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    * Mauritius *

    موریس


    Iranian_Flag_Hand_Love_Heart.jpg
    (Wikipedia) - Mauritius For other uses, see Mauritius (disambiguation). Not to be confused with Mauritania.

    Coordinates: 20°12′S 57°30′E / 20.2°S 57.5°E / -20.2; 57.5

    Republic of Mauritius République de Maurice  (French) Official languages Vernacular languages Demonym Government Legislature Independence from the United Kingdom Area Population Currency Time zone Date format Drives on the Calling code ISO 3166 code Internet TLD
    Flag Coat of arms
    Motto: "Stella Clavisque Maris Indici" (Latin) "Star and Key of the Indian Ocean"
    Anthem: MotherlandSorry, your browser either has JavaScript disabled or does not have any supported player. You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser.
    Islands of the Republic of Mauritius on the globe excluding the Chagos Archipelago and Tromelin island.
    Islands of the Republic of Mauritius labelled in black, Tromelin and Chagos archipelago are claimed by Mauritius.
    Capital and largest city Port Louis 20°10′S 57°31′E / 20.167°S 57.517°E / -20.167; 57.517
    None
    • Mauritian Creole
    • English
    • French
    Mauritian
    Parliamentary republic
     -  President Kailash Purryag
     -  Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam
    National Assembly
     -  Constitution of Mauritius 12 March 1968 
     -  Republic 12 March 1992 
     -  Total 2,040 km2 (179th) 787 sq mi
     -  Water (%) 0.07
     -  2013 estimate 1,259,838 (156th)
     -  2011 census 1,252,404
     -  Density 618/km2 (19th) 238.611/sq mi
    GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate
     -  Total $22.025 billion
     -  Per capita $17,888 (66th)
    GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
     -  Total US$12.717 billion
     -  Per capita US$9,712 (68th)
    HDI (2013)  0.771 high · 63rd
    Mauritian rupee (MUR)
    MUT (UTC+4)
     -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC)
    dd/mm/yyyy (AD)
    left
    +230
    MU
    .mu
    a. In parliament English is official and French can be used.

    Mauritius (i/məˈrɪʃəs/; French: Maurice), officially the Republic of Mauritius (French: République de Maurice), is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the southeast coast of the African continent. The country includes the island of Mauritius, Rodrigues (560 kilometres (350 mi) east), the islands of Agalega and the archipelago of Saint Brandon. The islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, and Réunion 170 km (110 mi) south west, form part of the Mascarene Islands. The area of the country is 2040 km2. The capital and largest city is Port Louis.

    Mauritius claims sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago from the United Kingdom and Tromelin island from France. The United Kingdom excised the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritian territory prior to Mauritian independence in 1965. The UK gradually depopulated the archipelago''s indigenous population and leased its biggest island, Diego Garcia, to the United States. The US soon thereafter established a military base on Diego Garcia.

    The island of Mauritius was visited during the medieval period by the Arabs and then by the Portuguese, who named it Dina Arobi and Cirne, respectively. The island was uninhabited until the Dutch Republic established a colony in 1638, with the Dutch naming the island after Prince Maurice van Nassau. The Dutch colony was abandoned in 1710, and, five years later, the island became a French colony and was named Isle de France. Mauritius was known as the Star and Key of the Indian Ocean before the opening of the Suez Canal. Because of its strategic position, the island constituted an important base on the trade routes from Europe to the East and was involved in the power struggle between the French and the British. The French won the Battle of Grand Port, their only naval victory over the British during these wars, but they could not prevent the British from landing at Cap Malheureux three months later, and formally surrendered on the fifth day of the invasion, 3 December 1810, on terms allowing settlers to keep their land and property, the use of the French language, and the law of France in criminal and civil matters. Under British rule, the island''s name reverted to Mauritius. The country became an independent state on 12 March 1968, following the adoption of a new constitution and became a republic in 1992 within the Commonwealth.

