Threat level: Medium-High
The current travel advice for Mauritania is to remain vigilant during travel inside the country. The present government of the country came to power in a military coup d’état in August 2008 but since then it has enjoyed a relatively stable political situation.
Mauritania is part of the Sahel region that includes Niger, Mauritania, and Mali; Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has established foothold in the country and it is possible that there are training camps in the west of the country near Mali.
Recent security risk events
There have been attacks on “Westerners” in Mauritania in 2008 and 2010 when two Spanish aid workers were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda. It is believed that citizens of Mauritania are vulnerable to being subjected to Islamic extremism and can be easily radicalised. Travellers should exercise particular caution when in busy tourist areas, be aware there is a heightened global threat of terror against western tourists.
The main areas of concern in Mauritania are: the Mali border regions the Hodh El Charghi and Hodh El Gharbi regions of southeastern Mauritania, the eastern half of the Assaba region (east of Kiffa), Tidjika and the eastern half of the Tagant region of central Mauritania (east of Tidjika), the eastern half of the Adrar region (east of Chinguetti) and the Tiris-Zemmour region of northern Mauritania. Travel to such areas are advised against however if you are planning on visiting these areas you should exercise a high level of caution at all times.
Crime rates have steadily increased in recent years. The Nouakchott and ‘Le Cinquième’ district is a particular hot spot for muggings occur, therefore you should avoid this area after dark and don’t walk along the isolated beach alone if possible.
Islamic ideals and beliefs in the country encourage conservative dress and behaviour. Sleeved and below-the-knee garments are recommended, particularly when travelling in areas not frequented by Westerners. The Mauritanian government prohibits the printing and distribution of non-Islamic religious materials, although possession of these materials is legal.
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania recognizes Islam as the sole religion of its citizens and the state. Religious freedom is restricted under the constitution and other laws and policies.
The country gained independence from France in 1960 and since then has enjoyed strong diplomatic relations with Mali, Algeria and the United Arab Republic. Shortly after its independence, the country joined the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity in 1963.
Following a military coup d’état in 2005, Mauritania’s membership in the African Union was suspended and has left in a somewhat state of isolation among the other African countries. It was able to join again after the democratic presidential elections in 2007 however another attempted coup a year later, membership was once again suspended.
You can drive in Mauritania with most national licences, as driving policies are not strictly enforced. There are regular police and military checkpoints in the city of Nouakchott and on all the major routes in to the city. It is vital that all travel within the country is planned and that any authorisation to travel in to certain areas is acquired prior to travel.
Driving is dangerous in Mauritania, the use of headlight on full beam and vehicles on main supply routes using no lights at all is very common. Driving fatalities in Mauritania are on par with Afghanistan, about seven times higher than in the UK.
With the country being 90% desert it is strongly advised to ensure that particular attention is paid to logistics, fuel, water and provisions. Further to this ensure that you have suitable satellite communications in case you require assistance or lose your way.