The volcanic islands of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodriques are located in the southern hemisphere, in the south-west Indian Ocean. They form part of the Mascarene Archipelago, which was named after the Portuguese explorer Pedro Mascarenhas who visited Mauritius at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The length of the coastline of Mauritius is 177 km and the island is almost completely surrounded by a fringing coral reef. This small island is just 67 km long by 46 km wide, covering an area of 1860 km2. The land rises from the coast to a central plateau, surrounded by several small mountain ranges. The highest point on the island can be found at Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire (828 m) in the south-west.
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Summer is from November to April and is hot and wet. During January and February the weather is at its hottest, with temperatures between 23ºC and 33ºC. Winter is from May to October and is cooler and drier, with temperatures between 17ºC and 23ºC. Night temperatures can drop significantly, especially on the central plateau. Cyclones may occur during the summer, and the official cyclone season runs between 1 November and 15 May.
You can check on the daily weather forecast, tide tables and cyclone activity on the Mauritius Meteorological Services website.
The Mauritian population of about 1.2 million people is a harmonious blend of different cultures, races and religions. This includes expatriates from literally all over the world: from Australia to America, and from Sweden to South Africa. It is a society highly influenced by French, British and Indian cultures.The population can be broadly identified as comprising:
Although the official language is English, French is the dominant language of Mauritius in the media (both printed and broadcast), training and education. However, Creole (a blend of French, Hindi, Malagasy and other languages, originating as a common language between slaves from different countries) is the language most widely spoken by the local population.
Other languages which can be heard are Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Gujarati and Punjabi. Chinese dialects, such as Cantonese, Hakka and Mandarin, are also spoken by significant parts of the population.
The religion of Mauritius follows the historical path and as the population of the country grew in diversity so the people brought with them the religion closely linked to their culture. Today, in Mauritius, people live in religious harmony and Hindu temples exist next to Muslim mosques and Catholic or Protestant churches.
Culture is a complex blend of beliefs, values, habits, customs, art,
history, folklore, language, nationality, religion, ethnicity and much
more. Four hundred years of influence from different dominant cultures
has left Mauritius with a fascinating and varied cultural heritage and
a tolerant attitude towards others.
Mauritian cuisine is a delight for any taste bud. The influences of Indian, French, Chinese, African and Creole cuisines are obvious everywhere, although the Indian influence on food is more dominant. As you drive through the streets you will find vendors on bicycles, with a glass box bolted to the carrier, selling flatbread called rotis (made with plain flour) or dholl puris (made with crushed split peas/dholl, usually sold in pairs), served with curry, beans, chilli or rougaille (a tomato-based sauce).
From governors to recognized self-governing parliament in just under 400 years, where all Mauritian citizens aged eighteen and above are allowed to cast their vote in national elections held every five years - not a bad track record for a relatively young democracy.
The legal system is based on the French civil law system with elements of English common law in certain areas.
Coat of arms, flag and national anthem
The coat of arms of Mauritius reflects the strategic location of the island and the importance as a crossroad of sea routes between Australia, Africa and the East. This is expressed in the motto, which reads 'Star and key of the Indian Ocean'. It can be seen on official government websites, documents and as a flag alongside the national flag on official occasions.
The colours of the national flag reflect the colours of the coat of arms, but are now described as representing the following:
The national anthem of Mauritius is known as Motherland and was adopted in 1968. The lyrics were written by Jean Gorges Prosper and the music composed by Phillipe Gentil, a member of the Police Force Band at that time.
The Mauritian economy has undergone significant changes since independence.
From being a country dependant on the sugar industry alone, it has developed
a more diverse economy, now including the textile industry, tourism,
IT and financial services. The current boom in land and property development
is evident everywhere and the introduction of Integrated Resort Schemes
(IRS) is contributing towards maintaining the Mauritian economy as one
of the strongest and most competitive in the African region.
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