a man and a camel in the Sahara Desert


Written by Jenny Goldade


Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.


But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.


This article looks at Mauritanian funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Cameroonian funeral traditions and Ni-Vanuatu funeral traditions, among others.


Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.


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Religious Beliefs

Practically the entire population of Mauritania identifies as Muslim. Although, there also is a small number of people who practice either Christianity or Judaism. As for Muslims, most identity as Sunni Muslim.


Death Beliefs

Muslims believe that the soul goes to the Angel of Death to wait for Judgment Day. On this day, it’s determined whether they go to paradise or hell. Even though death is the end of physical life on earth, they believe that the soul lives on.


Preparation of the Body

When someone passes away, they wash the body seven times. Then, they wrap the deceased in a white cloth for the burial.


Mauritanian Funeral

For a Mauritanian funeral, it’s more like a celebration of life and a family reunion in a way, as well. For the funeral meal and also at other significant life events, they slaughter cattle.


The Burial

Most people are buried, as only people who died of a disease are cremated. Elderly people are buried in the ground without a casket. The burial also is usually as quickly as possible because of Mauritania’s desert-like climate, and Muslims are buried facing Mecca. After the burial, funeral goers shouldn’t turn their back to the cemetery. The family also usually gives the deceased’s items to those in need.