Wednesday, August 04, 2004

About Mauritius

One of my readers asked me to talk more about us Mauritians. So here we go: Mauritius is a tiny island situated east of Madagascar (the large island next to South Africa). The economy is based on Sugar production, Textile and Tourism. Because of competition in the Sugar (with countries like Cuba for example) and Textile (countries like India, China, Bangladesh … where labour is cheap), the government has to find more ways to create new commerce. The latest attempt was the creation of a Cyber City. Basically, Mauritius is working towards being the leader in the IT and ICT industry within Africa. Personally I think that they need to do so much more because more and more intellectuals are moving away. The population consist of (roughly) 55% Hindus, 35% Muslims, 8% African Christians, 1% Chinese and 1% White Christians. There are no racial tensions and in fact there is harmony. Two examples that can highlight this are: 1) Chicken is halal in every shops and takeaways. 2) Everyone understands the reasons behind each other's festival and participates in it (and Eid-Ul-Fitr is a public holiday). Like Mark Twain said: "God created Mauritius first then Paradise". The Arabs first discovered Mauritius, unofficially, and never settled. It is referred as 'Dina Arobi' in their maps dated early 16th century. The Portuguese were the first to settle there and claims to be the first to discover the island in 1511. However they did not stay long because they could not see much interest in the island. The Dutch were the first major settlers - 1598 - 1710. Most of the domestic animals were brought by them (Deer, cats, dogs, rats, …). They also introduced our main crop - the sugar cane. The French then came in 1715. They developed the country and made it a very important place for commerce to such an extent that it was rivalling against the great East India Company - Mauritius was then called 'Isle de France'. The French brought us our way of life and even our spoken language. Part of our legal system is based upon the Napoleon law system (some have been abolished - like the capital punishment). Unfortunately the French were at war with the British during that time. The French corsaire from Mauritius would use every opportunity to sink the British Trade Ships passing in the region and then collect the goods. The British fought and won the island and the French had to leave (1810). Mauritius, at that time, consisted of the Island itself, Rodrigues Island, the Chagos Islands and the Seychelles. Though the British had the islands, they did not really settle. However, they did contribute to the development of the island. They abolished slavery, added new laws and brought tea. Due to the abolition of slavery, there was a lack of labour working in the fields. So they had to lure some Indian labourers over there. (NB: When I came to the UK, I always get into this argument with Pakistani and Indian friends: "Which side of India were your ancestors from" - I do not know). Fighting for Independence was not difficult but there was a hidden catch - has been the case with the other countries to which Britain gave independence (We got our independence in 1968). Until today Mauritius is not complete. They took the Chagos Island from us and create the "British Indian Ocean Territorial" State - one that is not even recognised by the United Nation. They illegally removed the Chagossians from their home and dumped them on the Mauritian main land. The Americans, who obtained the island on contractual basis for an army base, gased all their pets. These people fought and won their case through the British High Court but the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is currently fighting against the ruling (is he for real?). Mauritius is in process of bringing the case to the Hague and is prepared to leave the Common Wealth if required. Any Mauritian reading this post, feel free to correct me and thanks for reading.


Fayrouz said...


This is an excellent post. I learned a lot about your native country by reading it. I hope you write more.

Thank you again for writing the post. I really appreciate it.

Fej said...


I never knew anything about this. I've heard of Diego Garcia but never even thought to question where it was or how it came to be. I suppose when one is comfortable and safe, why bother to ask how it came to be, until it is threatened.

I'll continue to read your blog and hope to learn more about this.

Jaeboy said...

Nice one :)

Anonymous said...

A slight correction, when the British conquered Ile de France in 1810, they did not boot off the French. What happened was that the French pleaded to stay in Mauritius to avoid their riches being confiscated in Napoleonic France when the people were sending aristocrats to the guillotine. This would account for the influence of the French culture in Mauritius, a country otherwise rules mainly by the British.

Faisal ... said...

Thanks for the correction