A country of northwest Africa bordering on the Atlantic Ocean. Southern Mauritania was part of the ancient empire of Ghana, and the northern part was settled by Berbers c. 1000. The area later formed part of the Mali Empire (flourished 14th century) and was visited by European traders after the 15th century. French influence over the region lasted from the early 1800s until independence was achieved in 1960. Nouakchott is the capital and the largest city. Population: 3,270,000.