Mauritius is well known for the Dodo, the extinct bird. The Dutch came in the early 17th century and named the island Mauritius after Prince Maurice de Nassau. They exploited severely the island by cutting the valuable ebony trees and are responsible for the extinctionof the dodo birds. They introduced sugar cane before leaving the island in 1710 due to severe droughts and damage caused by cyclones.
Then came the French in 1721 who renamed the island Ile de France. Slaves from Madagascar and mainland Africa were imported to work on the sugar plantations established by the French. The French rule ended by a fierce battle with the British in 1810. The latter reinstated the name Mauritius and ruled the island for 158 years. In 1835, slavery was abolished, and thus indentured labourers from India (and from China to a lesser extent) came to Mauritius to work in the sugar cane fields to replace the missing slave workforce. There have been several Chinese immigrations afterwards who came as traders.
The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Indian, African, Chinese and European influences. It is common for a combination of cuisines to form part of the same meal.
The production of rum, which is made from sugar cane, is widespread on the island. Sugarcane was first introduced to Mauritius by the Dutch in 1638. The Dutch mainly cultivated sugarcane for the production of "arrack", a precursor to rum. However, it was during the French and British administrations that sugar production was fully exploited. Pierre Charles François Harel was the first to propose the concept of local distillation of rum in Mauritius, in 1850. Beer is also produced on the Island, by the Phoenix Brewery.
The sega is a local folklore music. Sega has African roots and the main traditional instruments for producing the music are goat-skin percussion instruments called ravanne, the West African Djembe and metallic clicks using metal triangles. The songs usually describe the miseries of slavery, and has been adapted nowadays as social satires to voice out inequalities as felt by the blacks. Men are usually at the instruments while women perform an accompanying dance. The origin of Sega is not completely known however it is likely to have come from West African countries such as Ghana due to the similarities in the music.
In 1847, Mauritius became the fifth location in the world to issue postage stamps. The two types of stamps issued then, known as the Mauritius "Post Office" stamps, consisting of a "Red Penny" and a "Blue Two Pence" denomination, are probably the most famous and valuable stamps in the world.
The island has also given rise to a diversified literature in French, English and Creole. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, the 2008 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is of Franco-Mauritian origin and lives on the island for part of each year.
In Mauritius, the following festivals — Diwali, Mahashivratri, Christmas, Ugadi, Cavadee, Chinese New Year, Père Laval, and Eid Al-Fitr — are celebrated.
Recreational activities in Mauritius are quite varied to support the local tourism industry. Water sports are facilitated as the island is surrounded with coral reef, providing plenty of relatively shallow and calm water. Activities such as deep sea fishing, surfing, windsurfing, water-skiing, cruising in yachts and even submarines are some of the many water based recreations available. Although it seldom breaks, Tamarin Bay is one of the world's most famous surfing spots. Land-based leisure activities include golf, tennis, skiing, sky diving, deer hunting, quad (ATV) riding, mountain biking, abseiling, zip lining, horse riding and trekking.
Le Morne Cultural Landscape: UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
Besides being a breathtaking natural spectacle, the mountain of Le Morne holds great importance in the history and memory of Mauritius. It was here, in the south-west of the island, that runaway slaves used to hide during the 18th and early 19th Centuries – protected by the mountain's isolated, wooded and almost inaccessible cliffs.
The oral traditions associated with these runaways have made Le Morne a symbol of the slaves' fight for freedom, their suffering and their sacrifice. Over the years, the location has become a symbol of resistance to slavery and a focal point for those wanting to commemorate its abolition – especially the descendants of slave communities who still live on the island.
The Final Nomination Dossier and the Draft Management of Le Morne was inscribed on to UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2008.
Aapravasi Ghat: UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The Aapravasi Ghat Immigration Depot is another UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the only surviving remnant of an immigration depot typical of those established in the second half of the 19th Century to welcome indentured labourers.
Most Mauritians trace the arrival of their forbears from this site, which welcomed over half a million immigrants between 1834 and the 1920s. It holds immense symbolical value for Mauritians, and the official commemoration of the arrival of indentured labourers is held at this site every November.
Mauritius became the seat of the 'Great Experiment', where the British attempted to show the world that the labour of free men and women would be more effective than slave labour.
Because the experiment proved to be successful, according to the British, it was replicated in other British colonies as well as in French, Dutch and Spanish territories. Over two million people were eventually transported to the colonies from Asia and Africa as a result.
The Second Oldest Racing Club in the World
Champ de Mars is a very popular horse racetrack: the oldest in the southern hemisphere and the second oldest race club in the world after the English Jockey Club. It has long been associated with national and political events since the official flag-raising ceremony in 1968, which marked Mauritius' independence.
The Third Country in the World to Introduce Golf to its Shores
In 1844, under British rule, Mauritius became the third country in the world to be introduced to golf. The present-day Gymkhana Club, located at Vacoas in the island's central plateau, has been the venue for many of the island's major sporting activities since it was first constructed back in the 19th Century.