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Republic of Mauritius
( In Detail) ( In Detail)
National motto: Stella Clavisque Maris Indici
( Latin: Star and Key of the Indian Ocean)
Official languages Constitution: English; French De facto: French Creole
Capital Port Louis
President Sir Anerood Jugnauth
Prime Minister Dr Navinchandra Ramgoolam
- Total
- % water
Ranked 169th
2,040 km²
- Total (2005)
- Density
Ranked 149th
HDI (2003) 0.791 ( 65th) – medium
- Date
From the United Kingdom
March 12, 1968
Currency Mauritian Rupee
Time zone UTC +4
National anthem Motherland
Internet TLD .mu
Calling Code 230
The Republic of Mauritius is an island nation in the southwest Indian Ocean, about 900 km east of Madagascar and about 3,943 kilometers southwest of India. In addition to the island of Mauritius, the republic includes the islands of St. Brandon and Rodrigues and the Agalega Islands. Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands, with the French island of Réunion 200 km to the southwest.

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Districts and dependencies

History - Contents

While Arab and Malay sailors knew of Mauritius as early as the 10th century and Portuguese sailors first visited it in 1505, the island remained uninhabited until 1638 when it was colonized by the Dutch. They named the island in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau. Due to climate changes, cyclones and the deterioration of the settlement, the Dutch abandoned the island some decades later. The French controlled the island during the 18th century and named it Ile de France (French Island). Despite winning the famous Battle of Grand-Port, the French were defeated by the British in the north of the island, at Cap Malheureux, a month later, and thus lost possession to the British in 1810 and the latter reverted the island to its former name.In 1965, the United Kingdom split out the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius to create the British Indian Ocean Territory, in order to utilise the strategic islands for defence purposes in cooperation with the United States. Although the Government of Mauritius agreed to the move at the time, subsequent administrations have laid claim to the islands stating that the divestment was illegal under international law.
A postcard of Mauritius, Port Louis: Theatre, c.1900-1910
A postcard of Mauritius, Port Louis: Theatre, c.1900-1910
Independence was attained in 1968, with the country becoming a republic within the Commonwealth in 1992. Mauritius has been a stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, and has attracted considerable foreign investment earning one of Africa's highest per capita incomes.Mauritius aims to become the business hub of the Indian Ocean. New business opportunities in banking and the technology sector are being actively sought.

Politics - Contents

The head of state of Mauritius is the President, who is elected for a five-year term by the National Assembly, the unicameral Mauritian parliament. The National Assembly consists of 62 members elected directly by popular vote, with between 4 and 8 further members appointed from "best losers" election candidates to represent ethnic minorities, depending on the results of the election. The government is headed by the prime minister and a council of ministers.The most recent general elections took place on the 3 July 2005 in all the 20 mainland constituencies, as well as the constituency covering the island of Rodrigues.
Summary of the 3 july 2005 National Assembly of Mauritius election results
Parties and alliances Votes % Seats Additional seats total seats
Alliance Sociale:
  • Mauritian Labour Party (Parti Travailliste)
  • Mauritian Party of Xavier-Luc Duval (Parti Mauricien Xavier-Luc Duval)
  • The Greens (Les Verts)
  • Republican Movement
  • Mauritian Militant Socialist Movement (Mouvement Militant Socialiste Mauricien)
948,766 48.8 38 4 42
Alliance MSM-MMM
  • Mauritian Militant Movement (Mouvement Militant Mauricien)
  • Militant Socialist Movement (Mouvement Socialiste Mauricien)
  • Mauritian Social Democrat Party (Parti Mauricien Social-Démocrate)
829,460 42.6 22 2 24
Rodrigues People's Organisation (Organisation du Peuple Rodriguais) 10,184 0.8 2 2 4
All others 156,538 8.0
Total (Turnout 81,5 %) 1,944,948 100.0 62 8 70
Historically, elections have always adhered to a two-party system in Mauritius and this has also been the case this time, with the outgoing MSM/MMM/PMSD coalition against the PTr-led Alliance Sociale which includes PMXD, Les Verts, MR, MSD and MMSM.The Alliance Sociale coalition won 38 seats and will form the next government with PTr leader Navinchandra Ramgoolam as Prime Minister. The MSM/MMM/PMSD coalition won 22 seats and will form the opposition. The 2 remaining seats for Rodrigues were won by OPR candidates. According to the Constitution, an additional eight seats were allocated to "best losers" to guarantee equitable representation of all ethnic groups. This brought the total representation to 42 Alliance Sociale, 24 MSM/MMM/PMSD, and 4 OPR.In international affairs, Mauritius is part of the Indian Ocean Commission.

