Copyright Elbow Grease 2014
History of Mauritius
Mauritius was first discovered by the Arabs in the 10th century and was named Dina Robin. In 1510 the Portuguese led by navigator Pedro Mascarenhas visited the island and called it Cirné. Just like the Arabs before them, they only used it as a port of call and never established any permanent settlement.
In 1598, the Dutch on their way to the East fortuitously landed at Vieux Grand Port, in the south east of the island, and named it after their Prince " Mauritius Van Nassau ", the younger son of Guillaume de Nassau, Prince Orange and Stadholder of Holland. Unlike the Portuguese who had little influence in the Indian Ocean, the Dutch were much more powerful in the region. They had already several counters in the East and established a first settlement under the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch however showed more interest with the Far East and the peopling of Mauritius remained very unstable. In 1712, they finally withdrew from Mauritius because of the difficult climatic conditions prevailing on the island and because it was more worthwhile to consolidate their already established base in Cape town (South Africa).
Their withdrawal allowed the French in 1715, who were already operating in the Indian Ocean, to move in. They named the island Isle de France. True colonisation and peopling of the island started under the French in 1722 and they would control the island until 1810. For almost 100 years the Isle de France was developed and built up with the objective of conquering Madras and other Indian counters from the British. Under the French, colonisation was successful because they were prepared to settle and develop the infrastructure, agriculture and economy and use it as a trading post rather than just a port of call.
After the defeat of the French in India, Britain became the most important land based power in the Indian Ocean. Finally in 1810 the British moved in and took over the island six months after having been vanquished by the same French during the naval battle of Vieux Grand Port. It was to be the one and only victory of the navy of Napoleon in the world.
It was during British rule that slavery was abolished in 1835 and Indentured labourers were contracted from India. The 19th Century was a time of great change in the population structure of the island. The African & Indian people and Europeans greatly modified the political of the island. The 20th Century saw a continuation of the political struggle started in the 19th Century. Political Parties were formed and the distribution of power was reformed to accommodate the different emerging segment of the population. In 1936 the Mauritian Labour Party was created and in 1968 the island became an independent country. The second half of the 20th Century is marked by reforms brought to the economy which led to the economic boom after 1982 and to the transformation of the island from an underdeveloped, third world country into a developing country.
Mauritius is situated in the South West Indian Ocean, slightly over the tropic of Capricorn, in latitude 20° south and longitude 57° east of Greenwich. It is 2,000 km off the east coast of Africa 855 km east of Madagascar.
An island of volcanic origin with an area of 1,864 km2, it is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs. The land rises from coastal plains to a central plateau where it reaches a height of 670 meters. The plateau is bordered by three mountain ranges, the highest peak, the Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire, rising to 828 m. Mauritius is 45km in width and 65km in length. Mauritius is divided into 9 districts namely the Rivère du Rampart and Pamplemousses in the north, Port Louis the capital, Black River in the west, Flacq in the east, Moka and Plaines Wilhems in the central plateau, and Grand Port & Savanne in the south.
It enjoys a maritime sub-tropical climate with temperatures averaging 22° C on the plateau.
Mauritius is a democratic state based on the Westminster model and enjoys political stability.
Of volcanic origin and generally sheltered by barriers of coral reefs forming natural, safe, crystal clear lagoons, Mauritius has long been a dream destination. Known to the Arabs as early as the 10th century, but officially "discovered" in 1505 by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Mascarenhas, the island was occupied successively by the Dutch (1598-1712) and the French (1715-1810), and was ceded to Great Britain in 1814 through the Treaty of Paris. On 12 March 1968, Mauritius became Independent. Our national flag is Red, Blue, yellow and Green. Republic Day was proclaimed on 12 March 1992.
People & Population
The various population movements of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries have made Mauritius a unique blend of different races, cultures and religions. People of European, African, Indian and Chinese origins have created a multiracial society where the various cultures and traditions flourish in peace and harmony.
The population started to grow under French rule in the 18th century. In 1735, the population had grown to almost 1,000 and reached nearly 20,000 in 1767 (15,000 of them slaves). When the British abolished slavery in 1835, the population stood at 100,000. It increased rapidly with the coming of Indian labourers. Between 1835 and 1865, some 200,000 labourers were brought in. By the turn of the century, the population grew to 371,000 and in 1944 it stood at 419,000. After the Second World War, the increase was more rapid, particularly because of the baby-boom and the drop in the infantile mortality rate.