    The people of Mauritius are multiethnic and multicultural. Most Mauritians are multilingual, Mauritian Creole, English, French, and Asian languages are used. The island''s government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and Mauritius is highly ranked for democracy and for economic and political freedom. Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna, with many species endemic to the island. The island is particularly known as the only home of the Dodo, which, along with several avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively shortly after the island''s settlement.

    Contents
    • 1 Etymology
    • 2 History
      • 2.1 Dutch period
      • 2.2 French period (1710–1810)
      • 2.3 British period (1810–1968)
      • 2.4 Independence
      • 2.5 Republic
    • 3 Politics
      • 3.1 Parliament
      • 3.2 Government
      • 3.3 Rule of law
      • 3.4 Foreign relations
      • 3.5 Military
    • 4 Geography
    • 5 Demographics
      • 5.1 Language
      • 5.2 Education
    • 6 Economy
      • 6.1 Tourism
      • 6.2 Transportation
    • 7 Culture
      • 7.1 Holidays and festivals
      • 7.2 Sports
    • 8 See also
    • 9 References
    • 10 Bibliography
    • 11 External links

    Etymology

    The first historical evidence of the existence of an island now known as Mauritius is on a map produced by the Italian cartographer Alberto Cantino in 1502. From this, it appears that Mauritius was first named Dina Arobi during the Middle Ages by Arab sailors, 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 from the name of a ship in the 1507 expedition. 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 Maurice van Nassau, stadholder of the Dutch Republic. Later the island became a French colony and was renamed Isle de France. On 3 December 1810 the French 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: ) and Île Maurice in French, Moris in creole.

    History
    This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (September 2014)
    Main article: History of Mauritius

    The island of Mauritius was uninhabited before its first recorded visit during the Middle Ages by Arab sailors, who named it Dina Arobi. However, the island might have been visited well before by sailors of ancient times; wax tablets were found on the shores of Mauritius by the Dutch, but since the tablets were not preserved, it cannot be said whether they were of Greek or Phoenician or Arabic origin. In 1507 Portuguese sailors came to the uninhabited island and established a visiting base. Diogo Fernandes Pereira, a Portuguese navigator, was the first European to land in Mauritius. He named the island ''Ilha do Cirne''. The Portuguese did not stay long as they were not interested in these islands.

    Dutch period Main article: Dutch Mauritius

    In 1598 a Dutch squadron under Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck landed at Grand Port and named the island "Mauritius" after Prince Maurice van Nassau of the Dutch Republic, the ruler of his country. The Dutch established a small colony on the island in 1638, from which they exploited ebony trees and introduced sugar cane, domestic animals and deer. 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 made —subsequently, but the settlements never developed enough to produce dividends and the Dutch abandoned Mauritius in 1710.

    French period (1710–1810) Main article: Isle de France (Mauritius)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 — these include 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.

    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 lived on the island from 1768 to 1771, then went back to France, where he wrote Paul et Virginie, a love story, which made the Isle de France famous wherever the French language was spoken. Two famous French governors were the Vicomte de Souillac (who constructed the Chaussée in Port Louis and encouraged farmers to settle in the district of Savanne) and d''Entrecasteaux (who saw to it that the French in the Indian Ocean should have their headquarters in Mauritius instead of Pondicherry). Last but not least was Charles Mathieu Isidore Decaen, a successful General in the French Revolutionary Wars and, in some ways, a rival of Napoléon I. He ruled as Governor of Isle de France 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 could not prevent the British from landing at Cap Malheureux three months later. They formally surrendered on the fifth day of the invasion, 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.

    British period (1810–1968) Main article: British MauritiusChamp de Mars, Port Louis, 1880.

