Also known as: Nawākšūṭ, Nuakschott, Nwakcoṭ

Mauritania in a nutshell

Nouakchott has been Mauritania's capital since its independence in 1960. With more than one million inhabitants, the city on the Atlantic coast is by far the largest in the so-called Bilad Shinqit. The country's second largest port is also located in Nouakchott. Characterized by the coastal climate and northern trade winds, temperatures are comparatively mild; the hottest time is between August and October. The history of Nouakchott is far less important than that of Chinguetti or Oualata. But in fact, the city is more than just a starting point for tours to Tagant and Adrar; there is also a lot to see in the place of the winds. The fishing port (Port de pêche), camel market, Saudi mosque, Marché Capitale, national museum, tent market and city garden offer plenty of potential for a varied one-day city tour or the first day of a longer tour inland. The center of the city is the Carrefour BMD, from which you can get a cab in any direction. It separates the districts of Tevragh Zeina (the beautiful woman) and La Capitale. Nouakchott is Mauritania-in-a-nutshell. Whether it's clothing, food, culture or language, much of what you will get to know more intensively on a larger tour already awaits you in Nouakchott. This gives you every opportunity to familiarize yourself with the local conditions in Mauritania.


  • Fishing port (Port de pêche)
  • Camel market
  • National Museum
  • Saudi Mosque
  • Municipal garden
  • Tent market
  • Moroccan Quarter
  • Marché Capitale
  • Centre d'Artisanat

Just a tiny administration center?

Nouakchott is not only the capital of Mauritania, but also by far its most populous. The country's second largest port is also located there. Unlike Chinguetti or Oualata, for example, Nouakchott has no historical significance. Once a rather trifling administrative center of the French colonial administration, it was planned in the late 1950s as the capital of an independent state of Mauritania. However, the architectural plans were fatally designed for a maximum of 30000 people. It was simply assumed that the old economic centers would also be the new ones, but not the hitherto insignificant place in the Trarza region.

Larger than planned

Two events, however, brought their plans to absurdity. The Western Sahara conflict led to a worsened economic situation and even to repeated shelling of Nouakchott by POLISARIO. Even more devastating, however, were the periods of drought (1971-75, 1978-84), which led to a massive exodus from the countryside by the largely nomadic population. In just 25 years, the proportion of the Mauritanian population living in cities grew from 3 to 44 percent. Most moved to suburban neighborhoods (so-called kebbas) such as El Mina and Arafat. As a result, these poorer kebbas still have provisional structures today.

Museum made in China

The center of the city is the Carrefour BMD, from which you can get a cab in all directions. By the way, a cab ride in Nouakchott is a culturally unforgettable event and for 25 cents per ride quite affordable. In the center, with its main streets Ave du General de Gaulle, Ave Kennedy and Ave Gamal Abdel Nasser, are the largest markets (e.g. Marché capitale) and shopping centers (including Galerie Tata), the national museum, the presidential palace and the impressive Saudi mosque. The Carrefour BMD separates the Tevragh Zeina (en: the beautiful woman) and La Capitale neighborhoods. The Saudi Mosque (officially: Medina Mosque) is accessible only to Muslims, though its architecture is also interesting, especially from the outside. The National Museum, donated by China, is important both archaeologically and ethnographically. In addition to excavations of historical sites, it houses exhibitions of modern art or Islamic scholars.

Fun at the port

One of Nouakchott's main attractions is the fishing port (Port de Pêche), located between the western edges of Tevragh Zeina and Sebkha. The brightly painted dugout wooden fishing boats (pirogues) go out to sea by the dozens every day, returning with their loads around mid-afternoon. The spectacle of catching, transporting and processing locally not only ties up many jobs, but is also one of the most interesting events tourists can witness in the capital. Here, local traditions and the international market come together. The cult boats, for example, are made by local craftsmen, while far from the daily fishing spectacle at the harbor there are also Chinese wholesalers and the harbor itself was built by Japanese. By the way, fishing is a business of the Soudans, Bidhanis are rarely seen in the market and never in one of the boats. An entertaining fun for visitors is sharra, the - harmless - shooting at cigarette butts directly on the beach. Camel or horse riding is also possible on the beach, as is swimming, of course.

Many, many desert ships

The camel market is a rather unusual place for Western visitors. A little outside the city, cattle and goats are sold there daily, in addition to hundreds of dromedaries. The market is described as one of the largest of its kind in Africa. No wonder that it is therefore noisy, confusing and sometimes hectic. Mauritanians, by the way, have no reason to conceal the purpose of buying animals. Camels are used to produce meat, milk, leather and prestige. It is therefore only logical - although perhaps unfamiliar for some Western visitors - that there is still a slaughterhouse in the market, which is used daily and can be visited.

What else?

Upon request, we also show our visitors in Nouakchott the municipal garden, the Moroccan mosque, the tent market and the handicraft Centre d'Artisanat. There is much to see. Incidentally, Nouakchott was not named the capital by chance. Its central location made it possible to connect with all major cities. Therefore, the city is also ideal as a starting point for all our tours.

 Tours including Nouakchott

Nouakchott City Tour
Discover the treasures of Mauritania's capital!
1 Day(s)
6 Destinations
20 km
3 Languages
Banc d'Arguin National Park Tour
Off to West Africa's largest colony - home to countless water birds
3 Day(s)
10 Destinations
500 km
3 Languages
Diawling National Park Tour
Explore the landscape and biodiversity from the capital to the Senegal River
2 Day(s)
9 Destinations
400 km
3 Languages
Mauritania National Parks Tour
Once the capital, twice nature conservation please
4 Day(s)
9 Destinations
900 km
3 Languages
Tagant Aoukar Tour
Between Mali Empire and Almoravids - On the traces of the history of the South
14 Day(s)
16 Destinations
2700 km
3 Languages
Adrar Tagant Aoukar Tour
More than 3000 km of desert, oases, mountains and petroglyphs
14 Day(s)
21 Destinations
3050 km
3 Languages
Adrar Tour (Short)
Three days of relaxation, action and education in the heart of Mauritania
3 Day(s)
7 Destinations
1700 km
3 Languages
Adrar Tour (Standard)
Terjit, Chinguetti, Ouadane, Guilb er Richat and a train ride like no other
6 Day(s)
13 Destinations
2350 km
3 Languages
Adrar Tour (Extended)
The classic cities, the most beautiful oases and finally the ride on the train
13 Day(s)
20 Destinations
2600 km
3 Languages

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Nouakchott

What are the sleeping options in Nouakchott?
A rather high-priced hotel option by Mauritanian standards is the Semiramis Hotel Centre Ville in the Capitale district. Also in Capitale is Le K - Maison d'hôtes, with which visitors have so far been very satisfied. Furthermore, we recommend always looking at Couchsurfing and airbnb. There is now a small community of hosts.
For how many nights is Nouakchott worthwhile for visitors?
That depends on your planning. With our Nouakchott City Tour, we cover most of the city's sights in one day. Even two days can be easily spent sightseeing in the capital without getting bored. Of course, you can also stay for a week, a month or a year and dive deeper into the Mauritanian culture and language(s) of the country.
How far is Nouakchott airport from the city center?
The capital airport Nouakchott-Oumtounsy is located 30 km north of the city. We recommend arranging transportation from there to the city in advance rather than booking a cab on the spot.
What does "Nouakchott" mean in translation?
"Nouakchott" means "place of the winds" and comes from a Berber language.