President: Muhammad Ould Abdel Aziz (2009)
Prime Minister: Yahya Ould Hademine (2014)
Land area: 397,837 sq mi (1,030,400 sq km); total area: 397, 953 sq mi (1,030,700 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 3,516,806 (growth rate: 2.26%); birth rate: 31.83/1000; infant mortality rate: 56.06/1000; life expectancy: 62.28
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Nouakchott, 786,000
Monetary unit: Ouguiya
Military rule. The legal system is based on Islam.
Mauritania was first inhabited by blacks and Berbers, and it was a center for the Berber Almoravid movement in the 11th century, which sought to spread Islam through western Africa. It was first explored by the Portuguese in the 15th century, but by the 19th century the French had gained control. France organized the area into a territory in 1904, and in 1920 it became one of the colonies that constituted French West Africa. In 1946, it was named a French overseas territory.