Mauritius

Mauritius officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres off the south east coast of the African continent.

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Mauritius i/məˈrɪʃəs/ (Mauritian Creole: Moris; French: Maurice, pronounced: [mɔˈʁis]), officially the Republic of Mauritius (Mauritian Creole: Republik Moris; French: République de Maurice) is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the south east coast of the African continent. The country includes the islands of Agalega, Cargados Carajos (Saint Brandon) and Rodrigues. Mauritius forms part of the Mascarene Islands, which include the neighbouring islands of Réunion, Saint Brandon and Rodrigues. The area of the country is 2040 km2, its capital is Port Louis.

The first Portuguese explorers found no indigenous people living on the island in 1507. The island of Mauritius was the only home of the Dodo bird. The bird became extinct fewer than eighty years after its discovery.[7] The Dutch settle on the island in 1598 and abandoned it in 1710, Mauritius became a French colony in 1715 and was renamed Isle de France. The British took control of Mauritius in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars. The country became an independent state as a Commonwealth realm on 12 March 1968 and Republic within the Commonwealth on 12 March 1992.

The country's populace is composed of several ethnicities, mostly people of Indian, African, Chinese and European descendent. Most Mauritians are multilingual, English, French, Creole and Asian languages are used.[6]

The Mauritian Constitution is based on the Westminster model. The head of government is the President but constitutional power is vested by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Mauritius is the only African country with Full Democracy according to the Democracy Index.[8]

Etymology

Mauritius was first named Dina Arobi by Arab sailors during the Middle Ages who were also the first people to visit the island. In 1507 Portuguese sailors visited the uninhabited island, the island appears with a Portuguese name Cirne on early Portuguese maps, probably because of the presence of the flightless bird, the dodo which was abundant at that time. Another Portuguese sailor, Dom Pedro Mascarenhas, gave the name Mascarenes to the Archipelago. In 1598 a Dutch squadron under Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck landed at Grand Port and named the island Mauritius, in honour of Prince Maurits van Nassau, stadtholder of the Dutch Republic. Later the island became a French colony and was renamed Isle de France . On 3 December 1810 the French formally surrendered after the Napoleonic wars. Under British rule, the island's name reverted to Mauritius i/məˈrɪʃəs/. Mauritius is also commonly known as Maurice (pronounced: [mɔˈʁis]) and Île Maurice in French, Moris in creole and मॉरिशस in Hindi.[9]

History

The island of Mauritius was unknown and uninhabited before its first recorded visit by Arab sailors during the Middle Ages who named it Dina Arobi. In 1507 Portuguese sailors visited the uninhabited island and established a visiting base. Portuguese navigator Diogo Fernandes Pereira was probably the first European to land on the island at around 1511. The island appears with a Portuguese name 'Cirne' on early Portuguese maps. The Portuguese did not stay long as they were not interested in these islands.[9]

In 1598 a Dutch squadron under Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck landed at Grand Port and named the island "Mauritius". The Dutch settle on the island in 1638. It was from here that Dutch navigator Abel Tasman set out to discover the western part of Australia. The first Dutch settlement lasted only twenty years. Several attempts were subsequently made, but the settlements never developed enough to produce dividends and the Dutch abandoned Mauritius in 1710. They are remembered for the introduction of sugar-cane, domestic animals and deer.[9]



The Battle of Grand Port, 20–27 August 1810

France, which already controlled neighbouring Île Bourbon (now Réunion), took control of Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Isle de France. The 1735 arrival of French governor Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais coincided with development of a prosperous economy based on sugar production. Mahé de La Bourdonnais established Port Louis as a naval base and a shipbuilding centre. Under his governorship, numerous buildings were erected, a number of which are still standing today - part of Government House, the Château de Mon Plaisir and the Line Barracks, the headquarters of the police force. The island was under the administration of the French East India Company which maintained its presence until 1767.[9]