    The British administration, which began with Sir Robert Farquhar as Governor, was followed by rapid social and economic changes. In 1832, Adrien D’Epinay launched the first Mauritian newspaper (Le Cernéen) which was not controlled by the government. In the same year, there was a move by the Procureur-General to bring about the abolition of slavery without compensation to the slave-owners. This gave rise to discontent, and to check an eventual rebellion, the government ordered all the inhabitants to surrender their arms. Furthermore, a stone fortress, the Fort Adelaide, was built on a hill (now known as the Citadel hill) in the centre of Port Louis to quell any uprising. Slavery was abolished in 1835, and the planters finally 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 impacts on Mauritius'' society, economy and population. The planters brought a 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 on construction sites. Additionally, the British brought 8,740 Indian soldiers to the island. Aapravasi Ghat, in the bay at Port Louis and now a UNESCO site, was the first British colony to served as a major reception center for slaves and indentured servants for British plantation labour.

    An important figure of the 19th century was Rémy Ollier, a brilliant journalist of mixed origin. In 1828, colour bar was officially abolished in Mauritius but British governors gave little power to coloured persons, and appointed only whites as leading officials. Rémy Ollier petitioned to Queen Victoria so that coloureds also might become members in the council of government, and this became possible a few years later. He also made Port-Louis obtain its own municipality so that the citizens could administer the town through their own elected representatives. A street has been named after him in Port Louis, and his bust was erected in the Jardin de la Compagnie in 1906.

    At the beginning of the 20th century, in November 1901, Gandhi stopped in Mauritius, on his way to India (from South Africa). He stayed on the island for two weeks, and urged the Indo-Mauritian community to take an interest in education and to play a more active role in politics. Back in India, he sent over a young lawyer Manilal Doctor to improve the plight of the Indo-Mauritians. During the same year, faster links were established with Rodrigues thanks to the wireless.

    In 1903, motorcars were introduced in Mauritius, and in 1910 the first taxis, operated by Joseph Merven, came into service. The electrification of Port-Louis took place in 1909, and in the same decade the Mauritius Hydro Electric Company (managed by the Atchia Brothers) was authorised to power the towns of upper Plaines Wilhems with electricity.

    The 1910s was a period of great political agitation. The rising middle class (made up of doctors, lawyers, and teachers) began to challenge the political power of the Oligarchs, that is, the sugar cane landowners. Dr. Eugène Laurent, mayor of Port-Louis, was the leader of this new group and his party, the Action Libérale, demanded that more people should be allowed to vote in the elections. The Action Libérale was opposed by the Parti de l’Ordre, led by Henri Leclézio, the most influential of the sugar magnates.

    In 1911 there were riots in Port-Louis due to a false rumour that Dr. Eugène Laurent had been murdered by the Oligarchs in Curepipe. Shops and offices were damaged in the capital and one person was killed. In the same year, 1911, the first public cinema shows took place in Curepipe and, in the same town, a stone building was erected to house the Royal College.

    In 1912, a wider telephone network came into service and it was used by the government, business firms and a few private households.

    World War I broke out in August 1914. Many Mauritians volunteered to fight in Europe against the Germans, and in Mesopotamia against the Turks. But the war affected Mauritius much less than the wars of the eighteenth century. On the contrary, the 1914-18 war was a period of great prosperity because of a boom in sugar prices. In 1919 the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate came into being, and it grouped 70% of the sugar producers.

    The 1920s saw the rise of a “retrocessionism” movement which favoured the retrocession of Mauritius to France. But the movement rapidly collapsed because none of the candidates who wanted Mauritius to be given back to France was elected in the 1921 elections.

    In 1922, the first airplane landed in Mauritius, and in 1923 there were 79 cars on the island. The College of Agriculture was started at Réduit in 1925.

    Due to the post-war recession, there was a sharp drop in sugar prices. Many sugar estates closed down, and it marked the end of an era for the sugar magnates who had not only controlled the economy but also the political life of the country. Raoul Rivet, the editor of Le Mauricien newspaper, campaigned for a revision of the constitution that would give the emerging middle class a greater role in the running of the country. The principles of Arya Samaj began to infiltrate the Hindu community who clamoured for more social justice.

