is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Nouakchott. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Mauritania.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Mauritania country page
for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some
of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication
assesses Mauritania at Level 2, indicating travelers should exercise
increased caution in Mauritania due to crime and terrorism. Do not travel to areas
designated as off limits by the Mauritanian military due to crime and
terrorism. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding
the Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
U.S. Department of State has assessed Nouakchott as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. The Mauritanian
government reports an increase in violent (e.g. murder, assault, battery, robbery,
occupied burglary, kidnapping, carjacking) and non-violent (e.g. theft, vehicle
burglary, vandalism, unoccupied burglary) crimes since 2015, all of which
predominately affects Mauritanians; criminals tend to not target Westerners specifically,
although U.S. nationals and other western expatriates have been the victim of
crime in Nouakchott in recent years, including robbery and sexual assault.
Criminal gangs are active in the main cities.
Mauritanian government has taken small measures to mitigate crime. For example,
the National Guard and Gendarmerie patrol the highest-crime neighborhoods,
particularly in southern Nouakchott. These initiatives achieved a reported
decrease in criminal activity by the end of 2017, but with law enforcement
increasingly implicated in crimes, including a high-profile daylight robbery of
the BMCI bank and multiple cases of sexual assault, it is difficult to verify
governmental claims of progress in crime reduction initiatives.
of street crime and crimes of opportunity are also on the rise in Nouakchott.
Typical street crimes include pickpocketing, purse snatching, mobile phone
theft, theft from vehicles, and mugging. There are also reports of pedestrians
flagging down motorists (a common type of ride sharing) to steal their vehicle
or belongings. Similar risks of crime exist in Nouadhibou, Rosso and other
Mauritanian cities, but data are not available. Review OSAC’s reports, All
That You Should Leave Behind.
U.S. Embassy prohibits its employees from walking in restricted zones during
daylight hours, and from walking alone or in groups of any size during
government of Mauritania designates certain areas as off limits to foreigners
and most Mauritanians. Monitor information from the Mauritanian Ministries of
Interior and Defense regarding these “No Movement Zones.”
government employees may only travel outside Nouakchott during daylight hours.
They must travel in convoys of at least two vehicles when traveling outside of
Nouakchott, and must remain in groups throughout the duration of travel. The
U.S. government’s ability to assist U.S. citizens – even in emergencies – is
limited in Mauritania due to security concerns and the country’s lack of
local currency, the ouguiya, may not be imported or exported. Credit cards are
in use only at a few hotels in the capital, and in the northwestern city of
Nouadhibou. Travelers should strongly consider paying hotel bills in cash. ATMs
are available in Nouakchott and other large cities, but are not secure. Review
OSAC’s reports, The
Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud,
OSAC’s reports, Hotels:
The Inns and Outs and Considerations
for Hotel Security.
recent ITU report ranked Mauritania 124th globally in its commitment to
cybersecurity. The ITU considers Mauritania to be in the initiating stage of
cybersecurity, meaning it has only just started to make commitments to the
passed its first-ever data privacy laws in 2017. The laws created a national
authority for the protection of personal information. There is now a standard
format and appropriate institution charged with maintaining the security and
confidentiality of personal data, although statistics related to enforcement
actions and agency effectiveness are not yet available.
OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity
Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling
with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, Satellite
Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
in Mauritania can be extremely dangerous. Traffic rules and driver etiquette
differ considerably from U.S.-style rules of the road. Many Mauritanians drive
without regard for speed limits, traffic signs, or stoplights. It is common for
drivers to brush up against adjacent vehicles as they jockey for lane position.
Drivers switch lanes without first checking for the presence of other vehicles.
Drivers pass illegally on shoulders, and may nudge other motorists when coming
back onto the roadway. This blatant disregard for basic safety leads to frequent
vehicle crashes and injuries to drivers and passengers. To reduce the
likelihood of accident or injury, assume a defensive driving posture. This
often means yielding the right of way to drivers that are more aggressive. As
such, it is important to factor in additional driving time when attending meetings
or making appointments.
roadway obstructions and hazards caused by drifting sand, animals, and poor
maintenance often plague motorists. Pedestrians often attempt to cross busy
streets without waiting for cross traffic to slow or stop. These hazards, when
combined with the number of untrained drivers and poorly maintained vehicles,
make heightened caution imperative. Drive with extreme vigilance, and always
wear a seat belts Avoid nighttime driving.
not travel alone into the desert or after dark outside of major urban areas due
to road safety concerns. Overland travel is difficult and roadside assistance
is non-existent. The country’s size (larger than Texas and New Mexico combined)
and its harsh climate make road maintenance and repair especially problematic.