From 1767 to 1810, except for a brief period during the French Revolution when the inhabitants set up a government virtually independent of France, the island was controlled by officials appointed by the French Government. Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre visited the island and wrote Paul et Virginie, a successful novel situated on the island. In particular Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen, a successful General in the French Revolutionary Wars and in some ways, a rival of Napoléon I, ruled as Governor General of Mauritius and Réunion from 1803 to 1810. British naval cartographer and explorer Matthew Flinders was arrested and detained by the General Decaen on the island, in contravention of an order from Napoléon. During the Napoleonic Wars, Mauritius became a base from which French corsairs organised successful raids on British commercial ships. The raids continued until 1810, when a Royal Navy expedition led by Commodore Josias Rowley, R.N., an Anglo-Irish aristocrat, was sent to capture the island. Despite winning the Battle of Grand Port, the only French naval victory over the British during these wars, the French surrendered to a British invasion at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property and to use the French language and law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island's name reverted to Mauritius.[9]



Champ de Mars, Port Louis, 1880

The British administration, which began with Sir Robert Farquhar as Governor, was followed by rapid social and economic changes. Slavery was abolished in 1835. The planters received two million pounds sterling in compensation for the loss of their slaves who had been imported from Africa and Madagascar during the French occupation. The abolition of slavery had important repercussions on the socio-economic and demographic fields. The planters brought large number of indentured labourers from India to work in the sugar cane fields. Between 1834 and 1921, around half a million indentured labourers were present on the island. They worked on sugar estates, factories, in transport and construction sites. Additionally, the British brought 8,740 Indian soldiers to the islands.[9]

As the Indian population became numerically dominant and the voting franchise was extended, political power shifted from the old Franco-Mauritian élite and their Creole allies, to the Indo-Mauritians. Cultivation of sugar cane flourished, it was mainly exported to the Great Britain. Economic progress saw improvement of the means of communication and a gradual upgrading of infrastructure.

Following constitutional conferences held in London in 1955 and 1957, the ministerial system was introduced and a General Election was held on 9 March 1959. Voting took place for the first time on the basis of universal adult suffrage and the number of electors rose to 208,684. A Constitutional Review Conference was held in London in 1961 and a programme of further constitutional advance was established. In 1965, the Chagos Archipelago was split from the territory of Mauritius to form British Indian Ocean Territory. The last constitutional conference held in 1965, paved the way for the independence of Mauritius. After a General Election in 1967, Mauritius adopted a new constitution and independence was proclaimed on 12 March 1968. Mauritius became independent as a Commonwealth realm and became a Republic within the Commonwealth twenty four years later on 12 March 1992.[9]

Politics

Politics of Mauritius takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, in which the President is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government who is assisted by a Council of Ministers. Mauritius has a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the Government. Legislative power is vested in both the Government and the National Assembly. The absolute power is split between two positions: the President and the Prime Minister.

Parliament

The National Assembly is Mauritius's unicameral parliament, which was called the Legislative Assembly until 1992, when the country became a Republic. It consists of 70 members, 62 elected for four-year terms in multi-member constituencies and 8 additional members, known as "Best losers", appointed by the Supreme Court to ensure that ethnic and religious minorities are equitably represented. The president is elected for a five-year term by the parliament. The island of Mauritius is divided into 20 constituencies returning three members each and that of Rodrigues is a single constituency returning two members. After a general election, the Electoral Supervisory Commission may nominate up to a maximum of 8 additional members in accordance with section 5 of the First Schedule of the Constitution with a view to correct any imbalance in community representation in Parliament. This system of nominating members is commonly called the best loser system.

The political party or party alliance which wins the majority of seats in Parliament forms the government and its leader usually becomes the Prime Minister. It is the Prime Minister who selects the members of the composition of the Cabinet from elected members of the Assembly, except for the Attorney General, who may not be an elected member of the Assembly. The political party or alliance which has the second largest majority forms the Official Opposition and its leader is normally nominated by the President of the Republic as the Leader of the Opposition. The Assembly elects a Speaker, a Deputy Speaker and a Deputy Chairman of Committees as some of its first task.

Government

Mauritius is a democracy with a Government elected every five years. The most recent General Election was held on 5 May 2010 in all the 20 mainland constituencies, as well as the constituency covering the island of Rodrigues. Historically, elections have tended to be a contest between two major coalitions of parties.