    The 1930s saw the birth of the Labour Party. It was launched by Dr. Maurice Curé. Emmanuel Anquetil rallied the urban workers while Pandit Sahadeo concentrated on the rural working class. Labour day was celebrated for the first time in 1938. More than 30,000 workers sacrificed a day’s wage and came from all over the island to attend a giant meeting at the Champ de Mars.

    At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, many Mauritians volunteered to serve under the British flag in Africa and the Near East, fighting against the German and Italian armies. Some went to England to become pilots and ground staff in the Royal Air Force. Mauritius was never really threatened, but several British ships were sunk outside Port-Louis by German submarines in 1943.

    During World War II conditions were hard in the country; the prices of commodities doubled but the salaries of workers increased only by 10 or 20 per cent. There was civil unrest, and the colonial government did its utmost to crush all trade union activities. However, the labourers of Belle Vue Harel Sugar Estate went on strike on 27 September 1943. Police officers eventually fired on the crowd, and killed three labourers including a boy of ten and a pregnant woman, Anjaly Coopen.

    The first general elections were held on 9 August 1948 and were won by the Labour Party. This party, led by Guy Rozemont, bettered its position in 1953, and, on the strength of the election results, demanded universal suffrage. Constitutional conferences were held in London in 1955 and 1957, and the ministerial system was introduced. Voting took place for the first time on the basis of universal adult suffrage on 9 March 1959. The general election was again won by the Labour Party, led this time by Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. A Constitutional Review Conference was held in London in 1961 and a programme of further constitutional advance was established. The 1963 election was won by the Labour Party and its allies. The Colonial Office noted that politics of a communal nature was taking effect in Mauritius and that the choice of candidates (by parties) and the voting behaviour (of electors) were governed by ethnic and caste consideration. Around that time, two eminent British academics, Richard Titmuss and James Meade, published a report which dwelt upon the social problems caused by overpopulation and the monoculture of sugar cane. This led to an intense campaign to halt the population explosion, and the decade registered a sharp decline in population growth.

    Independence Main article: Mauritius (Commonwealth realm)

    At the Lancaster Conference of 1965, it became clear that Britain wanted to relieve itself of the colony of Mauritius. In 1959, Harold Macmillan had made his famous “Winds of Change Speech” where he acknowledged that the best option for Britain was to give complete freedom to its colonies. Thus, since the late fifties, the way had already been paved for independence.

    Later in 1965, after the Lancaster Conference, the Chagos Archipelago was excised from the territory of Mauritius to form British Indian Ocean Territory. A general election took place on 7 August 1967, and the Labour Party and its two allies obtained the majority of seats. Mauritius adopted a new constitution, independence was proclaimed on 12 March 1968. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam became the first prime minister of an independent Mauritius. In 1969, the opposition party Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM) led by Paul Bérenger was founded. Later in 1971, the MMM, backed by unions, called a series of strikes in the port which caused a state of emergency in the country. The coalition government of the Labour Party and the PMSD (Parti Mauricien Social Democrate) reacted by curtailing civil liberties and curbing the freedom of the press. The MMM leader was imprisoned. The next general election took place on 20 December 1976. The Labour Party won 28 seats out of 62 but the Prime Minister, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, managed to remain in office, with a two-seat majority, after striking an alliance with the PMSD of Gaetan Duval.

    In 1982 an MMM government led by prime minister Anerood Jugnauth and Paul Bérenger as Minister of Finance was elected. However, ideological and personality differences emerged within the MMM leadership. The power struggle between Bérenger and Jugnauth came to a head in March 1983. Jugnauth travelled to New Delhi to attend a Non Aligned Movement summit, on Jugnauth’s return to Mauritius, Bérenger proposed constitutional changes that would strip power from the prime minister. On Jugnauth request prime minister Indira Gandhi of India planned an armed intervention involving the Indian Navy and Indian Army to prevent a coup under the code name Operation Lal Dora.

