Imraguen people

The Imraguen, or Imeraguen (Berber: Imragen), are an ethnic group or tribe of Mauritania and Western Sahara. They were estimated at around 5,000 individuals in the 1970s.[1] Most members of the group live in fishing villages in the Banc d'Arguin National Park, located on the Atlantic coast of Mauritania.


The name Imraguen (Berber orthography: imragen) is a Berber word meaning "fishermen", or «people who fish while walking on the sea».,[2] or «those who harvest life».[3]

The Imraguen are believed to descend from the Bafour people[citation needed]. According to the Documentation of the human population of the territory, the Imraguen people lived on the Banc d'Arguin National Park for thousands of years, and its population had probably been larger.[3]

Militarily powerless, the Imraguen were traditionally reduced to the degrading lower-caste status of Znaga, forcibly ruled and taxed (horma) by more powerful Berber, Hassane and Zawia tribes, such as the Oulad Delim and Ouled Bou Sbaa.

In 2008, the Imraguen people occupied 9 small villages along the coastline.[4] Some Imraguen populate the abandoned La Güera fort, which is also the south point of the Western Sahara zone claimed by Morocco.[5]


A few generations ago, the Imraguen people used to whistle the dolphins to bring them near the shore and catch all the mullets that always followed the dolphins.[4]

The Imraguen people are the only ones authorized to fish in the Banc d'Arguin area, as long as they use their traditional fishing techniques. The number of fishes caught for each species is limited and strongly reinforced by the Mauritanian authorities.[4] In 2004, the Imraguen people agreed to preserve the shark and ray species in the Banc d'Arguin National Park (which became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1989) and traded their nets for money.[2]

The Imraguen people blame the new oil and gas explorations around the Banc d'Arguin area, along with a new road adjacent to the area, as the main factors for the reduction of fish reproduction in the area.[4]

At the Arkeiss village, it is possible for tourists to practice "sports fishing" in the Banc d'Arguin and gather up to 5 kilos of fish.[4]


Native toMauritania
RegionBanc d'Arguin National Park
Native speakers
Unclassified (Hassaniya Arabic variety with an Azer (Soninke) base per Ethnologue or Berber base per Fortier, Corinne 2004)
Language codes
ISO 639-3ime (retired)

The Imraguen speak Hassaniya Arabic with some Berber vocabulary related to fishing;[6] their dialect is referred to as the Imraguen language.


The Imraguen are Muslims of the Sunni Maliki rite.


  1. ^ Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff, The Western Saharans, 1980, ISBN 0-7099-0369-3, page 50
  2. ^ a b Fishermen who "walk on water" burn their nets,, 5 May 2004
  3. ^ a b (in Spanish) El pueblo imraguen, protector de la cultura y naturaleza en Mauritana,, 17 June 2006
  4. ^ a b c d e (in French) Jean-Pierre Turquoi, Mauritanie : au pays des Imraguen,, 11 April 2008
  5. ^ (in Spanish) Jesús Cabaleiro Larrán, La Güera, ciudad fantasma del Sahara,, 1 August 2016
  6. ^ Hammarström (2015) Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices

External linksEdit