Vehicle services are infrequent outside of Nouakchott, and many fuel stations
in the interior only sell diesel fuel, meaning gasoline is unavailable in many
places. Fixed Police and Gendarmerie checkpoints exist on the outskirts of
every city, and random checkpoints are common in urban and rural areas alike.
major roads leave Nouakchott, all of which have two asphalt lanes. Due to the
sparse vegetation and a lower population density north of Nouakchott, travel
along the roads toward Nouadhibou and Atar is slightly safer than travel to the
east or south. The Road of Hope and the road to Rosso frequently run through
villages and livestock grazing land, and have steep drops at the edge of the
roadway. These features, combined with rapid changes in elevation, often limit
visibility and create driving hazards. The road to Rosso is under renovation
and in poor condition. Even small amounts of rain can make paved roads
impassable for cars without high clearance – even in Nouakchott – as drainage
systems in the city are dysfunctional. Plan on this route requiring extra time.
U.S. Embassy allows travel outside of the city for staff members, but all trips
require a minimum of two vehicles, multiple means of communication, spare
tires, off-road recovery kits, and adequate food and water. Private travelers
should have a local guide, along with at least one additional vehicle in case
of breakdown. A GPS receiver and satellite phone are essential when traveling
in remote areas. The telecommunications infrastructure, including cellular
telephone coverage, is limited. Give an itinerary to a friend or relative with
instructions to alert proper authorities if communication from the travelers is
OSAC’s reports, Road
Safety Abroad, Driving
Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive
Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
transportation is not safe in Mauritania, particularly in the interior. Taxis
and public transportation are not secure forms of transportation for western
visitors. U.S. Embassy personnel may not use public transportation; visitors
should likewise avoid it. Almost all taxis and other forms of public
transportation are unregulated and in poor condition. Sexual assaults have
occurred at night in taxicabs. Refuse rides from strangers; subjects offering
rides have lured victims into their vehicles for sexual assault. Review OSAC’s
In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Nouakchott–Oumtounsy International Airport (NKC) opened in 2016 on the
outskirts of the city. The Gendarmerie provides security services for the
airport, which makes it one of the safest public facilities in Nouakchott.
Passengers and visitors must show photo identification to enter the airport,
and then must pass through metal detectors before checking in. Additionally,
security personnel x-ray all luggage and other bags before entering the
are routinely late, and luggage is frequently lost. Authorities scan all
luggage when exiting the airport, confiscating all alcohol and pork products.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Nouakchott as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorism
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. From 2005 to 2011,
Mauritania suffered from terrorist attacks and kidnappings by terrorist groups;
there have been no incidents in the country since 2011. Al-Qa’ida-linked groups
are active in neighboring Mali; the recent increase of terrorist activity in
Mali and Burkina Faso means there is a continued risk of spillover into
Mauritania due to the country’s lengthy shared borders with Mali.
have been numerous cases of Mauritanians self-radicalizing and pledging allegiance
to violent extremist organizations. Authorities have arrested and incarcerated
those who have done so publicly. In 2016, Mauritanian security forces arrested
three ISIS sympathizers in Nouakchott; 13 other suspected ISIS members are
currently awaiting trial. The government works with the United States and other
partners on programs to address violent extremism.
Government of Mauritania supports the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, a regional
counterterrorism force composed of troops from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad,
and Mauritania. The headquarters of the G-5 Sahel organization is in Nouakchott;
in February 2020 Mauritania will assume the rotating presidency of the G-5
towards U.S. nationals and the U.S. government are mixed. As the first country
to recognize Mauritania’s independence in 1960, and with a strong record of
humanitarian and other support as Mauritania struggled in its early years, the
United States continues to enjoy considerable goodwill. However, perceptions of
U.S. policy as being anti-Islam and pro-Israeli have led to sporadic protests
and other displays of anti-U.S. sentiment. The U.S. decision to recognize
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move its embassy to Jerusalem was very
unpopular and sparked protest.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Nouakchott as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political
violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
protests occur in Nouakchott and in other parts of the country on a regular
basis, usually on Friday afternoons after prayer at local mosques. Resentment
among the Mauritanian youth about political, religious, racial, and justice
issues, and the lack of economic opportunity continues. Most protests attract
100 to 400 people and are generally non-violent. Unauthorized or violent
protests attract heavy police resistance. Police frequently use tear gas to
control or disperse crowds. In addition, riot police intervention in these
protests sometimes leads to injuries among the protesters. Review OSAC’s
areas to avoid during periods of civil unrest in Nouakchott include the Saudi
Mosque, the Ibn Abbas Square, and the UN headquarters.
