Thursday, October 7, 2010

Let's Get To Know Each Other # 3

I don't think I'd ever heard of Mauritius until some people from there visited my site. Map junkie that I am, I had to look it up, discovering an island nation in the Indian Ocean (east of Madagascar). Wow. I had no idea a place like that had internet access. Cool.

The flag of Mauritius consists of red, blue, yellow and green stripes which stand for:

* Red: For the blood shed in the struggle for independence
* Blue: the Indian Ocean, in the middle of which Mauritius is situated
* Yellow: the new light of independence shining over the island and the golden sunshine
* Green: the lush vegetation of the island.

Uninhabited by humans until the 17th century, the island was ruled first by the Dutch and then by the French after the former abandoned it. The British took control during the Napoleonic Wars and Mauritius became independent from the UK in 1968.

The capital of Mauritius is Port Louis, a harbor town of roughly 150,000 people.

The motto of "Republik Moris" is "Star and Key of the Indian Ocean."

Mauritius has an upper middle income economy, and the main languages spoken there are Mauritian Creole, French and English. English is the only official language but the lingua franca is Mauritian Creole and the newspapers and television programs are usually in French.

Ethnically, the majority of the estimated 1,300,000 people are of Indian descent but there are also many people of African descent on the island. There are also European and Chinese minorities. It is the only African nation where the majority religion is Hinduism although Christianity and Islam also have significant populations.

The island of Mauritius is renowned for having been the only known home of the dodo. First sighted by Europeans around 1600 on Mauritius, this bird was an easy prey to settlers due to its weight and inability to fly, becoming extinct less than eighty years later.

The island was known to Swahili, Arab, and Malay sailors as early as the 10th century and was originally named Dina Harobi by the Arabs. Portuguese sailors first visited in 1507 and established a visiting base leaving the island uninhabited. Five ships of the Dutch Second Fleet were blown off course during a cyclone while on their way to the Spice Islands and landed on the island in 1598, naming it in honor of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the Stadtholder of the Netherlands.

In 2006, Mauritius asked to be an observing member of Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) in order to become closer to those countries. Having just visited Brazil, this is a fortuitous and well-placed discovery. Still a long way to swim though.

Mauritius, as one of the Mascarene Islands, is in an archipelago formed from a series of undersea volcanic eruptions 8-10 million years ago. The local climate is tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; there is a warm, dry winter from May to November and a hot, wet, and humid summer from November to May. Although seasonal cyclones are destructive to the flora and fauna, they recover quickly.