The 2012 Ibrahim Index of African Governance ranked Mauritius first in good governance.[10] According to the 2011 Democracy Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit that measures the state of democracy in 167 countries, Mauritius ranks 24th worldwide and is the only African country with Full Democracy.[8]

Office Held Office Holder Incumbency
President Kailash Purryag 20 July 2012
Vice President Monique Ohsan Bellepeau 13 November 2010
Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam 5 July 2005
Deputy Prime Minister Rashid Beebeejaun 7 July 2005
Vice Prime Minister Xavier Luc Duval 5 July 2005
Vice Prime Minister Anil Bachoo 7 August 2011
Senior Minister
Sheila Bappoo 7 July 2005
Leader of the Opposition Paul Raymond Berenger 7 July 2005

Rule of Law

Laws governing the Mauritian penal system are derived partly from old French codes and English law.[11] The crime rate reduced from 4.3 per 1,000 population in 2009 to 3.6 per 1,000 population in 2010.[12] Mauritius's constitution states that for purposes of separation of powers, the judiciary is independent. [13] According to The Heritage Foundation the trials are fair and the legal system is generally non-discriminatory and transparent. The Independent Commission Against Corruption investigates offenses and can confiscate the proceeds of corruption and money laundering. Mauritius is one of Africa’s least corrupt countries.[14]

Foreign relations



Prime Minister of Mauritius Navin Ramgoolam and his spouse with the President of the United States Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Mauritius has strong and friendly relations with various African, American, Asian and European countries. It is a member of the World Trade Organization, the Commonwealth of Nations, La Francophonie, the African Union, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the Indian Ocean Commission, COMESA and formed the Indian Ocean Rim Association. Considered part of Africa geographically, Mauritius has friendly relations with African states in the region, particularly South Africa, by far its largest continental trading partner. Mauritian investors are gradually entering African markets, notably Madagascar, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The country's political heritage and dependence on Western markets have led to close ties with the European Union and its member states, particularly the United Kingdom and France. Relations with China and India are strong for both historical and commercial reasons.

Geography

See also: Maps of Mauritius at Wikimedia Commons

The total land area of the country is 2040 km2, which is the 181st largest nation in the world by size. The Republic of Mauritius also incorporates the island of Rodrigues, situated some 560 kilometers to the east and is 104 km2 in area, the Agalega Islands situated some 1,000 km to the north of Mauritius and Saint Brandon situated some 430 km to the north-east of Mauritius, both with total land area of 71.2 km2.[15][16] Mauritius claim sovereignty over Tromelin islands, small islands that lie 430 km to the north-east of Mauritius.[16] The nation's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) cover about 1.2 million square kilometers of the Indian Ocean.[17] Four fishing banks fall within EEZ limits, the Soudan Banks (including East Soudan Bank), Nazareth Bank, Saya de Malha Bank, Hawkins Bank. In 2011 the United Nations endorsed the joint submission of Mauritius and Seychelles to extend their continental shelf of 396,000 km2 in the Mascarene region which gives the two countries sovereign right to jointly manage and exploit the seabed and subsoil of the joint area.[18][19][20]

The island of Mauritius is relatively young geologically, having been created by volcanic activity some 8 million years ago. Together with Saint Brandon, Réunion and Rodrigues, the island is part of the Mascarene Islands. These islands have emerged from the abysses as a result of gigantic underwater volcanic eruptions that happened thousands of kilometres to the east of the continental block made up by Africa and Madagascar. They are no longer volcanically active and the hotspot now rests under Réunion island. There has been no active volcano on Mauritius island for more than 100,000 years. Mauritius is encircled by a broken ring of mountain ranges, varying in height from 300 meters to 800 meters above sea level. The land rises from coastal plains to a central plateau where it reaches a height of 670 meters, the highest peak is in the southwest, Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire at 828 metres (2,717 ft). Streams and rivers speckle the island, a lot of them are formed in the cracks created by lava flows.[21]



Panoramic view showing houses, mountain ranges and sugar cane plantation

The island of Mauritius is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1242 miles) off the south east coast of the African continent, between Latitudes 19°58.8' and 20°31.7' South and Longitudes 57°18.0' and 57°46.5' East, it is 65 km long and 45 km wide, its land area is 1,864.8 km2.[22][23] Mauritius is surrounded by more than 150 kilometres (93 miles) of white sandy beaches and the lagoons are protected from the open sea by the world’s third largest coral reef, which surrounds the island.[24] Just off the Mauritian coast lie some 49 uninhabited islands and islets (see Islets of Mauritius), some of them are used as natural reserves for the protection of endangered species.

