Traditional dress for Mauritanian women includes Haasaniya or Mulafa which is a long garment wrapped around the whole body and then around again to cover the head. Photo by John Spooner

Traditional dress for Mauritanian women includes Haasaniya or Mulafa which is a long garment wrapped around the whole body and then around again to cover the head. Photo by John Spooner


In the North-west Africa, a territory inhabited by Haratins, Berbers, Tauregs and black Moors is known to the world as “Mauritania” which is officially called as the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. It is named after the ancient Berber Kingdom of Mauretania, which existed long ago in the far north of modern-day Morocco. The total population is of Mauritania is about 2.5 million; out of which, the Haratin community accounts for 40 to 45 percent of the total population, while the white Arab-Berbers account for 25 percent and the black Africans are almost 30 %. Traditional dress of Mauritania is somehow a fusion of Berber and African cultures.

Traditional costumes of the people of Mauritania. Image  by John Spooner
Traditional costumes of the people of Mauritania. Image by John Spooner

Traditional dress for Mauritanian men includes a flowing wide sleeved robe which is known as boubou.  In formal occasions, boubou is especially adorned with intricate embroidery and is beautified in different patterns. Although western dresses like Jeans and T-Shirts are becoming popular in younger men, the popularity of boubou still exists particularly for festivities and national events. Boubou was historically made from silk, but as Silk is considered as a prohibited garment for men in Islam, boubou is now mostly made from cotton and synthetic cloths made to resemble silk.

A herdsman from Mauritania in traditional outfits. Image  by Tobias Mandt
A herdsman from Mauritania in traditional outfits. Image by Tobias Mandt

In the whole country from the south to the north, the Mauritanian men wear the blue or kaftans. The traditional kaftan of Mauritania for men is a pullover robe. Kaftans are worn by both men and women.

For Mauritanian men, the traditional outfit comprises of long tunic-style shirt along with loose pants sometimes with turban and shawl too.  Image by carlosoliveirareis
For Mauritanian men, the traditional outfit comprises of long tunic-style shirt along with loose pants sometimes with turban and shawl too. Image by carlosoliveirareis

Baggy trousers known as Seroual or Sirwal are also common in Mauritanian men. These trousers are not originally an Arab garment but were introduced from Persia to Muslim countries. Mauritanian men traditionally clinch the trousers at the waist with a leather belt. It is a comfortable and airy garment which is very popular in Mauritania.

Taureg Men of Sahara in Mauritania use the indigo dyed cotton garment as their headdress and it is called chehce. Image by cucosan
Taureg Men of Sahara in Mauritania use the indigo dyed cotton garment as their headdress and it is called chehce. Image by cucosan

Taureg Men of Sahara in Mauritania use the indigo dyed cotton garment as their headdress and it is called chehce. It is also used as veil and protector of the face from the sand storm, sunburn and also to prevent the inhalation of wind borne sand. People of Mauritania also use different colors in Cheche these days. This rectangular shaped garment is shaped like a turban and fixed through a typical knot on the head. It is also known as Haouli in Mauritania.

Women of Mauritania in corn crops wearing traditional out fits. Image by Oxfam International
Women of Mauritania in corn crops wearing traditional out fits. Image by Oxfam International

Mauritania is an Islamic country where modesty and decency is the prominent feature in clothing. You’ll hardly find any man or woman exposing arms or legs. For some people it may be conservativeness but such style is also trendy due to harsh climatic conditions of desert and heat as it exists in other Arab and African territories. Adult Mauritanian women compulsorily cover their heads, although in some parts particularly neighboring to Senegal, the women don’t follow such strictness.

Traditional dress for Mauritanian women includes Haasaniya or Mulafa which is a long garment wrapped around the whole body . Image by Helge F.  www.helge.at
Traditional dress for Mauritanian women includes Haasaniya or Mulafa which is a long garment wrapped around the whole body . Image by Helge F. www.helge.at

Traditional dress for Mauritanian women includes Haasaniya or Mulafa which is a long garment wrapped around the whole body and then around again to cover the head.  This is usually a very light fabric which is traditionally dyed in Kaedi. Sometimes the Mauritanian women also prefer a heavier fabric in indigo called ‘niila”. Generally women do not cover their faces, unless it is very windy when it is best to cover up to avoid getting sand everywhere. Maur women also wear a skirt type clothe under this garment.

Berber woman of Mauritania in traditional style. Image copyright by Thierry Lancino
Berber woman of Mauritania in traditional style. Image copyright by Thierry Lancino

Sometimes like other West African countries colorful pagne is also worn by the Mauritanian women which comes both in formal and informal versions. This is a rectangular cotton fabric which is knotted at the waist and drape over a long skirt. The bodice is a boubou and a knotted head scarf completes the dress.

A woman of Mauritania in her vegetable garden in traditional dress. Image  by World Bank Photo Collection
A woman of Mauritania in her vegetable garden in traditional dress. Image by World Bank Photo Collection

In the footwear, traditional sandals made with Gazalle skin are very common in Mauritania. With the passage of time many variations in colors and kinds of fabrics are being introduced in Mauritania for clothing. But in the nutshell, the traditional dress of Mauritanian woman is a cover from head to heel which normally comes in cotton and embellished with geometric patterns. While for Mauritanian men, the traditional outfit comprises of long tunic-style shirt along with loose pants sometimes with turban and shawl too.

Mauritania is an Islamic country where modesty and decency is the prominent feature in clothing. From Nouakchott, Mauritania. Image by carlosoliveirareis
Mauritania is an Islamic country where modesty and decency is the prominent feature in clothing. From Nouakchott, Mauritania. Image by carlosoliveirareis

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