Its former French masters - they ruled from 1814 to 1960 - referred to the country as La Grande Vide (The Great Void) and in many ways it's still uncharted territory: it doesn't have a dedicated guidebook, the country's first ATM has only just opened and it's one of the few remaining countries that still preserve a genuine nomadic culture.
Desert makes up about a third of Mauritania, whose neighbours include Mali, Algeria and Senegal.
Nestled on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, along a beautiful coast 750 kilometres long, Mauritania is lined to the south-west by the Senegal River.
Characterised by warm temperatures and a record level of sunshine throughout the year, Mauritania offers a mild climate during a large part of the year (from November to July).
There is high risk to your security elsewhere in Mauritania and we advise against all tourist and other non-essential travel due to the threat from kidnapping, terrorism and the unpredictable security situation.
Being one of the most varied hub for cultural & Civilizational exchange and influence in the region, Mauritania is favourably situated between the Maghreb Arab and Black Africa; two poles that admirably embody the immensity of the great Sahara desert on one side and the exoticism of the vast Sahal.
Classified by the UNESCO ”World heritage of Humanity” in 1996 and known as the ”Ancient cities.
Its population is a twentieth of the UK's and the number of visitors annually is 40,000 - approximately the number that visit the Lake District every day. It has remarkably diverse landscapes, ranging fromfrom mile-long Atlantic beaches to lush oases and towering mountain passes.
I thought I knew what to expect – silence, sand, searing heat during the day and pitch-black skies at night.
I was wrong about the darkness: under a voluptuous full moon and brimming bowl of stars the dunes positively glowed, creating a surreal backdrop for evenings spent under canvas in remote oases and wadis.
Mauritania became a nation after the destruction of the kingdoms of Fouta Toro and Walo Walo and the Arab-Berber emirats of Trarza, Brakna, Taganet, and Adrar.
As a result, the country has two main ethnic groups: black Africans and Arab-Berbers.