Mauritius sought to regain sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago situated 1287 km to the north east (see Chagos Archipelago sovereignty dispute). The Government of the Republic of Mauritius does not recognise the British Indian Ocean Territory, which the United Kingdom created by excising the Chagos Archipelago from the territory of Mauritius prior to its independence. Mauritius claims that the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia, forms an integral part of the territory of Mauritius under both Mauritian law and international law.[25] Starting in the 1960s, the islands 2,000 residents were gradually removed as a process of enabling the United States to establish a military base on the island. The Chagossians has since engaged in activism to return to the archipelago, claiming that the forced expulsion and dispossession was illegal.[7][26]

Environment



Tropical beach, Trou aux Biches

The environment in Mauritius is typically tropical in the coastal regions with forests in the mountainous areas. Seasonal cyclones are destructive to the flora and fauna, although they recover quickly. Mauritius ranked second in an air quality index released by the World Health Organization in 2011.[27][28]

Situated near the tropic of Capricorn, Mauritius has a tropical climate. There are 2 seasons: a warm humid summer from November to April, with a mean temperature of 24.7° and a relatively cool dry winter from June to September with a mean temperature of 20.4°. The temperature difference between the seasons is only 4.3°. The warmest months are January and February with average day maximum temperature reaching 29.2° and the coolest months are July and August when average night minimum temperatures drops down to 16.4°. Annual rainfall ranges from 900 mm on the coast to 1,500 mm on the central plateau. Although there is no marked rainy season, most of the rainfall occurs in summer months. Sea temperature in the lagoon varies from 22° to 27°. The central plateau is much cooler than the surrounding coastal areas and can experience as much as double the rainfall. The prevailing trade winds keep the East side of the island cooler and also tends to bring more rain. There can also be a marked difference in temperature and rainfall from one side of the island to the other. Occasional tropical cyclones generally occurs between January to March and tend to disrupt the weather for only about three days bringing a lot of rain.[29]

Biodiversity

The country is home to some of the world's rarest plants and animals. But human habitation and the introduction of non-native species have threatened its indigenous flora and fauna.[7] Due to its volcanic origin, age, isolation and its unique terrain Mauritius is blessed with a diversity of flora and fauna not usually found in such a small area. Before its discovery by the Portuguese in 1507, there were no terrestrial mammals on the island. This allowed the evolution of a number of flightless birds and large reptile species. The arrival of man saw the introduction of invasive alien species and the rapid destruction of habitat and the loss of much of the endemic flora and fauna. Less than 2% of the native forest that once stretched from the mountain tops of the central plateau to the shore now remains, concentrated in the Black River Gorges National Park in the south west, the Bamboo Mountain Range in the south east and the Moka-Port Louis Ranges in the north west. There are also some isolated mountains which are Corps de Garde, Le Morne Brabant and several offshore islands with remnants of coastal and mainland diversity. Over 100 species of plants and animals have become extinct and many more are threatened. Conservation activities began some 25 years ago with the implementation of programmes for the reproduction of threatened bird and plant species as well as habitat restoration in the National Parks and Nature Reserves.[30]

Dodo



Mauritius was the only known habitat of the extinct Dodo bird

When it was discovered, the island of Mauritius was the home of a previously unknown species of bird, which the Portuguese named the Dodo, as they appeared to be not too bright. Dodos were descendent of a type of pigeon which settled in Mauritius over 4 million years ago. With no predators to attack them, they lost their need and ability to fly. They lived and nested on the ground and ate fruits that had fallen from trees. There were no mammals on the island and a high diversity of bird species lived in the dense forests. In 1505, the Portuguese became the first humans to set foot on Mauritius. The island quickly became a stopover for ships engaged in the spice trade. Weighing up to 50 pounds, the dodo was a welcome source of fresh meat for the sailors. Large numbers of dodos were killed for food. Later, when the Dutch used the island as a penal colony, domesticated animals were brought to the island along with the convicts. Many of the ships that came to Mauritius also had rats aboard, some of which escaped onto the island. Before humans and other mammals arrived the dodo had little to fear from predators. The rats, pigs and monkeys ate dodo eggs in the ground nests. The combination of human exploitation and introduced species significantly reduced the dodo population. Within 100 years of the arrival of humans on Mauritius, the once abundant dodo became a rare bird. The last one was killed in 1681.[31] The dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national Coat of arms of Mauritius.