a Saharan country, where drought conditions are common, adequate and consistent
access to water is a constant concern. Paradoxically, the streets flood when it
rains (August-November), often resulting in pools of standing water that
persist for weeks until the city pumps them out or the water evaporates. These
pools of water pose vehicular hazards, and can create sizable potholes and
bogs; as well as public health hazards, as they provide breeding grounds for
mosquitoes. During the rainy season, pedestrians and children -- who often play
near or in the pools -- are at highest risk of increased exposure to
does not provide air quality data to the public. However, air quality in
Mauritania is similar to that of neighboring Senegal, which does provide daily
data. Air quality is usually better from June through October, and worsens from
October through March; January, February, and March are often the worst months.
Dust, debris, smoke from burning trash and unregulated vehicle emissions contribute
to poor air quality in Mauritania. Limit environmental exposure as much as
possible, especially during the winter months when sandstorms are frequent. If
caught in a sandstorm, take shelter in a building or vehicle with all windows
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
are in poor condition, drainage is limited, and overall construction quality is
poor compared to U.S. standards. Mauritania suffers from weak
telecommunications infrastructure. While Mauritania has three 3G communication
networks, but coverage and service remain limited – particularly for mobile
data usage and internet access. In terms of access, data published by the
International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2018 indicates only 1% of
Mauritanian households have a fixed-telephone subscription, and just 14% of have
Personal Identity Concerns
is an Islamic republic by law. Islamic ideals and beliefs in Mauritania
encourage conservative dress and behavior. Remain mindful when traveling with
personal religious publications. Consider local laws and customs before making
religious statements in public places or engaging in Islam-related debate in
public. Religious freedom is restricted and affronts against Islamic modesty
and morals carry penalties which range from fines to the death penalty. Mauritania
recognizes Islam as the sole religion of its citizens and the state; any oral
or written communication the authorities deem to be proselytism is illegal and may
lead to deportation, arrest, prosecution, or incarceration. Participation in
Christian gatherings and activities that have not been authorized by the
Mauritanian government is illegal. Apostasy is punishable by death. Review
OSAC’s report, Freedom
to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based
remains a prevalent problem in Mauritania. In 1981, Mauritania became the
world’s last country to outlaw slavery. Yet, the country did not enact criminal
laws enforcing the ban on slavery until 2007. Taking legal action on slavery
cases is notoriously difficult in Mauritania; however, in 2019, authorities
prosecuted three Mauritanians under anti-slavery legislation.
relationships are illegal in Mauritania. If convicted of homosexual acts, the
law sentences men to death by stoning and women to imprisonment (ranging from
three months to two years) and a fine. There are no organizations advocating
for sexual orientation or gender-identity rights in the country. Review the
State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+
the State Department’s webpage on security for female
in Mauritania, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and
accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. There are
very few sidewalks or paved roads and few buildings are wheelchair accessible. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
has no identified problem with the production, transshipment, or abuse of
synthetic drugs, either opioid or non-narcotic. The country is a transshipment
point for concentrated cannabis (hashish) that originates in Morocco and moves
through Mauritania on its way to markets in Europe, the Persian Gulf, and the
Levant. There is a small problem with domestic cannabis use, and a perceived
growing problem of cocaine use. The national police have a unit that conducts
anti-drug education and monitors national trafficking and abuse trends.
are at an elevated risk of kidnapping in Mauritania, especially in the
northeast and southeast regions of the country. Between 2005 and 2011,
kidnappers took numerous Westerners, many of whom ended up in the hands of
Mali-based terrorist groups. However, there have been no kidnappings of
Europeans or U.S. nationals in Mauritania since 2011. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping:
OSAC’s report, Picture
This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.
the State Department’s webpage on customs
and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out
of other countries.
