/div>Country, northwestern Africa. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. Area: 398,000 sq mi (1,030,700 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 3,129,000. Capital: Nouakchott
. The Moors (of mixed Arab-Amazigh [Berber] and Sudanic descent) constitute the great majority of the population. Languages: Arabic (official), Fula, Soninke, Wolof (all national). Religion: Islam (official; predominantly Sunni). Currency: ouguiya. Most of Mauritania is made up of low-lying desert that forms the extreme western part of the Sahara
. Only a tiny fraction of its land is arable, but almost two-fifths is suitable for grazing, and the herding of goats, sheep, and camels occupies a significant portion of the largely nomadic population. Oil, ocean fishing, and iron ore production are major sources of revenue. Mauritania is a republic with two legislative houses; its head of state and government is the president, assisted by the prime minister. Inhabited in ancient times by Sanhajah Imazighen
, in the 11th–12th century it was the centre of the Amazigh Almoravid dynasty
, which imposed Islam on many of the neighbouring peoples. Arab tribes arrived in the 15th century and formed several powerful confederations: Trarza and Brakna, which dominated the Sénégal River region; Kunta in the east; and Rigaibat in the north. The Portuguese arrived in the 15th century. France gained control of the coastal region in 1817, and in 1904 a formal French protectorate was extended over the territory. In 1920 it was added to French West Africa as a territory. In 1960 Mauritania achieved independence and left the French Community. The country's first president, Moktar Ould Daddah, was ousted in a coup in 1978, and a military government was established. In 1991 a new constitution was adopted, and a civilian government was installed in 1992. The country has faced continued economic hardship and political unrest, including coups in 2005 and 2008.