    The MMM government split up nine months after the June 1982 election, and the new MSM party, led by Aneerood Jugnauth, was elected to power in 1983. Gaëtan Duval became the vice-prime minister. Throughout the decade, the Prime Minister, Aneerood Jugnauth, ruled the country with the help of the PMSD and the Labour Party.

    That period saw a growth in the EPZ (Export Processing Zone) sector. Industrialisation began to spread to villages as well, and attracted young workers from all ethnic communities; as a result, the Sugar Industry began to lose its hold on the economy. Mammouth stores opened in 1985 and offered credit facilities to low income earners, thus allowing them to afford basic household appliances. There was also a boom in the tourism industry, and new hotels sprang up throughout the island. In 1989 the Stock Exchange opened its doors and in 1992 the Freeport began its operation.

    Republic

    On 12 March 1992, twenty four years after independence, Mauritius was proclaimed a Republic within the Commonwealth. Political power remained with the Prime Minister.

    In spite of an improvement in the economy, which coincided with a fall in the price of petrol and a favourable dollar exchange rate, the government did not enjoy full popularity. As early as 1984, there was discontent. Through the Newspapers and Periodicals Amendment Act, the government tried to make every newspaper provide a bank guarantee of half a million rupees. Forty-three journalists protested by participating in a public manifestation in Port Louis, in front of parliament. They were arrested and liberated on bail. This caused a public outcry and the government had to review its policy.

    There was also dissatisfaction in the education sector. There were not enough high quality secondary colleges to answer the growing demand of primary school leavers who had got through their CPE (Certificate of Primary Education). In 1991, a Master Plan for Education failed to get national support and contributed to the government downfall.

    Dr Navin Ramgoolam was elected as Prime Minister in the 1995 election. The landslide victory of 60-0 was a repeat of the 1982 score, but this time it was on the side of the Labour-MMM alliance.

    In February 1999, the country experienced a brief period of civil unrest. Riots flared up after the popular singer Kaya, arrested for smoking marijuana at a public concert, was found dead in his prison cell. The president Cassam Uteem and cardinal Jean Margéot toured the country and, after four days of turmoil, calm was restored. A commission of enquiry was set up to investigate the root causes of the social disturbance. The resulting report delved into the cause of poverty and qualified many tenacious beliefs as perceptions.

    Aneerood Jugnauth of the MSM returned to power in 2000 after making an alliance with the MMM. In 2002, Rodrigues became an autonomous entity within the Republic and was thus able to elect its own representatives to administer the island. In 2003, the prime ministership was transferred to Paul Bérenger of the MMM, and Aneerood Jugnauth went to Le Réduit to serve as president.

    In the 2005 election, Navin Ramgoolam, leader of the Labour Party, was brought to power after making an alliance with the Parti Mauricien Xavier-Luc Duval (PMXD) and other minor parties.

    In 2008, Mauritius achieved international fame. The French-Mauritian writer, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and boxer Bruno Julie gave the island its first Olympic medal.

    Navin Ramgoolam was again elected in May 2010. This time the Labour Party joined forces with the PMSD and the MSM.

    Politics Main article: Politics of Mauritius

    The politics of Mauritius take 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 Main article: National Assembly of Mauritius

    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 eight 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 that return three members each, while Rodrigues is a single constituency that returns two members. After a general election, the Electoral Supervisory Commission may nominate up to a maximum of eight 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 Main article: Government of Mauritius

    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, and in the constituency covering the island of Rodrigues. 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. 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".

    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 Anil Bachoo 7 August 2011
    Leader of the Opposition Pravind Jugnauth 15 September 2014
    Rule of law

    Laws governing the Mauritian penal system are derived partly from French civil law and British common law. The crime rate reduced from 4.3 per 1,000 population in 2009 to 3.6 per 1,000 population in 2010. The Constitution of Mauritius states that for purposes of separation of powers, the judiciary is independent. 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.

