The famous dodo, which is now extinct, is the emblematic bird of Mauritius, a beautiful island with unique features. To sum up the history of the island, it was known to Arab sailors as early as the 10th century and was visited by the Portuguese in the early 16th century. The Dutch were the first to settle on the island between 1598 and 1710. After they left, the French took over and developed this small patch of land between 1715 and 1810, when they surrendered the island to the British. Mauritius became an independent state in 1968 and a republic in 1992.
Colourful mixture of cultures
The Mauritian mosaic comprises 1.3million inhabitants and is continually enriched by the harmonious juxtaposition of people with different origins and customs. The charm of this colourful mixture lies in the subtle blend of influences from Europe, Africa and Asia.
The colonial powers that settled on the island initially brought in slaves from Africa and Madagascar to work in the sugarcane fields; they were replaced by indentured immigrants from India following the abolition of slavery in 1835. Chinese migrants, mainly merchants and traders later arrived and settled on the island.
Churches, Hindu and Dravidian temples, mosques, pagodas coexist harmoniously in Mauritius, reflecting the country’s blossoming cultural diversity. Nowadays, the Mauritian people celebrate with equal fervour religious festivities such as the Christian’s Easter and Christmas, the Hindus’ Divali, the Chinese New Year, the Tamils’ Thaipoosum Cavadee and the Muslims’ Eid-al-Fitr.
The diverse cultural heritage of Mauritius also reflects in its linguistic diversity. The world’s most common languages are spoken in the country as well as regional vernaculars spoken in the regions of origin of some of its inhabitants.
Inherited from successive colonisation periods, French and English are commonly spoken in Mauritius. While English is the language used in public administration, French and Mauritian Kreol – the mother tongue of Mauritians – are predominant in day-to-day conversation.
And don’t be surprised if you hear people talking in Hindi, Bhojpuri, Urdu, Mandarin, Hakka or Tamil as these are only a few of the ancestral languages of the island’s inhabitants. With the development of tourism, there are a good number of people in the sector who fluently speak languages such as Italian, German, Spanish or even Russian.