Nouakchott, on a grassland plateau close to the west coast, was developed in the 1950s for the role of national capital.
Nouakchott was a small coastal village on important trade paths from Dakar until 1957, when it was selected as the site of the capital of soon-to-be independent Mauritania. A massive building programme commenced in 1958 and in 1960 it officially received its new status.
Mauritania had several territorial disputes with neighbouring countries during the 1970s and 1980s, and the city was attacked by Western Saharan forces in 1976. Decades of drought has seen the urban population swell with refugees from the surrounding areas and over-crowding is acute. Many of the suburbs consist of shanty towns.
Administration provides much employment and there are several light industries, while handicrafts remain important. Reserves at nearby Akjoujt has made Nouakchott a major copper centre.
The city has an airport, good road connections and a...