The Culture Of Mauritania

Mauritanian man wearing traditional boubou or derraa.  Editorial credit: Homo Cosmicos /
Mauritanian man wearing traditional boubou or derraa. Editorial credit: Homo Cosmicos /

The Northwest African country of Mauritania has a unique culture that is a blend of the cultures of its indigenous ethnic groups. It also reflects influences of various foreign cultures, especially the French culture, a reminder of the country’s colonial past.

Ethnicity, Language, and Religion in Mauritania

Mauritania is home to a population of 3,840,429 individuals. Black Moors and white Moors account for 40% and 30% of Mauritania’s population, respectively. Sub-Saharan Mauritanians represent the rest of the population. Arabic is the official and national language of Mauritania. Other languages like Pular, Wolof, Soninke, and French are also spoken. Islam is the religion of all citizens of the country.

Cuisine of Mauritania

The cuisine of the country has been influenced by Moroccan, Senegalese, French, and other cuisines. Dates are consumed in plenty. A coastal dish of fish and rice called the thieboudienne is regarded as the country’s national dish. A white and red sauce made primarily from tomatoes add flavor to the dish. Whole roasted lamb, dried fish and meat, fish balls, couscous, chicken, etc., are also consumed. Alcohol consumption is restricted to the hotels in Mauritania as the Islamic faith bans the consumption of alcohol. Mint tea is the most popular beverage. Camel milk, avocado smoothie, and baobab fruit drink are also consumed by the Mauritanians.

Literature and the Arts in Mauritania

While written literature in Mauritania is limited, the country has a rich repertoire of oral literature including epics, riddles, folk tales and legends, Islamic poetry and prose. Storytelling is an age-old Mauritanian tradition.

The artists and craftsmen of the country are experts at many art and craft forms. Different ethnic groups are associated with distinct artistic traditions whose skills are passed down from generation to generation.

Performance Arts in Mauritania

The distinct ethnic groups in Mauritania have contributed to the music scene in the country. However, the music of the Moors predominate. In the Moorish society, the musicians sing praise songs to celebrate the victories of the warriors and other noblemen. These musicians are called the iggawin. In the past, they served the traditional role of spreading news between villages.

Some of the traditional musical instruments used in Mauritania are the tidinit (a four-stringed lute), daghumma (a rattle), tbal (a kettle drum), etc. Despite the rarity of women musicians in Mauritania, the most renowned Moorish musician is a woman named Dimi Mint Abba.

Sports in Mauritania

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in the country. The game is played both professionally and informally across the nation. Mauritania also hosts the President's Cup, a premier national football tournament. Basketball, rugby union, slamball, etc., are also played.

Life in the Mauritanian Society

Women in the Mauritanian society lag behind men in terms of education and employment. The patriarchal mindset of society prevents women from enjoying equal rights and freedoms as men. Women are expected to manage the household and care for children. Men are regarded as the breadwinners for their family and enjoy a higher status in the family than women.

Most marriages are arranged in Mauritania. Polygamy is a common practice. Marriages between cousins also happen in the community. Inter-religious marriages are not allowed by society.

Households in Mauritania are usually large and consists of the husband and his wife or wives and numerous children. The husband’s parents also stay in the same household. His brothers and their families might also live together in the same compound or in the same locality.

Inheritance is based on Islamic law and local social rules. Sometimes, the brother of a dead man inherits his wife which allows the property to remain within the family.

Children are highly valued in Mauritanian society and families usually have multiple children. The mother and other female relatives take care of the infants. Children are provided both Islamic and modern education. The entire community engages in teaching social values to children as they grow up. Respect for the elders, maintenance of the family honor, good hospitality, patience, virtue, belief in God, are some of the values taught to the children.


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