Districts

Mauritius is divided into nine districts which consist of different towns and villages. The island of Rodrigues used to be the country's tenth district before it gained autonomous status in 2002.

SavanneFlacqRivière
Noire
Port LouisRivière
du
Rempart
PamplemoussesPlaines
Wilhems
Grand PortMoka

Demographics



Population pyramid of Mauritius according to 2011 census

The population estimate (as of 1 July 2012) for the whole republic is 1,291,456, the female population outnumbered the male population by about 19,430. For the island of Mauritius only it is 1,253,000 and Rodrigues island 38,167. Agalega and St. Brandon had an estimated population of 289.[1] Mauritius is a secular country and freedom of religion is a constitutional right.[32] Statistics on ethnics are not available because it has been removed from the population census. The people of Indian descendent (Indo-Mauritian) follows mostly Hinduism and Islam. The Franco-Mauritians, Creoles and Sino-Mauritian's follows Christianity. A minority of Sino-Mauritians also follow Buddhism and other Chinese-related religion. According to the 2011 census made by the Central Statistic Office, Hinduism is the major religion at 49%, followed by Christianity 32%, Islam 17% and Buddhist 0.4% in terms of number of adherents.[33] In 2011, Mauritius was ranked third in Africa in the Human Development Index and 78th out of 187 countries worldwide.[4]

Language

The Mauritian Constitution makes no mention of an official language, it is only in the Parliament that the official language is English, any member of the National Assembly can also address the chair in French.[5] However, English is generally accepted as the official language of Mauritius and as the language of government administration, the courts and business.[6] The constitution of Mauritius and all laws are written in English. The Mauritian population is multilingual most Mauritians are equally fluent in English and French.[24] In Mauritius people switch to languages according to the situation, French and English are favoured in educational and professional settings while Asian languages are used in socio-cultural activities and Creole or Bhojpuri as Mother tongue. The Mauritian Creole, derived mainly from French (a French-based creole) with influences from the other dialects, is spoken by the majority of the population and is the country's native language.[34] Bhojpuri which was also widely spoken has been decreasing over the years, according to the 2011 census made by the Central Statistic Office, there was a decrease in the use Bhojpuri at home, it was spoken by 5% of the population compare to 12% in 2000.[2] French is mostly used in the media and literature, it is also the most common spoken language after the Creole or Bhojpuri.[35] Some ancestral languages which are also spoken in Mauritius include Arabic, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Marathi, Mandarin, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.[24][36] School students must learn English and French; they also have the option to study Asian languages and Creole, the medium of instruction varies from schools.[37] Rodriguan Creole, Agalega Creole and Chagossian Creole are spoken by people from Rodrigues, Agalega and Chagos islands.

Education



The University of Mauritius

The government of Mauritius provides free education to its citizens from pre-primary to tertiary levels. Since July 2005, the government also introduced free transport for all students. For the year 2011, government expenditure on education was estimated at about Rs 11,709 million, representing 12.5% of total expenditure.[38] The education system in Mauritius consist of pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. The education structure consist of 3 years of pre-primary school, six years of primary schooling leading to the Certificate of Primary Education, followed by five years of secondary education leading to the School Certificate and a further two years of higher secondary ending with the Higher School Certificate. The O-Level and A-Level examinations are carried out by the University of Cambridge through University of Cambridge International Examinations. The Tertiary Education sector includes colleges, universities and other technical institutions in Mauritius. The country's two main public universities are the University of Mauritius and University of Technology. The Tertiary Education Commission's Strategic Plan envisages Mauritius as a regional knowledge hub and a centre for higher learning and excellence. It promotes open and distance learning to increase access to post-secondary education and lifelong learning, both locally and regionally.[39]