emergency line in Mauritania is 116 for Gendarmerie, 117 for Police, 118 for Fire, and 119 for Traffic Police. Police
response in Nouakchott, especially in outlying areas, is slow at best. Police
rarely have access to vehicles. In most cases, a victim must appear at a police
station or give officers a ride to the scene of a crime to obtain law
of Black African appearance may be subject to prejudicial treatment by Mauritanian
Sureté Nationale is responsible for law enforcement and crime investigation in
urban areas, and falls under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior. The
Sureté Nationale is organized into commissariats, roughly the equivalent of
U.S. police precincts.
enforcement activities in small towns and rural areas are the responsibility of
the Gendarmerie, who patrol the major highways and operate a majority of the
checkpoints throughout the country. The Gendarmerie is part of the Ministry of
National Guard (Guard Nationale) falls under the Ministry of the Interior, but
is a part of the Mauritanian armed forces. The National Guard protects vital
installations and ministries, VIP security, maintaining order, and prison
Group General de la Securité des Routes (GGSR) is also under the Ministry of
Interior. Its responsibilities include urban vehicle control and searches,
control of main roads, enforcement of traffic laws, management of vehicle
documents, registration, and control of people transiting the country.
few law enforcement officials speak English; knowledge of French or Hassaniya
is helpful to speak with police officers. However, U.S. citizens receive
favorable treatment from Mauritanian law enforcement; most government agencies
recognize the financial and infrastructure contributions provided by U.S.
businesses and the U.S. government. As a result, law enforcement officials may
extend some measure of additional courtesy to U.S. citizens.
have been instances of authorities singling foreigners out for questioning and
detention. All visitors should carry a passport or other form of official
identification. If Mauritanian authorities detain or arrest you, cooperate
fully and insist that they allow you to contact the U.S. Embassy immediately.
Remain calm and respectful at all times in these situations.
phone numbers for reporting crimes to local authorities do exist, visitors should,
whenever possible, present themselves in person at the nearest police station
or Gendarmerie brigade. U.S. victims of crime should also contact the ACS
section of the U.S. Embassy. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims
police contact numbers by region:
Commissariat: +222 4525-2158/2159
Hodh el-Charghi: DRS
(Regional Security Director): 4513-0364
Hodh el-Gharbi: DRS:
o Aioun Station:
o Tintane Station: 4515-5009
Couboni Station: 4515-8333
Goghi Post: 4515-8142
Assaba: DRS: 4563-2277
o Kiffa Station: 4563-2214
o Guerrou Station: 4563-6220
o Kaedi Station:
o Maghama Station:
o Aleg Station:
o Boghe Station:
o Bababe Station:
o Maghtalahjar Station:
o Boutilimit Station:
o Atar Station:
o Atar Airport
o Akjoujt Station:
o Selibaby Station:
Tiris Zemmour: DRS:
o Zouerate Station:
Dakhlet Nouadhibou: DRS: 4574-5523
Central Police: 4574-5634
o Nouadhibou Airport: 4574-5319
o Jedida Station: 4574-6100
o Takhtit Station: 4574-7979
o Leweina Station: 4574-5694
o Jedida II Station: 4574-7303
Immigration Police: 4574-5514
is a medically austere environment. Modern emergency medical services and
hospitals do not exist in Mauritania. Medical and dental facilities in
Mauritania do not approach Western standards. There are no Western mortuary
services available in Mauritania.Find contact information for available medical
services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Embassy
local pharmacies with caution. Many medicines are difficult to obtain or may be
counterfeit. Carry your own medical supplies, medications, and prescription
eyewear. Review OSAC’s report, Traveling
care providers overseas only accept cash payments. The U.S. Department of
State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance before
traveling internationally. Review the State Departments webpage on insurance
local water supply is not potable. Drink bottled, distilled, or other processed
water instead. Review OSAC’s report, I’m
Drinking What in My Water?
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Mauritania.
OSAC’s reports, The
Healthy Way, Shaken:
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare
for Travel, and Fire
OSAC Country Council
launched its Country Council in 2017. Interested private-sector security
managers should contact OSAC’s Africa team
with any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact
U.S. Embassy is located at the intersection of Nouadhibou highway and Rue de
l’Ambassade du Senegal road with a physical address of Nouadhibou Road, Avenue
Al Quds, NOT PRTZ.
Business hours are 0800-1800 Monday-Thursday and 0800-1200 on Friday. The
Embassy is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
Embassy Line: +222 4525-2660; Emergency Consular Recording (messages during
emergencies): 4525-3707; Website: https://mr.usembassy.gov/
you travel, consider the following resources: