Nouakchott [key], city (1991 est. pop. 500,000), capital of Mauritania and Nouakchott dist., W Mauritania, a port on the Atlantic Ocean. Located between the Atlantic and the Sahara in a basin that is at or below sea level, Nouakchott was a small village until 1957, when it was chosen as the capital of Mauritania, in part because of the aquifer there. A large-scale construction program began in 1958, when Mauritania became an autonomous republic with the French Community. Today Nouakchott is Mauritania's largest city and its administrative center. Its ocean port, which is c.4 mi (6.4 km) from the city proper, has modern storage facilities, especially for petroleum; a deepwater harbor was built in the 1980s. Handicrafts are made, and light industry is carried on in the city. Nouakchott is located on a major highway and has an international airport. The city's growth has depleted the aquifer on which it depends, and the city is now threatened by encroaching seawater; construction of a pipeline to the distant Senegal River has made additional water available. Some historians believe that nearby stood the ribat (monastery) from which the Muslim Almoravids set out on their conquests of Africa and Spain in the 11th cent.
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