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Mauritania, officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is a country in the Maghreb region of western North Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, by Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara in the north, by Algeria in the northeast, by Mali in the east and southeast, and by Senegal in the southwest. It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which existed long ago in the far north of modern-day Morocco. The capital and largest city of Mauritania is Nouakchott, located on the Atlantic coast.
Mauritania is generally flat, with vast arid plains broken by occasional ridges and cliff-like outcroppings. A series of scarps face south-west, longitudinally bisecting these plains in the center of the country. The scarps also separate a series of sandstone plateaus, the highest of which is the Adrar Plateau, reaching an elevation of 500 meters . Spring-fed oases lie at the foot of some of the scarps. Isolated peaks, often rich in minerals, rise above the plateaus; the smaller peaks are called guelbs and the larger ones kedias. The concentric Guelb er Richat is a prominent feature of the north-central region. Kediet ej Jill, near the city of Zouîrât, has an elevation of 915 meters and is the highest peak.
Approximately three quarters of Mauritania is desert or semi-desert.
Spoken languages are: Hassaniya, Pulaar, Soninke, Imraguen language, Wolof, Serer and French. Modern Standard Arabic is also an official language.
The country is nearly 100% Muslim, most of whom are Sunnis. The minority Sufi brotherhood, the Tijaniyah, has had great influence not only in the country, but in Senegal and Morocco as well. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott, founded in 1965, serves the 4,500 Catholics in Mauritania.
Mauritania's population is composed of several ethnic groups: the Moors or Beidane; the Haratins, descendants of freed sub-Saharan black slaves who have grown up in this society; the Soninke; the Serer; and the Hal-pulaar or Fulas, who include settled farmers called Toucouleur and nomadic stock-breeders.