interior outside of communal prayer hours.
The Friday Mosque, located on the dusty road that leads to the airport, is also worth visiting. Its white facade is nearly blinding on a sunny day. Near the Cinquième Quartier is the Mosque Marocaine, also worth visiting for its stunning architecture.
The Avenue Kennedy is the city’s main shopping drag. Traditional Mauritanian handicrafts are for sale at many of the shops, including silver jewelry, rugs made from camel wool, wooden chests and camel saddles. A small group of artisans sells similar products along the Autoroute Rosso near the airport, and the Marche Sixieme and the Marche Capital are great places to purchase local specialties and souvenirs.
Most locals spend their weekends relaxing at the beaches, especially during the hot and dry season. The sandy expanses are wonderful places to unwind, but swimming in the waters can be dangerous because of the strong and treacherous currents. Visitors can also fish from the beaches near the city, and guides can be hired from many of the shops in the city center.
There are a decent number of restaurants in the city, and most offer delicious meals at affordable prices. The neighborhood around the French Embassy is filled with cafes and restaurants serving up French cuisine, and there are many Lebanese restaurants just a few blocks away. Visitors can also feast on Italian and Chinese foods in the capital.
Mauritania is technically a dry country, but visitors can still find alcohol if they know where to look. Whiskey, beer and wine are available at many of the clubs and restaurants owned by Spanish and French expats, and if you ask, most of the locals will know where to direct you to a drink.
Nouakchott Geographical Location
Nouakchott is located on the western coast of Mauritania along the Atlantic Ocean.
Nouakchott is the largest city in Mauritania and has an approximate population of 890,000 people.
Arabic is the official language of Mauritania. Pulaar, Soninke, and Wolof are considered national languages additionally.
Nouakchott Predominant Religion
- 100% Muslim
Islam is the official religion of Mauritania and there is religious freedom with certain restrictions.
The Ouguiya is the official currency of Mauritania.
Nouakchott has an arid climate and is very hot throughout the year. August is the only month that sees any significant rainfall with most of the year experiencing no rainfall at all.
Nouakchott Main Attractions
- Cathederal of St. Joseph
- Nouakchott Museum
- Nouakchott Silver Market
Other Attraction in Nouakchott
- Fishermen’s Beach
- Grand Marche