Boutilimit lies 164 km south east of Mauritania's capital of Nouakchott. The town has been an important center of religious scholarship and training since its founding by an Islamic mystic and scholar in the 19th Century. Although desertification has sapped much of the community's economic energy, it remains the most important center of religious training in Mauritania. Its Qur'anic school is known for its library of manuscripts, set up by Shaykh Sidiyya "al-Kabir" (1774–1868), which is second only to the collection found in the ancient Mauritanian city of Chinguetti. A unique copy of a grammar by Averroes was recently found there.
The estimated population in 2005 was 27,170. The town is also well known in the region for its production of handicraft items, particularly rugs made from camel or goat hair, as well as silver crafts. Notable people from the town include Moktar Ould Daddah, the nation's first president following independence from France.