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Useful Notes / Mauritius

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Heaven on Earth

"Mauritius was made first and then heaven; and heaven was copied after Mauritius."

Mauritius is a tiny East African island nation off the east coast of Madagascar. Famous for its unspoiled beaches combined with the tropical weather and natural inland beauty, hence Mark Twain's quote above. It is also considered to have one of the best economies in Africa – international metrics often label it the richest country in Africa; it's one of the only ones in the region with a per capita income classified as "upper-high". Because of its recent human colonization, the country is incredibly cosmopolitan with Indians, Africans, Europeans, and Chinese making up shares of the population. Pluralism is also the rule for the country's politics and affairs; the current Government, for example, features a (Sunni) Muslim as President, a Catholic as Vice-President, and a Hindu as Prime Minister. It has no permanent army and thanks to British and French legacy, it has both English and French as official languages.


The island was practically uninhabited until the Dutch came in the 17th century, but harsh conditions forced them to abandon the island. The French arrived some years after that and took control of it (they already controlled the rest of the neighbourhood anyway) and kept it until The Napoleonic Wars, when the British took it. The country achieved its independence on 1968, when it became one of the Realms of The Commonwealth of Nations. It stayed this way until 1992, when it became a republic within the Commonwealth.

The Dutch, even though they didn’t stay for long, left two indelible marks on the country. The first of them was the sugar cane, which continues to be the country’s main export. The second was the complete annihilation of one of its natural residents, a bird all people know very well from the media, even though nobody has seen one – the dodo. This bird, endemic to Mauritius, was big, heavy, incapable of flying, and didn’t appear to be too smart, so the Dutch named it "dodo", referring to its simpleton attitude. Given its natural dopey-ness, they didn’t take too long to hunt it to complete extinction. That didn’t stop the bird from reaching memetic status, of course, and since then it has appeared everywhere, including Alice in Wonderland and the Looney Tunes, among others; it even appears in the coat of arms of the country. A huge achievement for a bird that seems dumber than a turkey.


Recent studies suggest that the dodo actually disappeared because of the destruction of its habitat and vermin brought by humans (rats, cats, pigs, and so on) rather than from hunting. Contemporary accounts all mention how awful and inedible the dodo's flesh tasted.

The Mauritian flag

The flag's red, blue, yellow and green stripes symbolize the blood of freedom fighters, the Indian Ocean, the light of independence, and the island's lush vegetation, respectively.


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