Economy



Sugarcane plantation

Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a low-income, agriculture-based economy to a middle-income diversified economy. The economy is based on tourism, textiles, sugar, and financial services. In recent years, information and communication technology, seafood, hospitality and property development, healthcare, renewable energy, and education and training have emerged as important sectors, attracting substantial investment from both local and foreign investors.[17] Mauritius embarked on a multi-sector reform agenda in 2006 with the objective of improving the competitiveness of the economy. These reforms had considerable success in accelerating the rate of growth, reducing unemployment and speeding up the pace of diversification of the economy through the development of new sectors. The reforms created fiscal space to allow the authorities to perform a comprehensive, well-targeted, and temporary counter-cyclical policy in early 2009 to mitigate the negative impacts of the global financial crisis. The fiscal stimulus contributed to absorb the shock of the 2007/08 global crisis, which was reinforced in August 2010, with a second four percent of GDP stimulus package to cushion the impact of the European sovereign-debt crisis. Since 2010, the government embarked on a second generation reform program to continue improving Mauritius’ competitiveness as it transitions to more diversified export markets, ensuring also that inclusive growth reaches the entire population.[40] Mauritius has no exploitable natural resources and therefore depends on imported petroleum products to meet most of its energy requirements. Local and renewable energy sources are biomass, hydro, solar and wind energy.[41][42] Mauritius has one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones in the world, in 2012 the government announced its intention to develop the Ocean Economy.[43]



Artist's impression of the Neotown development in Port Louis

Mauritius has one of the most stable and successful economies in Africa and is ranked high in terms of competitiveness, investment climate, governance and freest economy, the Gross Domestic Product estimate was at $20.225 billion and GDP per capita income over $15,595 in 2012, one of the highest in Africa.[3][10][14][44][45] Mauritius is a upper middle income economy with its GNI per capita at US$8,230 in 2011.[46] For the fifth consecutive year, the World Bank’s 2013 Ease of Doing Business report ranks Mauritius first among African economies and 19th worldwide out of 183 economies in terms of ease of doing business.[45] Mauritius has built its success on a free market economy, according to the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom, Mauritius leads Africa in economic freedom and is ranked 8th worldwide. The report’s ranking of 183 countries is based on measures of economic openness, regulatory efficiency, rule of law, and competitiveness. Mauritius is the largest foreign investor in India, FDI inflows to India, from April 2000 to December 2011 amounts to US$62,470.80 million which account for more than 39% of total inflow.[47] Mauritius's real GDP growth rate remains strong although it is estimated to have marginally slowed down to 4.1% in 2011 from 4.2% in 2010, with projections showing moderate growth at 4.0% in 2012 as the euro area, the country’s main export destination, falls into another recession.[48]



Port Louis, the capital city

The rupee (sign: ₨; ISO 4217 code: MUR) is the currency of Mauritius. It is theoretically divided into 100 cents; however, as at October 2011, only 5 and 20 cent coins, are currently in circulation, the latest mintage of these two coins was in 2010. A Half Rupee coin is also in circulation. The rupee was established by law in 1876 as the local currency of Mauritius. The rupee was chosen due to the massive inflow of Indian rupees following Indian immigration to Mauritius. The Mauritian rupee was introduced in 1877, replacing the Indian rupee, sterling and the Mauritian dollar, with the Mauritian rupee equal to one Indian rupee or half a Mauritian dollar. The pound was worth 10¼ rupees at that time. The Mauritian currency also circulated in the Seychelles until 1914, when it was replaced by the Seychellois rupee at par. In 1934, a peg to sterling replaced the peg to the Indian rupee, at the rate of 1 rupee = 1 shilling 6 pence (the rate at which the Indian rupee was also pegged).[49] This rate, equivalent to 13⅓ rupees = 1 pound, was maintained until 1979.

Tourism



Seven Coloured Earths at Chamarel

Mauritius is one of the world’s top luxury tourism destinations.[50] It possesses a wide range of natural and man-made attractions, enjoys a sub-tropical climate with clear warm sea waters, attractive beaches, tropical fauna and flora complemented by a multi-ethnic and cultural population that is friendly and welcoming. These tourism assets are its main strength, especially since they are backed up by well-designed and run hotels, and reliable and operational services and infrastructures.[51] Mauritius received the World Leading island Destination award for the third time and World’s Best Beach at the World Travel Awards in January 2012.[52] Mauritius has also one of the highest rates of returning tourism visitors in the world.[50]

Transportation



Terminal at the SSR International Airport

Transport in Mauritius has been free since July 2005 for students, the disabled and seniors. There are currently no railways in Mauritius, there were previously industrial railways, but these have been abandoned. To cope with increasing road traffic congestion, a Light Rail Transit system has been proposed between Curepipe and Port Louis. The main harbour where international trade is handled and Cruise Terminal is found at Port Louis. The main airport is Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, the home of the national airline Air Mauritius, a new passenger terminal is currently under construction and will be operational in April 2013.