The rate of natural increase which was about 3 per cent in the 60's has considerably dropped with family planning campaigns and greater awareness due to better education. During the last ten years, the population has grown at an average rate of 1.1 per cent annually. At the end of July 2004, the population of the Republic of Mauritius was estimated at 1,233,669.
English is the official language. French is extensively used and Creole is widely spoken. Asian languages also form part of the linguistic mosaic.
Climate and temperature
Mauritius has a maritime climate, tropical during summer and sub-tropical during winter. The summer months extend from November to April and winter from May to October.
In the centre of the island, the temperature varies between 13ºC and 19ºC in July - August, and between 19ºC and 25ºC in January. Along the coast, the temperature is about 5ºC higher.
Population literacy rate
Shopping hours in our main cities range from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm (Monday-Saturday). Some shops are open till noon on Sundays and public holidays. Many duty free shops and modern shopping centers (Caudan, Curepipe, Floréal Square, Happy World House, Orchard Centre) offer a wide choice of products.
Please note that there are no shops open in Rose-Hill, Curepipe and Quatre-Bornes on Thursday afternoon.
Though there exists private school based on English and French system, education is free for all from primary to tertiary.
Free health services for all in public hospitals. There exists also some reputed private medical clinics for general and specialised treatments.
Private Sector : Monday to Friday: 8.30 am - 4.15 pm Saturday : 9am -noon (Some offices)
Public Sector : Monday to Friday: 9 am - 4 pm
Saturday : 9 am - noon (Skeleton service).
A value added tax of 15% is payable on goods and services including hotel and restaurant bills.
Deep sea fishing
Mauritius is a paradise for deep sea fishing. Species include the blue or black marlin, all types of sharks, yellow tuna, the Bonitos, the 'emperor', the 'pélerin', the 'bécune' or the barracuda.
Huge fishes like the Blue Marlin roam our seas and hunt around the island from November to April, and very often until May. The ocean is 70 metres deep one kilometre away from the coast. Mauritius holds several world fishing records (IGFA), including that of the mako shark of 1115 pounds, the blue shark of 400 pounds, a bonito of 41.5 pounds, a white tuna of 224 pounds and a 'bécune' of 125 pounds.
frican records (GFUA) mention a yellow tuna of 212 pounds and a white tuna of 224 pounds. Other specimens recently caught include blue marlins of 1430 and 1355 pounds. Fishing boats can be hired from almost all hotels. The most prestigious deep sea fishing competition is the Marlin World Cup which is hosted in December by La Pirogue Hotel.
Several of our hotels have excellent golf courses. Three 18 holes : Le Paradis at Le Morne Belle Mare Plage hotel, and One&Only Le Touessrok Golf Course. Five 9 holes: at Trou aux-Biches, Shandrani (Blue Bay), St Géran (Poste de Flacq), Maritim (Balaclava) and the Sofitel Impérial (Wolmar). Belle Mare Plage has two championship golf courses : Legends and Links. Most of these hotels have a club house with a locker room for customers' equipment and a shop. There are instructors to attend to customers' needs including private tuition. Golf balls, clubs and caddies can be hired. An 18-hole golf course also exists at the Gymkhana private club in Vacoas. Visitors have to pay an entrance fee to be able to play. The most spectacular golf course of Mauritius is probably the "One&Only Le Touessrok Golf Course". One&Only Le Touessrok Golf Course is on its very own tropical island, fringed by white sands with a backdrop of green mountains - truly one of the world's great golf settings. All 18 holes have views of the ocean. There are nine lakes in all, with a number of holes requiring tee shots across sea inlets to the fairways. Bernard Langer has designed the course to challenge advanced players, while remaining exciting and playable for recreational golfers.
The currency of Mauritius is the Mauritian Rupee (Rs).
The following credit cards are accepted in Mauritius: American Express, Diners, MasterCard and Visa.
Money changers operate throughout the island and at the airport. There also exist facilities for cashing travellers cheques.
Economy of Mauritius
Mauritius has witnessed a massive development in the last decades. From a monocrop economy, depending mainly on sugar, it has diversified its economic activities into, textile and apparel industry, tourism and financial services.