    Foreign relations Main article: Foreign relations of Mauritius

    Mauritius has strong and friendly relations with various African, American, Asian, European and Oceania 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.

    Military Main article: Military of Mauritius

    All military, police, and security functions in Mauritius are carried out by 10,000 active-duty personnel under the command of the Commissioner of Police. The 8,000-member National Police Force is responsible for domestic law enforcement. The 1,500-member Special Mobile Force (SMF) and the 500-member National Coast Guard are the only two paramilitary units in Mauritius. Both units are composed of police officers on lengthy rotations to those services.

    Geography Main articles: Geography of Mauritius and Outer islands of Mauritius See also Maps of Mauritius at Wikimedia Commons

    The total land area of the country is 2040 km2, which is the 180th largest nation in the world by size. The Republic of Mauritius also incorporates the island of Rodrigues, situated some 560 km 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. Mauritius claim sovereignty over Tromelin islands, small islands that lie 430 km to the north-east of Mauritius. The nation''s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) cover about 2.3 million km2 of the Indian Ocean, including approx. 400,000 km2 jointly managed with the Seychelles.

    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 m to 800 m above sea level. The land rises from coastal plains to a central plateau where it reaches a height of 670 m; 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.

    Panoramic view showing houses, mountain ranges and sugar cane plantation

    The island of Mauritius is situated some 2,000 km (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. Mauritius is surrounded by more than 150 km (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. 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. Starting in the 1960s, more than 2,000 Chagossians were gradually removed, the United States established a military base on the biggest island, Diego Garcia. The Chagossians have since engaged in activism to return to the archipelago, claiming that the forced expulsion and dispossession were illegal.

    EnvironmentThe tropical beach at Trou-aux-Biches.Main article: Climate of Mauritius

    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.

    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.

    Biodiversity Main article: Wildlife of MauritiusThe Mauritius ornate day gecko.

    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. Due to its volcanic origin, age, isolation and its unique terrain, Mauritius is home to 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 in the 1980s 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.

    Mauritius was the only known habitat of the now-extinct Dodo bird.

    When it was discovered, the island of Mauritius was the home of a previously unknown species of bird, the Dodo. 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. 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, new species were introduced to the island. 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. The dodo is prominently featured as a supporter of the national Coat of arms of Mauritius.

    Districts Main article: Districts of Mauritius

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

    SavanneFlacqRivière NoirePort LouisRivière du RempartPamplemoussesPlaines WilhemsGrand PortMoka

    Demographics Main articles: Demographics of Mauritius and Religion in MauritiusPopulation pyramid of Mauritius according to 2011 census.

    The estimated resident population of the Republic of Mauritius was 1,259,838 as at 31 December 2013. The female population was 636,366 compared to a male population of 623,472. The population on the island of Mauritius is 1,218,060, and that of Rodrigues island is 41,504. Agalega and Saint Brandon had an estimated population of 274. Mauritius is a religiously diverse nation. It is a secular state and freedom of religion is a constitutional right. Statistics on ethnicity are not available because such questions were removed from the population census. Mauritius is a multiethnic society, the ancestors of the Mauritian population are mainly of Indian, African, French and Chinese origin. According to the 2011 census made by Statistics Mauritius, Hinduism is the major religion at 48.5%, followed by Christianity 32.7%, Islam 17.3% and Buddhism 0.4% in terms of number of adherents, with other religions being at 0.2% and irreligiosity being at 0.7%. 0.1% refused to fill in any data.