Culture

Holidays and festivals

Mauritius public holidays involves the blending of several cultures from Mauritius’s history, as well as individual culture arising indigenously. There are Hindu festivals, Chinese festivals, Muslim festivals, as well as Christian festivals.

There are 15 annual public holidays in Mauritius. Seven of these are fixed holidays: 1st and 2 January; 1 February; 12 March; 1 May; 2 November; and 25 December. The remaining public holidays are religious festivals with dates that vary from year to year. However these are public holidays, many other festivals like Holi, Raksha Bandhan, Père Laval Pilgrimageal also exist in Mauritius.

Public holidays in Mauritius 2012 Date
New Year's Day 1-2 January
Chinese Spring Festival 23 January
Abolition of Slavery 1 February
Thaipoosam Cavadee 7 February
Maha Shivaratree 20 February
Independence Day 12 March
Ugadi 23 March
Labour Day 1 May
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 15 August
Eid ul-Fitr (Depending on the visibility of the moon) 19 August
Ganesh Chaturthi 20 September
Arrival of Indentured Labourers 2 November
Diwali 13 November
Christmas Day 25 December

Sports



Maiden Cup 2006 - To The Line, winner of the race

The most popular sport in Mauritius is football and the national team is the Club M. However, Mauritius' national sports teams has had little success internationally because of its small population, lack of funding and a local culture that values academic achievement over other activities. Water sports are popular, including swimming, sailing, scuba diving and water skiing. Other popular sports in Mauritius include cyling, table tennis, badminton, volleyball, basketball, handball, boxing, pétanque, judo, karate, taekwondo, weightlifting, bodybuilding and athletics.

However Mauritius is quite competitive at regional level in the Indian Ocean. Mauritius collected some golds, silver and bronze medals in the Indian Ocean Island Games. The second (1985) and fifth editions (2003) were hosted by Mauritius. Mauritius won its first Olympic medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing when boxer Bruno Julie won the bronze medal.

The national sport, however, remains horseracing, which is part and parcel of the island's cultural heritage. Horseracing in Mauritius dates to 1812, when the Champ de Mars Racecourse was inaugurated, making it the oldest racecourse in the Southern Hemisphere. Eight races are held every Saturday afternoon from March to December at the Champ de Mars Racecourse in Port Louis.



More information

Airports5 (2012)
Coastline177 km
Coordinates20 17 S, 57 33 E
Domain Suffix.mu
Ethnic GroupIndo-Mauritian 68%
Ethnic GroupCreole 27%
Ethnic GroupSino-Mauritian 3%
Ethnic GroupFranco-Mauritian 2%
Female Life Expectancy78.35 years (2012 est.)
Female Median Age34 years (2012 est.)
Fertility Rate1.78 children born/woman (2012 est.)
GDP$19.29 billion (2011 est.)
GDP$18.52 billion (2010 est.)
GDP$17.78 billion (2009 est.)
GDP Growth4.1% (2011 est.)
GDP Growth4.2% (2010 est.)
GDP Growth3% (2009 est.)
Government typeparliamentary democracy
Highest PointMont Piton 828 m
Land Area2,030 sq km
LanguageBhojpuri 12.1%
LanguageCreole 80.5%
LanguageEnglish (official; spoken by less than 1% of the population)
LanguageFrench 3.4%
Languageother 3.7%
Languageunspecified 0.3% (2000 census)
LocationSouthern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar
Lowest PointIndian Ocean 0 m
Male Life Expectancy71.25 years
Male Median Age32.2 years
NationalityMauritian(s)
Population Growth0.705% (2012 est.)
Roadways2,066 km
Terrainsmall coastal plain rising to discontinuous mountains encircling central plateau
Total Area2,040 sq km
Total Life Expectancy74.71 years
Total Median Age33.1 years
Water Area10 sq km

References

  1. Ministry of Finance & Economic Development (January – June 2012). Population and vital statistics Republic of Mauritius. Government of Mauritius. http://www.gov.mu/portal/goc/cso/ei987/JANJUNE2012.pdf. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
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Notes

Bibliography
  • Macdonald et al., Fiona. "Mauritius". Peoples of Africa. pp. 340–341.





Neighboring countries


Important people