The country is equipped with a highly skilled labour force and a very good infrastructure thereby attracting Foreign Direct Investment. The average economic growth was 5.6% over the last 3 years. The income per Capita has reached 4000 US Dollars. As a result the standard of living has gone up. The country has now a life expectancy rate of 71.4yrs, an adult literacy rate of 83%.
To face globalisation and a new economic environment, the Government has taken several steps. High value-added, capital intensive and knowledge-based activities are on the priority list. The Information Technology sector is undergoing rapid changes so as to be fit for the next millennium. The aim is to make Mauritius a centre for high-tech and software services, which can be exported.
The other sectors namely Tourism, Textile, Agriculture and Financial services are also undergoing changes in a positive direction.
Culture of Mauritius
The culture of the country reflects its diverse ethnic composition. There are many religious festivals, some important ones being (in random order) Divali (the hindu festival of lights, in October), Christmas, Cavadee (a penitence festival of the south Indian tradition of hinduism, in January), Eid ul Fitr (celebrating the end of the period of fasting in Islam. As the Islamic calendar does not correspond to the Gregorian calendar, the date of its celebration in the year tends to vary. In 2003 it was celebrated in November).
Sega is an indigenous musical form. As it started among slaves of African origin, it is conventionally believed to be of African origin. However, according to some observers, there is no easily found equivalent in mainland Africa to the hip-swaying style of sega dancing, and to the musical instruments used (notably the ravane, a piece of goatskin tightly drawn over a wooden hoop). Sega could therefore be of mixed origin.
Sega comes in many forms, There is the commercial variety sung in hotels, usually of a joyous mood, the more politically involved sega engagé, with strong leftist overtones, and the rough-hewn sega typique, a traditional form of sega, which starts as a slow melody and gradually gathers speed. Modern creole music also shows the influence of ragamuffin, rap and mainstream pop styles.
In the countryside, where the population is predominantly of Indian origin, bhojpuri songs (from a rural dialect of Bihar province in India) are still popular and have been recast in modern forms.
Like in most countries with a colonial past, Mauritian literature was traditionally of a conservative cast, with much emphasis on the proper use of the dominant language (in this case French). From the 1930's onwards however, Mauritian writing became more progressive in both its form and content (eg "L'étoile et la Clef" by Loïs Masson). The 1970's saw the birth of modern creole literature (which claims antecedents, however, in a 19th century compilation of creole folktales by Charles Baissac, which is the first major work in Mauritian creole).
Literature in hindi and other indian languages also evolved concomitantly with the rise of the Indian community throughout the 20th century. A notable writer in hindi is Abhimanyu Unnuth, whose work (notably "Lal pasina" - the red sweat - is a powerful narration of the travails of Indian workers in the 19th century) has been well received in literary circles in India.
Mauritian literature in French in the 1960's and 70's had a penchant for poetry of a symbolical and esoteric character, maybe deriving from the strong interest of Mauritian society for spirituality. Raymond Chasle, Jean Fanchette, Jean Claude d'Avoine, Malcom de Chazal are the representatives of this school. The 1980's and the 1990's have seen the return of prose, maybe because of a need felt to narrate the rapid changes in a society undergoing industrialisation.
The success in the early 80's of "Le chercheur d'or" ("the gold seeker") by French writer Jean Marie Le Clezio could also have influenced this re-awakening of interest in prose. The parents of Mr Le Clezio, who is a leading figure of contemporary writing in France, were Mauritians - "the gold seeker" is based on the adventures of his grandfather, who spent many years seeking a pirates' treasure in Rodrigues. He has had a consistent interest in Mauritian culture, and has given significant help to the development of Mauritian writing.
Some noted contemporary Mauritian writers are: Carl de Souza ("La Maison qui marchait vers le large"- "the house which walked towards the horizon" ), Ananda Devi Nursimloo ("Soupir" - "Sigh"), Sedley Richard Assone ("De l'amour et autres poèmes" - "Of love and other poems").
Oddly enough, there is not so much Mauritian literature in English despite Mauritius being a British colony for 158 years. Two notable exceptions however, are Lindsey Collen, a social activist and writer whose novels ("Mutiny") have received favourable reviews abroad, and R. Bucktowar ("A temple on the Island").
Voltage is 220 volts.