Friday, May 3, 2019

The Strange Culture Of Mauritania

Mauritania produces an impression of being stuck somewhere in the antiquity, which I find strangely fascinating. It obviously has a lot of problems, such as slavery or the lack of medical care, but, on the other hand, there is a low incidence of psychological disorders, and AIDS is almost nonexistent

It probably has to do with their tight clan structure and sexual mores. Here is some info which I found on the internet which gives us a glimpse into a very traditional (to a fault) society:

About food:

Food has important social and psychological functions. People eat together in groups from a large bowl or calabash, using the right hand. People eat first and then drink cold water or sour milk mixed with cold water, juice from the hibiscus flower, or baobab juice. After lunch and dinner, it is customary to drink small glasses of green tea with sugar and mint. The tea is served by younger persons, women, and slaves... Eating almost always takes place at home.

Social customs:

  Society is organized along strict ethnic lines, with a rigid system of castes; every caste has its own internal hierarchy. In both ethnic groups, the division of labor is clear. At the top are the religious and warrior caste, followed by the skilled caste, which consists of smiths, carpenters, weavers, fisherfolk, and leather workers. Historians or court bards, musicians, and court advisers form a lower caste, followed by the theoretically freed slaves and current slaves at the bottom of the social order. 

    Dress style, comportment, and speech are dictated by the climate and ethnic heritage. Putting on one's best clothing is important in black African communities to express one's social status. Women decorate themselves with gold, silver, and amber to display their wealth and change clothes several times during a party. People in the higher castes to tend to be quiet and generous toward those below them, whereas the lower castes tend to be talkative, outgoing, and "greedy," with less concern about shame. Generally people are kind and hospitable to foreigners.


Social welfare is provided for within the family and kinship system. Government-supported welfare is nearly nonexistent because of a lack of funds, nepotism, and corruption.

Family and marriage:

Culturally, women's importance is recognized, but men dominate in the economic, political, social, and religious spheres. In the south, men provide for the family and women process and cook food and take care of children. In the Arab-Berber north, women are not supposed to perform physical work, which is seen as degrading. Work there is the domain of  slave women...

 Marriages usually are arranged, especially the first marriage... People tend to marry for the sake of their parents and community and usually marry within their community and clan... According to the prevailing value system, all adults must marry and have many children but it is not unusual to find unmarried women, particularly among the white Maurs...

Economic aspects of marriage are very important. Men are responsible for the economic sustenance of their wives and for brideprice, along with lavish gifts to the parents, relatives, friends, and associates of their wives. Divorce is not common, especially in the black communities... If divorce is the fault of the man, the wife keeps the brideprice. According to tradition, children follow the father, but small ones remain with the mother and the husband is obliged to support her and the children until they grow up. 

  The basic household unit consists of a husband and his wife or wives plus their children and the family of the husband, but household units in urban centers are getting more compact. The man has authority in the household because the couple lives with his kin and he is normally older and richer than the wife. Even though the household is an extended family, tasks are sharply divided according to gender and age... 

  In this extremely traditional society, belonging to a group is very important, and the larger the group, the better. People use clan names rather than family names. When the climate and economic conditions allow it, larger kin groups form a village or neighborhood. Clan members interact by sharing land and engaging in interclan marriage. The male leader, normally the oldest and "most competent" man, manages communal property and affairs.


Child care is provided by the older members of an extended family and the first born child is looked after by the grandmother and aunts. Women, including older sisters and cousins, take care of children, and men come into the picture as a child grows up. Infants are not separated from adults and are nearly always carried.

  Education is based on a combination of three overlapping philosophies: indigenous, Islamic, and Western. In the first system, the objective is to prepare the young to be useful members of the local community. Education is thus inward-oriented and functional and is provided by parents, elder siblings, peers, and specialized traditional teachers. 

The key values are belief in God, honor, respect, and service to the community, generosity, hospitality, endurance, and patience, Islamic teaching prepares Muslims to serve Allah and the community of believers by learning the Koran and practicing the five pillars of Islam. The most important qualities in a "good" child are respect and service to the parents and the community, truthfulness, learning, prayer, and politeness. Parents believe that children are what they inherit and learn from their parents. If the mother is of good character, her children will be good.

If you are interested, read the whole story over here:

They may be having lots of hardships and wrong things going on, but one thing they don't have: the crippling loneliness and social isolation of modern life, what we call "bugman lifestyle". It's also probably easier to endure hardship when you have a sense of belonging and are certain that your life has a transcendental dimension to it.


  1. Housewife OutdoorsMay 4, 2019 at 5:03 AM

    They also have interesting beauty ideals:

    Girls are force-fed to become beautiful. Maybe they should just feed them western food, girls would get fat effortlessly.

    I don't like the idea of grandmother and aunts(from father's side)looking after the firstborn. It's like the mother is just delivery machine and the child belongs to husband's family. It is a clear tell-tale that the positions of a daughter-in-law is really bad. Just like it often was in here, too. She moved to her husband's house and her mother-in-law and sisters-in-laws were quite ready to bully her -unless she had a will of steel and managed to take over power. And of course maybe in some cases those women actualy managed to become friends, but it must have been rare. Concidering how difficult it is for modern women to tolerate their mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.

  2. Yeah, I know, it happens among blacks, I think, since Arabs are larping as Frenchies:)

    I don't think we could live the way they do, but, the truth is that Westerners used to have bigger households and closer family ties than we all do now and I don't think it all that bad, either. Taking care of a newborn is rather stressful, especially when it's your first, so they probably appreciate the help (don't forget that they are all accustomed to live like that).

    I was reading about Jane Austen and her parents had like 10 children, each was weaned after 3 months and sent to live with a farmer's family until he was like 1 year old and less trouble. I wouldn't call that a normal way of raising your kids, either:)