Welcome to Rosso, the major city of south-western Mauritania and capital of Trarza region. Located on the Senegal River, Rosso is a bustling town that allows year-round navigation. It is situated 204 km south of the capital Nouakchott and is the third-largest city in Mauritania. Let’s dive into the history, culture, and attractions of this unique city.

Rosso was once the capital of the Emirate of Trarza, a Precolonial Sahrawi state. Under French colonial rule, Senegal and Mauritania were administered as a single entity. When independence came, the new frontier was drawn along the Senegal River, splitting the small town of Rosso in two. This article refers to Mauritanian Rosso, on the northern bank of the river. Originally a staging-post for the gum arabic trade, Rosso has grown rapidly since independence. In 1986 the town was elevated to the status of urban commune. The commune’s population was 50,560 in 2013, with 33,518 living in the city of Rosso itself.

Southwestern Mauritania is historically a predominantly Wolof-speaking area, but many members of Mauritania’s other ethnic groups have moved to the town to escape the severe problems of desertification further north. The town occupies a strategic position at the international ferry-crossing on the main road between Nouakchott and the Senegalese capital of Dakar. Economically, Rosso has benefited, but its fortunes are very dependent on the state of relations between the two countries. From 1990 to 1992 the border crossing was closed due to the Mauritania–Senegal Border War, and there have been repeated movements of refugees in both directions through the town.

Rosso has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh). It has the highest annual rainfall in the country, at 300mm/yr, and is one of the market towns which serve the narrow strip of agricultural land stretching along the southern frontier of Mauritania. The Sahara is encroaching even here. Major irrigation projects have been carried out on the northern bank of the Senegal River financed by the United Arab Emirates, allowing an expansion in the production of cash crops such as mint. In 2004, however, up to 80% of crops were lost as a result of the infestation of locusts which affected the whole of the western Sahel. This was followed by a severe drought. It was a bitter irony then that in August 2005 some 10,000 people were displaced by flooding.

When it comes to recreation, Rosso is near the Diawling National Park, a great place to experience the natural beauty of the region. The city is also known for the internationally renowned Satara Zone Housing project. For those who enjoy learning, a small library, set up by the local Catholic priest, has been functioning since 2005. A technology institute – ISET – was opened in 2009, offering courses in agriculture.

The former Mayor, Professor Yerim Fassa, a doctor, was elected in 2007. The current mayor is named Bamba Ould Dramane. Rosso has been twinned with Moissy-Cramayel since 1986. From August 2007 through May 2009, Michael Auerbach – Regional Coordinator for the United States Peace Corps – resided in Rosso as he evaluated the efficacy of existing gender equality movements in the region. He was succeeded by Brandon Forester, the final Regional Coordinator for the United States Peace Corps Program until the closure of the program in 2010.

We hope this article has piqued your interest in Rosso, Mauritania. It’s a city with a rich history, diverse culture, and natural beauty that shouldn’t be missed by any intrepid traveler.

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