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In the land of the Maurs

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As Mauritania was only administered and not colonised, it retains much of its culture and tradition.

Mauritania lies on the Atlantic coast of Africa. Much of the country surrounds part of the Sahara desert and until the 1970s, when there was a severe drought, most of the population was nomadic.

The Berbers were some of the first people to inhabit this northern Saharan region. In fact, the country’s name comes from the Berber language. The country has rich resources of iron ore.

History

Mauritania was administered as a French colony during the first half of the 20th century. It became independent on November 28, 1960. By the terms of the constitution, Islam is the official state religion, but the republic guarantees freedom of conscience and religious liberty to all. Arabic is the official language; Fula, Soninke, and Wolof are national languages. The capital, Nouakchott, is located in the south western part of the country.

Landform

Mauritania may be divided into three principal geologic zones. The first is located in the north and north west and consists of underlying Precambrian rock (about 2.7 billion years old). The second consists of primary sandstone. The third is formed by the Senegalese-Mauritanian sedimentary basin.

The greater part of the country is arid and is mostly flat, giving the impression of being immense. The topography is relieved by vestiges of cliffs; sloping plains that terminate with a steep cliff or steep-sided hills of which the highest is Mount Ijill at 3,002 ft (915m), a block of hematite.

The Sudanic savanna is studded with baobab trees and palmyra palm trees. The population of large animals has decreased considerably. Only the addax antelope ventures out into the waterless desert.

In the extreme south, in the Sahel, trees are rare and vegetation consists principally of acacias, euphorbia bushes, morkba and sandbur.

The Banc d’Arguin National Park, situated along the Atlantic coast, is home to a large variety of migratory birds. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1989.

Cuisine

In the land of the Maurs

The food here has been influenced by Arab and African people and bears a similarity to Moroccan and Senegalese cuisine in the south. There is a touch of the French colonial influence too. Traditionally, meals are eaten communally. Thieboudiene (Cheb-u-jin) is the national dish. It is a fish-and-rice lunch dish. Yassa Poulet is also popular. It is roasted chicken with vegetables and french fries. If you love peanuts, then Mahfe could be your favourite. It is meat cooked in peanut sauce.

Culture

Mauritania’s culture is a mixture of many influences — the ancient Berber people, the Moors (maurs) and the French. They use Moor instruments such as the four-stringed lute and the kettle drum.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 3:59:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/in-the-land-of-the-maurs/article30247306.ece

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