Districts and dependencies - Contents

The island of Mauritius itself is divided into 9 districts:
1. Black River
2. Flacq
3. Grand Port
4. Moka
5. Pamplemousses
6. Plaines Wilhems
7. Port Louis
8. Rivière du Rempart
9. Savanne Districts of MauritiusDependencies of Mauritius
  • Rodrigues, a populated island which used to be Mauritius's 10th district is now autonomous
  • Agalega (two small islands about 933 kilometers north of Mauritius)
  • Cargados Carajos Shoals (about 402 kilometers north of Mauritius)
  • Chagos Archipelago
  • Tromelin Island
Note: Mauritius also claims the following French-owned islands:
  • Bassas da India
  • Europa Island
  • Glorioso Islands
  • Juan de Nova Island
Other Mauritian Territories
  • Soudan Banks (including East Soudan Bank)
  • Nazareth Bank
  • Saya de Malha Bank

Geography - Contents

Satellite map of Mauritius
Satellite map of Mauritius
Mauritius is the only known habitat of the extinct Dodo bird
Mauritius is the only known habitat of the extinct Dodo bird
Map of Mauritius
Map of Mauritius
Together with Réunion and Rodrigues, Mauritius is part of the Mascarene Islands. This archipelago was formed in a series of undersea volcanic eruptions, as the African plate drifted over the Réunion hotspot. Mauritius and Rodrigues were formed 8-10 million years ago. They are no longer volcanically active, and the hotspot now rests under Réunion. The island of Mauritius itself is formed around a central plateau, with its highest peak in the southwest, Piton de la Riviere Noire at 828 m. Around the plateau, the original crater can still be distinguished from several mountains.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. Cyclones affect the country during November-April.The island's capital and largest city is Port Louis, in the northwest. Other important towns are Curepipe, Vacoas, Phoenix, Quatre Bornes, Rose-Hill, Beau-Bassin, and the recently founded Ebene City.The island is well known for its exceptional natural beauty; "You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven, and that heaven was copied after Mauritius", as Mark Twain noted in Following the Equator.

Economy - Contents

Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has developed from a low-income, agriculturally based economy to a middle income diversified economy with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. For most of the period, annual growth has been of the order of 5% to 6%. This remarkable achievement has been reflected in increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality and a much improved infrastructure. Sugar cane is grown on about 90% of the cultivated land area and accounts for 25% of export earnings. However, a record-setting drought severely damaged the sugar crop in 1999. The government's development strategy centres on foreign investment. Mauritius has attracted more than 9,000 offshore entities; many aimed at commerce in India and South Africa while investment in the banking sector alone has reached over USD 1 billion. Economic performance during the period from 2000 through 2004 combined strong economic growth with unemployment at 7.6% in December 2004.On the 4th of April 2005 during his budget speech, Hon. Pravind Jugnauth, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development announced that Mauritius will become a duty-free island and that will take about 4 years. Duty has been decreased (and for many products completely eliminated) for more than 1850 products including clothing, food, jewellery, photographic equipment, audio visual equipment, lighting equipment etc.The main motivations are (1) Attract more tourists going to Singapore and Dubai, and, (2) Give all Mauritians easier access to quality products at affordable prices.A plan by ADB Networks calls for Mauritius to become the first nation to have coast-to-coast wireless internet access. The wireless hot spot currently covers about 60% of the island and is accessible by about 70% of its population. By year's end antennas should provide access to 90% of the island.The population buying behaviour is being influenced by alternative forms of shopping. Online shopping is the latest trend on the island and is being introduced island wide.

Demographics - Contents

Mauritius is probably the most multicultural island in the Indian Ocean. They are the descendants of people from the Indian subcontinent, Africa, Madagascar, France, England, China plus a few other places. The official languages of Mauritius are English and French,French is still widely spoken despite France having lost its colonial dominion over the island nearly 200 years ago. A French-derived Creole language, with major influences from the other dialects, is widely spoken (80%) on the island and is considered the lingua franca of the country. Several other languages, including Arabic, Desi languages such as Urdu, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Gujarati or East Asian like Cantonese, Hakka and Mandarin are also spoken.The latter South Asian languages are spoken by descendants of the labourers (mostly non- Dravidian) brought from British India during the British rule. The Indo-Mauritians or Desi (when the ethnic groups are combined) form approximately 70% of the total population, while the rest of the population are of either African, French, Chinese, or mixed descent. There are approximately 30,000 Mauritians of Chinese descent, from Hakka, Mandarin and Cantonese language groups.Of all religiously affiliated Mauritians, Hindus constitute 52%, while the remainder is composed mostly of Christians (28%) and Muslims (17%). Buddhists, Sikhs and other religions are also followed.More information can be found at this link

Culture - Contents

The mixed colonial past of Mauritius is reflected in its culture. For example, the cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Desi, Creole, Chinese and European.In 1847 Mauritius became the fifth country in the world to issue postage stamps. The two types of stamps issued then, known as the Red Penny and the Blue Penny are probably the most famous stamps in the world, being very rare and therefore also very expensive.When discovered, the island of Mauritius was home to a previously unknown species of bird, which the Portuguese named the dodo (simpleton), as they appeared not too bright. However, by 1681, all dodos had been killed by settlers or their domesticated animals. Nevertheless, the dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national coat-of-arms(see above).Mauritius has from time to time also been chosen as setting for films, most of which are Bollywood (India) productions. The latest Hindi film to feature Mauritius has been Garam Masala (2005).
  • Music of Mauritius
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