Mauritius, a small island of 1,865km2, lies in the Indian Ocean. Located 900 kilometers away from Madagascar and 200 miles away from Reunion Island, it is part of the Mascarene Islands. With 330 kilometers of coastline and beaches, it has a population of 1.2 million, whose capital is Port Louis. It has been independent since 1968 and its main economic pillars are: textiles, sugar, tourism and services. This contrasted island will welcome you in Creole, French and English.
A chapter on culture:
The cultural mix
Mauritius proves to be a surprising and unique human experience. The pulse of this special island is felt throughout its very diverse population, born of different origins. This human kaleidoscope is due to its turbulent history. Indeed, lost in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it was discovered by the Arabs, colonized by the Dutch, then the French and the English. It was an object of desire and discord.
During the phase of French and British settlement, Africans were taken as slaves. They made the acquaintance of 'coolies': engaged Indians workers, and especially Chinese traders. There developed a mestizo population, mostly from black people also called Creoles and whites from Europe. Today, Mauritius is a democratic country that has been independent since 1968.
There is a coexistence between Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Tamils, Taoists and Buddhists. A dozen languages are spoken on the island; English, French, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Hakka, Mandarin, Marathi, but one language remains the link between all these groups of people: Creole. Creole is a French-based patois, which is strongly associated with the national folklore of the country; the traditional Sega dance. Sega remains the emblem of all these crowds representing the mosaic population of the island. Inspired by Africa, it originally expresses pain but also sensuality. On Tuesdays at the Tamarin Hotel, it is possible to taste this folklore, while admiring the large colorful Sega skirts twirled to the beat of drums.
Thanks to this cultural pluralism, Mauritians have developed tolerance towards each other, especially towards strangers. The smile and simplicity of this population might throw you off. Warm hospitality and courtesy are in order, do not hesitate to stop and ask for directions or details; Mauritians are ready to help!
Mauritian cuisine and fruits
Mauritian cuisine is a reflection of its people; colorful and diverse. It is a tasty cross between different inspirations and origins; Indian, Chinese, Arabic, Creole and European. Usually spicy, it mixes the flavors of tradition and cultural heritage; recipes have a very unique dimension. But typical Mauritian cuisine is not its only source of pride; fruits specific to the island are another one.
A wide variety is available on the island, depending on the season. The best known and appreciated ones are: litchis, growing from November to January, or mangoes as from September; you should be aware that there are several varieties of mangoes on the island. From April to May, it is possible to consume yellow guavas. Pineapples and bananas are available throughout the year. The variety of fruit may extend from guavas, avocados, coconut, passion fruit, papaya, pitaya or dragon fruit, to cor bovinum, ‘longanes’, watermelon, star fruit, grapefruit and ‘corossol’. Some of these fruits are not consumable throughout the year but only during certain seasons.
Sugar and Tea plantations on the island:
Mauritius is known for its crops of sugar and tea. Sugar plantations occupy about 90% of arable land, and from March to September the long green shoots cover the island and extend almost everywhere in the landscape. After cutting, rocky peaks and mountains unfold around the winding roads of the island. It is possible to see black volcanic stones heaped in mound in the fields there, which is a unique feature of the island. The export of sugar has long been the major source of foreign exchange for the country.
In the south of the island, the hills of Bois Cheri welcome tea plantations of several hundred acres. Harvesting is done at dawn by pickers who collect only two or three leaves on the stem. The tea leaves are then conveyed to undergo a drying phase and withering. After fermentation and sorting, they macerate for a month and are scented with vanilla. Bois Cheri merges tea plantation and a museum for the curious ones.
The various religious ceremonies and their videos on YouTube: Guide
Through this mosaic of cultures and religions, people born from the legacy of three continents preserve the traditions and beliefs of these native lands. Religious festivals and tributes are celebrated throughout the year in respect and harmony. From January to February are celebrated:
Thaipoosum Cavadee: Also known as simply ‘Cavadee’, Tamils from India who are doing penance by piercing their cheeks, tongue and body with pine while transporting the 'Cavadee': an arch made of wood covered with flowers, and a jug of milk. You can see a video here: http://youtu.be/MB6QpYMQR1M
Spring Festival: Every year, Chinese New Year is celebrated on a different date, depending on the lunar or solar calendar. According to Chinese tradition, scissors and knives should not be used on the day of the festival, and no money has to be spent during that day. The color red which symbolizes happiness is displayed everywhere, and food offerings are made to ensure abundance during the year. The traditional beeswax cake is shared, and firecrackers are lit to ward off evil spirits. A few days after the celebration, the festival is ended with the celebration of the dragon; Traditional Lion Dance is performed by dancers and musicians along the streets. You can see a video of the famous lion dance:
In February, there is the Maha Shivaratree: where thousands of pilgrims all dressed in white walk long distances to get to the holy lake of Grand Bassin. While transporting the 'Kanwar’: a wooden arch covered with flowers and mirrors, they pay tribute to Lord Shiva. Hindus take some of the holy water and bring it home. Ceremonies are done on site for three to four days. This celebration comes from the great ritual on the banks of the Ganges in India. A video is available here: http://youtu.be/4RAqLb5o1uU
In March and April: March 12th is a national day to commemorate the day independence was achieved in Mauritius. Ougadi: New Year for Telegus, originating from a different part of India, is also celebrated.
In August or September, Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated by Hindus on the fourth day of the lunar month. The celebration is in honor of the birth of the God Ganesh. Small replicas of the elephant-headed god are carried to the beach or rivers to immerse before sunset.
Father Laval Pilgrimage: On September 9th, Mauritians from different religions make the pilgrimage on foot or by car to go to Holy Cross, near Port Louis, where the tomb of RF Jacques Désiré Laval is found. Also commonly called Father Laval, he is known as the apostle of the black community marked by slavery, and to be able to heal the sick. He was the first to be beatified by Pope John Paul II.
In October or November, Diwali: It is the most joyous celebration among Hindus. Diwali commemorates the victory of Rama over Ravan, of light over darkness and ignorance, but also the destruction of the demon Narakasuram by Krishna. Small oil lamps are arranged along the walls, balconies and gardens. They are lit at sunset to guide good things and luck in homes. Diwali is a celebration of happiness, and is an opportunity to share for all Mauritians.
In December, fire walking: The Tamil celebration is made between December and February. After ten days of penance, meditation and prayer, the repentant go to the temple or walk on a bed of burning thistle and dip their feet in the milk to cool.
Holi: It is a celebration of joy and sharing. Men, women and children alike will throw water and colored powders on each other and wish luck to everyone.
Eid-Ul-Fitr: It is a festival that concludes the Ramadan, the Muslim fasting. It is also a time of joy; gifts are exchanged, donations are made to the poor, family visits are paid, and wishes are exchanged.