    Language Main article: Languages of Mauritius

    Being both an English-speaking and French-speaking nation, Mauritius is a member of both the Commonwealth of Nations and the Francophonie. 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. However, English is generally accepted as the official language of Mauritius and as the language of government administration, the courts and business. The constitution of Mauritius are written in English, while some laws, such as the Civil code, are in French. The Mauritian population is multilingual; most Mauritians are equally fluent in English and French. 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 religious activities and Creole as mother tongue. French is mostly used in the media and literature. The Creole language, 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. The Creole languages which are spoken in different islands of the country are more or less similar, the Mauritian creole, Rodriguan creole, Agalega creole and Chagossian creole are spoken by people from the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega and Chagos. Bhojpuri which was widely spoken in Mauritius has been decreasing over the years, according to the 2011 census made by Statistics Mauritius; there was a decrease in the use Bhojpuri at home, it was spoken by 5% of the population compared to 12% in 2000. Some ancestral languages which are also spoken in Mauritius include Arabic, Bhojpuri, Cantonese, Hakka Chinese, Hindi, Marathi, Mandarin, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. School students must learn English and French; they also have the option to study Asian languages and Creole. The medium of instruction varies from school to school but is usually French or English.

    EducationThe University of Mauritius.Main article: Education in Mauritius

    The government of Mauritius provides free education to its citizens from pre-primary to tertiary level. Since July 2005, the government introduced free transport for all students. For the year 2013, government expenditure on education was estimated at about Rs 13,5 million, representing 13% of total expenditure. The education system in Mauritius consists of pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. The education structure consists of three 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 the 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 locally and regionally.

    Economy Main articles: Economy of Mauritius and Mauritian rupee

    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. 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. Mauritius has one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones in the world, in 2012 the government announced its intention to develop the Ocean Economy.

    Port Louis, the capital city.

    Mauritius is ranked high in terms of competitiveness, investment climate, governance and freest economy, the Gross Domestic Product (PPP) estimate was at $22.025 billion and GDP (PPP) per capita income over $16,820 in 2014, one of the highest in Africa. Mauritius has an upper middle income economy, according to the World Bank in 2011. 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. Mauritius has built its success on a free market economy, according to the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom Mauritius is ranked as having the 8th most free economy in the world, and the highest score in investment freedom. The report''s ranking of 183 countries is based on measures of economic openness, regulatory efficiency, rule of law, and competitiveness.

    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). This rate, equivalent to 13⅓ rupees = 1 pound, was maintained until 1979.

    TourismSeven Coloured Earths at Chamarel.Main article: Tourism in Mauritius See also: Hotels in Mauritius

    Mauritius is one of the world''s top luxury tourism destinations. It possesses a wide range of natural and man-made attractions, enjoys a 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. 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.

    Transportation Main article: Transport in Mauritius

    Since 2005 public bus transport in Mauritius is free of charge for students, people with disability and senior citizens. There are currently no railways in Mauritius, previous privately owned industrial railways have been abandoned. To cope with increasing road traffic congestion, a Light Rail Transit system has been proposed between Curepipe and Port Louis. The harbour where international trade is handled and Cruise terminal is found at Port Louis. The sole international airport for civil aviation is Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, which also serves as the home operating base for the national airline Air Mauritius, the airport authority inaugurated a new passenger terminal in September 2013. Another airport is the Sir Gaëtan Duval Airport in Rodrigues.

    Culture Main article: Culture of Mauritius

    Seafood is an important component in the Cuisine of Mauritius.

    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: 1 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 such as 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
    SportsThe Maiden Cup in 2006.See also: Football in Mauritius

    The national sport of Mauritius is football and the national team is the Club M, other popular sports in Mauritius include cycling, table tennis, badminton, volleyball, basketball, handball, boxing, judo, karate, taekwondo, weightlifting, bodybuilding and athletics. Water sports includes swimming, sailing, scuba diving and water skiing. Horseracing which dates back to 1812, when the Champ de Mars Racecourse was inaugurated remain very popular. The country hosted the second (1985) and fifth editions (2003) of the Indian Ocean Island Games. Mauritius won its first Olympic medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing when boxer Bruno Julie won the bronze medal.

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