Mauritania: Random Facts and Trivia
Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Mauritania, the Moors, racial problems, treatment of women, starvation problems.
The majority of Mauritanians are Maures (after whom the country is named), or, in English, Moors. They are Arab nomads who live in the desert, following the rains with their cattle, sheep, goats, and camels. Cattle are an important status symbol, a sign of wealth and power. In the north are the Tuareg "blue men," so called because of the blue dye of their robes which rubs off and impregnates their skin, tinting it blue. The Tuareg men are very proud and dignified, gracious to guests, fierce with enemies. An old Tuareg proverb advises: "Kiss the hand you cannot sever."
Racial discrimination in Mauritania has posed a serious problem for the blacks, who do not have equal social status with the Maures. Clashes have arisen over the compulsory teaching of Arabic in the public schools, and violence has erupted because of job discrimination. In 1966, President Daddah officially forbade any talk of the race problem.
Women in Mauritania receive the treatment which is customary for Arab women--they are considered the property of their husbands. Even the Tuareg women, who are unveiled, are otherwise bound to their traditional roles. The Tuareg men like their women fat, and stuff them with macaroni and bread to keep them that way.
In the early 1970s the desert began to "move" southward. Drought turned Mauritania into an emergency disaster area. Famine grew severe, and foreign aid was finally enlisted. Money came from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, from the U.S. Agency for International Development (which pledged $24 million for the purchase and transport of 56,000 tons of food grain), and from Canada, the European Common Market nations, and many others. Independently, the Catholic Relief Service and the Church World Service organizations, and Jesse Jackson's African Relief Fund, have tried to get food to the disaster area, which includes Mauritania and 6 other African nations.
Despite all efforts, thousands are dying of starvation, and thousands more will suffer the aftereffects of malnutrition--physical underdevelopment and mental retardation. With the drought over, it will take 3-4 years for a tribe to rebuild its livestock herds, and it will be many years before Mauritania is back to normal.
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