Most people could name a fair few currencies if they tried. Some would be able to name the specific currencies used in quite a few different countries too. However, the chance is pretty slim that you’d know which currency was used in Mauritania. The answer is a currency you may never have heard of up until now – it’s called the ouguiya.
The chances are you won’t be familiar with anything about this particular currency. The ISO code for it is MRO, and there is one unusual fact about it that sets it apart from the vast majority of other currencies in the world. This is the fact that it is not a decimal currency. Instead, each ouguiya is divided into just five khoums. However if you should ever go to Mauritania you may find this isn’t as difficult to get used to as you think. The rate of inflation in the country has largely meant the only remaining khoum coin – the 1 khoum coin – is not often used now. Technically it is still legal tender and is worth one-fifth of an ouguiya coin, but it is pretty unlikely that you will come across it. If you do, you might want to keep one as a souvenir! However you should read the information on the export of the local currency before you decide to do this (more below).
The smallest ouguiya coin is worth just one ouguiya, but this has largely gone the way of the one khoum coin that exists. As such the smallest coin that is in common usage today is the 5 ouguiya coin. Following on from this you have the 10, 20 and 50 ouguiya coins. In addition there are half a dozen banknotes in use. These are the 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 ouguiya notes.
You would need to head back to the early- to mid-Seventies to find the first usage of the ouguiya in Mauritania. This occurred in 1973 when the CFA franc was taken out of circulation in the country. One of the new ouguiya coins was worth five of the old CFA francs. Mauritania has used the currency ever since and still does so today.
As you might imagine, the ouguiya is not the easiest of currencies to get hold of. It is impossible to get it from your average bureau de change. The reason for this is that Mauritania actually deems it to be illegal to take their currency into or out of the country. This means you have to have another tactic in order to get hold of the currency. It also means you should cash in whatever you have remaining before you leave to go home again.
You can take in traveller’s cheques but they are not always easy to cash. If you do take them, opt to get them in US dollars since this will likely make them cheaper to cash with no additional charges in doing so. As such you might also take in your hard currency in US dollars, since it might get you a better rate of exchange once you get there.
It is also worth noting that cash machines are few and far between in Mauritania. This means you could well struggle to find access to additional cash once you are there. You really have to plan ahead well and check that you have enough cash with you in case you cannot easily get hold of more. You also cannot rely too much on your credit card since these are not widely accepted either.
This is a lot easier to do than to get the currency itself! All you need is a good currency converter to give you access to the figures you need. Some of the more basic ones may not provide information on a currency like this. This means you need one that includes virtually all the world currencies if you want up-to-date information. You can get a conversion with your own currency so you can see what you are able to get when you exchange one for the other.
The official name for Mauritania is the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. This is also the name referred to in terms of the embassy which can be found in London. You can find it more easily online though, by visiting http://www.mauritanianembassy.org.uk/ instead.
It is generally a good idea to find out all you can about a country before you go there. This holds true regardless of which country you have in mind. It is perhaps more important for some countries more than others though, and Mauritania could be included in this group.
At the time of writing, large swathes of Mauritania were deemed to be off-limits to those who were considering going to the country. This included the entire eastern side of the country and the border area with Western Sahara too. All other areas of the country were only deemed to be considered by those who had essential reasons for visiting the country. In other words this is not somewhere you would go on holiday – at least not at the moment.
If you are considering going there for any reason, do make sure you always check the official UK government website before you do so. This is constantly updated to reflect the latest news and information on the country, so you will know whether it is even worth considering going there.
Mauritania is in North Africa. It shares borders with a variety of other countries, starting with the Western Sahara region from the north-western edge of the country to the far north. The next country round in a clockwise direction is Algeria, and Mali meets its eastern border and most of the southern border as well. Finally the remainder of the southern border is taken up by Senegal. Part of Mauritania’s western border looks out onto the Atlantic Ocean.
The capital of the country is a city called Nouakchott. This is also the biggest city the country has by some significant margin. It can be found on the western side of the country, close to the coast that looks onto the Atlantic Ocean. This is still a growing city and one that does not have a very long past behind it. Perhaps one of the most appealing parts of the city is its port, which is known as Port de Peche. This is quite a lively and attractive place, with colourful boats moored in the water and equally-colourful buildings right on the waterfront as well. This is certainly somewhere you would want to be if you had a chance to visit the city to see what it has to offer. It has an appealing backdrop of some hillier parts too, which further add to the appeal of the place.
The country as a whole has some interesting archaeological sites as well. These include remains that date back to prehistoric times, and there is a high likelihood there are many more discoveries that are yet to be made in the country too. It is perhaps a shame that the country is not safe to visit, since it does have a lot to offer in this sense.
If you do ever find yourself in Nouakchott, it is worth paying a visit to the National Museum of Mauritania. This will reveal much of the country’s history and it contains many finds that have been dug up from archaeological sites all over the country.
The country also has a notable World Heritage Site to consider visiting if you wish. This is the Banc d’Arguin National Park and it is on the western side of the country, facing the ocean. The sand banks here are home to many different species of birds, many of which breed here. The park is not just fascinating in terms of its bird life either – you will also be interested to learn there are some local tribesmen who live there. They reside in several villages that are within the confines of the park.
As you can see Mauritania does have some interesting sites and lots to teach us about its history. It is only unfortunate that as things stand it is not the safest of countries anyone could wish to visit. As such we can only read about it at the moment and perhaps not entertain any ideas of going there in the near future. While their embassy website does offer information on tourist sites in the country and some of the things it has to offer, most people would not wish to risk their safety by travelling there. We can but hope this may one day change.