Faces of Mauritania

As I mentioned in my post of 08.12.12, Mauritania is about 30% Moor, 40% mixed Moor/black African and 30% black African. As one might expect of a country with such a complicated and evenly balanced racial makeup, identity politics is complicated in Mauritania: while the country’s leadership, at least since the 70s, has identified itself with the Arab world (becoming a member of the Arab League in 1973), a significant part of the country essentially forms a continuation of black French West Africa. Aside from the by-color black population that has been integrated into the now-dominant Moorish, Arabic-speaking culture, there are also sub-Saharan black Africans, especially in the bigger cities.

For all of the mixedness of the country, the riots of 1989 (when the Moorish and sub-Saharan black African populations came into violent conflict, leading to the forced migration of many Moors from Senegal and black Africans from Mauritania) and the August 2008 coup, Mauritania seemed quite peaceful and stable to us, a sparsely-populated desert country with room for all.

Some of the black African residents of Mauritania

Some of the Moorish residents of Mauritania

By skin color, black, but, as far as we could tell, individuals whose families have long been culturally integrated into the Hassaniya-Arabic speaking culture of the Moors

3 thoughts on “Faces of Mauritania

  1. Greetings Paul, I appreciate your travek blog and thank you for posting pictures of a large group of where my ancestors came. However, reading your racial descriptions of the Mauritanian people angered me. Not because they are untrue but due to your very white/ American perspective. First let us discuss the term moor, which can also be called moorish. In Spain in area where the Moors conquered in 711, had many moors of all different shades of brown not just the lighter skinned ones you so happened to post. Secondly, moor is formed largely from the spanish term Moreno. Moreno, means dark skin/ brown skinned. Now, if you have some spare time avaikable I would encourage you to go online and type in brown skinned moors, and you yourself will be enlightened. I would caution you on using such a limited term as black african, because as far as I can tell all the pictures are people with brown skin. Plus, all humanity began in Africa, so technically using your lose term, the human race all shares two common African ancestors. Shakespere wrote a play called Othello, about a Moor and most of the charcters played are African American, I am curious to know how much studying of the country you did before you wrote you extremely wetern racial descriptions of these beautiful people, did you consider having as you put it a “black” colleague review your writtings? Great pictures I would encourage you to perform due diligence on your terms used. All of Africa, is African. It was only after the colonizing whites arrived did you begin to hear this nonsense of black Africa. I would encourage you to change your terms

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