Top Ten Mauritanian Attractions

Top Ten Mauritanian Attractions

Mauritania is a country in the Maghreb and West Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Western Sahara, Algeria, Mali and Senegal. It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which later became a province of the Roman Empire, even though the modern state covers a territory far to the southwest of the old kingdom. The capital and largest city is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast. The civilian government of Mauritania was overthrown on 6 August 2008, in a military coup d’état led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz. On 16 April 2009, General Aziz resigned from the military to run for president in the 19 July elections, which he won. In Mauritania about 20% of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day.

  1. Richat Structure

    The Richat Structure, also known as the Eye of the Sahara and Guelb er Richat, is a prominent circular feature in the Sahara desert of west, central Mauritania near Ouadane. This structure is a deeply eroded, slightly elliptical, 40-km in diameter, dome. The sedimentary rock exposed in this dome range in age from Late Proterozoic within the center of the dome to Ordovician sandstone around its edges. Differential erosion of resistant layers of quartzite has created high-relief circular cuestas. Its center consists of a siliceous breccia covering an area that is at least 3 km in diameter. Exposed within the interior of the Richat structure are a variety of intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks. They include rhyolitic volcanic rocks, gabbros, carbonatites and kimberlites. The rhyolitic rocks consist of lava flows and hydrothermally altered tuffaceous rocks that are part of two distinct two eruptive centers, which are interpreted to be the eroded remains of two maars. According to field mapping and aeromagnetic data, the gabbroic rocks form two concentric ring dikes. The inner ring dike is about 20 m in width and lies about 3 km from the center of Richat Structure. The outer ring dike in about 50 m in width and lies about 7 to 8 km from the center of this structure. Thirty-two carbonatite dikes and sills have been mapped within the Richat structure. The dikes are generally about 300 m long and typically 1 to 4 m wide. They consist of massive carbonatites that are mostly devoid of vesicles. The carbonatite rocks have been dated as having cooled between 94 to 104 million years ago. A kimberlitic plug and several sills have been found within northern part of the Richat structure. The kimberiite plug is estimated to be about 99 million years old. These intrusive igneous rocks are interpreted as indicating the presence of a large alkaline igneous intrusion that currently underlies the Richat structure and created it by uplifting the overlying rock. Spectacular hydrothermal features are a part of the Richat structure. They include the extensive hydrothermal alteration of rhyolites and gabbros and a central megabreccia created by hydrothermal dissolution and collapse. The siliceous megabreccia is at least 40 m thick in its center to only a few meters thick along its edges. The breccia consists of fragments of white to dark gray cherty material, quartz-rich sandstone, diagenetic cherty nodules, and stromatolitic limestone and is intensively silicified. The hydrothermal alteration, which created this breccia has been dated at using the 40Ar/39Ar method as having occurred at about 98.2 ± 2.6 million years ago. Initially interpreted as an asteroid impact structure because of its high degree of circularity, it is now argued to be a highly symmetrical and deeply eroded geologic dome. Despite extensive field and laboratory studies, geologists have found a lack of any credible evidence for shock metamorphism or any type of deformation indicative of a hypervelocity extraterrestrial impact. Coesite, an indicator of shock metamorphism, had been reported as being present in rocks samples collected from the Richat structure. As the result of the further analysis of rock samples from this structure, it was concluded that barite had been misidentified as coesite. In addition, the Richat structure lacks the annular depression that characterize large extraterrestrial impact structures of this size. Also, it is quite different from large extraterrestrial impact structures in that the sedimentary strata comprising this structure is remarkably intact and “orderly” and lacking in overturned, steeply-dipping strata or disoriented blocks.
    Links: Top Ten Rock Formations, Top Ten Craters,,
  2. Ancient Ksour of Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata

    Ouadane, Chinguetti, Tichitt and Oualata Ouadane or Wadan are smalls town in central Mauritania. The towns were staging posts in the trans-Saharan trade and for caravans transporting goods. Most of the towns now lies in ruins.
  3. Banc d’Arguin National Park

    The Banc d’Arguin National Park lies in Western Africa on the west coast of Mauritania between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou. The site is a major breeding site for migratory birds, including flamingos, broad-billed sandpipers, pelicans and terns. Much of the breeding is on sand banks including the islands of Tidra, Niroumi, Nair, Kijji and Arguim. The surrounding waters are some of the richest fishing waters in western Africa and serve as nesting grounds for the entire western region. The Banc d’Arguin National Park is a Nature reserve that was established to protect both the natural resources and the valuable fisheries, which makes a significant contribution to the national economy, as well as scientifically and aesthetically valuable geological sites, in the interests of and for the recreation of the general public. The park’s vast expanses of mudflats provide a home for over two million migrant shorebirds from northern Europe, Siberia and Greenland. The region’s mild climate and absence of human disturbance makes the park one of the most important sites in the world for these species. The nesting bird population is also noted for its great numbers and diversity. Between 25,000 and 40,000 pairs belonging to 15 species, making the largest colonies of water birds in West Africa.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten African National Parks,,
  4. Nouakchott

    Nouakchott‎ (believed translation from Berber “The place of the winds”) is the capital and by far the largest city of Mauritania, serving as the administrative and economic center. It is one of the largest cities in the Sahara.
  5. Chinguetti

    Chinguetti is a ksar or medieval trading center in northern Mauritania, lying on the Adrar Plateau east of Atar. Founded in the 13th century, as the center of several trans-Saharan trade routes, this tiny city continues to attract a handful of visitors who admire its spare architecture, exotic scenery and ancient libraries. The city is seriously threatened by the encroaching desert; high sand dunes mark the western boundary and several houses have been abandoned to the encroaching sand. The indigenous Saharan architecture of older sectors of the city features reddish dry stone and mud-brick houses, featuring flat roofs timbered from palms. Many of the older houses feature hand-hewn doors cut from massive ancient acacia trees that have long disappeared from the surroundings. Many homes include courtyards or patios that crowd along narrow streets leading to the central mosque. Notable buildings in the town include The Friday Mosque of Chinguetti, an ancient structure of dry stone featuring a square minaret capped with five ostrich egg finials; the former French Foreign Legion fortress; and a tall water tower. The old quarter of the Chinguetti is home to five important manuscript libraries of scientific and Qur’anic texts, with many dating from the later Middle Ages. In recent years, the Mauritanian government, the US Peace Corps and various NGOs have attempted to position the city as a center for adventurous tourists, allowing visitors to “ski” down its sand dunes, visit its libraries and appreciate the stark beauty of the Sahara.
    Links: Top Ten Ancient Libraries, Top Ten Libraries,,
  6. Links: Attractions, African Attractions,,