Mauritius is an Indian Ocean island nation that’s known for its beaches, lagoons and reefs. The mountainous interior includes Black River Gorges National Park, with rainforests, waterfalls, hiking trails and wildlife, and Capital Port Louis, with sites such as the Champs de Mars horse track. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fascinating facts about Mauritius.
1. Mauritius was uninhabited by humans until the Arabs landed there in the Middle Ages. They called the island Dine Arobi. The Portuguese came next, calling the island Cine. Neither the Arabs nor the Portuguese stayed on the island.
2. The Dutch Republic established a colony in 1638, naming it after Prince Maurice van Nassau. The colony lasted until 1710, when it was abandoned.
3. Five years later, the island became a French colony named Isla de France. Due to its strategic position, the island was known as the star and key of the Indian Ocean.
4. As an important base on the trade routes from Europe to the East before the opening of the Suez Canal, it was fought over by the French and British during the Napoleonic years.
5. Though the French won the naval battle of Grand Port, the British forced the surrender of the island three months later in December, 1810. The French settlers were allowed to keep their land, French language and French laws.
6. Under British rule, Mauritius became the Empire’s main sugar-producing colony. When slavery was abolished by Parliament in 1835, the planters received compensation for their African slaves.
7. The planets then used the money to buy a large number of indentured laborers from India to work the sugar cane fields as well as almost 9,000 Indian soldiers.
8. The country of Mauritius includes the island of Mauritius, Rodrigues and the other islands.
9. The main island of Mauritius is only 28 miles wide and 40 miles long. It’s of volcanic origin and it’s almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs.
10. Port Louis, both the capital and the largest city of Mauritius, was set up in 1736 by the French East India Company. The capital city is home to 40% of the national population.
11. Mauritius is home to some world famous public beaches, including the Flic en Flac, as well as Pereybere, Tamarin, Blue Bay, La Morne, Belle Mare, and Grand Bay.
12. Mauritius remained a strategically important British naval base, and later an air station, playing an important role during World War II for anti-submarine and convoy operations, as well as collection of signal intelligence.
13. The nation got its independence from the United Kingdom on March 12, 1968.
14. The national flag of Mauritius, also known as the Four Bands, was adopted upon its independence. It consists of red, blue, yellow and green bands. The red represents the bloodshed at the time of slavery and colonization, or self determination and independence. The blue represents the Indian Ocean that surrounds the island. The yellow represents the new light of independence shining. The green represents the lush vegetation of the island.
15. The nation is a democracy with its government elected every five years.
16. The currency of Mauritius is the Mauritian Rupee.
17. Mauritian Creole is the primary language of 86.5% of people living in Mauritius. English is the official language but it’s spoken by less than 1% of the population.
18. Both English and French are generally accepted as the official languages of Mauritius and as the languages of government administration, courts and business. The constitution of Mauritius is written in English, while some laws, such as the civil code, are in French.
19. Mauritius is the only Africa country to have a Hindu majority.
20. Sugarcane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area in Mauritius, and accounts for 15% of the country’s export earnings. Tea, corn, potatoes, bananas, beans, cattle, goats and fish are other significant agricultural commodities produced in Mauritius.
21. Mauritius was the only known habitat of the now extinct dodo bird, which was a type of pigeon which settled on the island more than 4 million years ago. With no natural predators to attack them, they lost their ability to fly and weighed up to 50 pounds.
22. Lewis Carroll is said to have been inspired by the dodo to write his famous book “Alice in Wonderland” in 1865.
23. Seafood is a staple of Mauritian cuisine, which has Asian, Indian, French and British influences. Indians brought curries and chutney, while Chinese migrants made rice and noodles commonplace.
24. Mauritius itself is encircled by a broken ring of mountain ranges that are made up of extinct volcanoes, streams, waterfalls and rivers.
25. Several tropical cyclones generally hit the island between January and March every year.
26. Mauritius has the highest population density of any African country. The multiethnic population has Indian, African European and Chinese people.
27. Mauritian poet and playwright Dev Virahsawmy has translated several of Shakespeare’s plays into Mauritius’ Creole. These have been performed in the island’s theater.
28. Sega is the national folk dance of Mauritius. Its African origins can be traced back to the 18th century when it was performed by slaves as a way to forget their miserable existence.
29. Soccer is the favorite national sport and the national team competes in the African Cup of Nations Tour.
30. Winter horse racing is one of the most popular and highly attended sporting events of the islanders’ year.