Hi there! Hello! Bonjou! Bonswa!
No, those aren’t misspellings of bonjour and bon soir. Those are Creole words for hello. Why Creole?
Because the first spin of the “Country Spinner” was Mauritius. French Creole is just one of the languages heard in Mauritius. While there is no official language in the country, per se, English and French are the “de facto official” languages.
Have you heard of Mauritius? Not a lot of people have. At least not a lot of the people that I ask that question.
The Republic of Mauritius is a small island country that is located in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern coast of Madagascar, which itself is an island (a large island) off of the eastern coast of Africa. This isn’t just one island, either. There are four main islands — Mauritius (main island), Rodrigues, Agaléga, and St. Brandon — each with a small cadre of their own islands.
What I am assuming is the main island, Dina Arobi (Abandoned Island) was first seen by Arab traders in the 900s. They seemingly had no interest in the island and went about their business. The first confirmed discovery was in 1507 by Portuguese sailors. They obviously had no interest in the island(s), either. It was nearly 100 years later that the Dutch came to occupy Mauritius. There were several attempts by the Dutch at colonization and nothing stuck for them. By 1710, the Dutch were gone.
France showed up in 1715 and named it Isle de France. Then, the British came along and seized the islands, which also included Tromelin, the Chagos Archipelago, and, Seychelles (a whole other island country). The British held the country until 1968 when Mauritius (and its group of islands) gained its independence. There are a few parts that are disputed internationally between Mauritius and France, and Mauritius and the UK, even to this day. In 1992, Mauritius formed its own Republic, and it is how the country is governed to this day.
The famed “dodo bird,” before extinction, called Mauritius home. It was where they were based. The birds were close to 50lbs so they were a big source of food, but with a lot of settlers coming on boats from other locations, rats and other vermin ate dodo eggs, and eventually, they were gone. The last one was killed in 1681. But, fear not, there is plenty of wildlife to see, study, and admire.
Because Mauritius has been colonized and occupied by so many different countries and peoples, it boasts one of the most diverse cultures in all of Africa, if not the world. As I mentioned about the language, French and English act as the languages of Mauritius, 84% speak Mauritian Creole (based on French Creole), 5.2% of the people speak Bhojpuri (an Indian language).
48.54% of Mauritius practice and profess Hinduism as their preferred religion, 32.71% are Christians (a majority of which is Catholic), 17.30% practice Islam. The oddity of these religious breakdowns is that Mauritius (with a population of 1.2 million) has the highest rate of Hinduism in all of Africa.
Currency is not the pound nor the franc (or a variation thereof), as you may expect given their history. The currency is the Mauritian rupee. $1USD is equal to 42.46 Mauritian rupees or 1 MUR = 0.0235483 USD. Mauritius is the third richest country in Africa with a GDP per capita of $21,628 (according to WorldAtlas.com). Like Seychelles, the economy of Mauritius is also centered around tourism.
Mauritius’ largest city is its capital, Port Louis, which is located on the main island, Mauritius. Tourism is the fourth economic driver in the country. Pandemic protocols require tourists to stay put for 14 days, so that’s a problem. Most of the tourism is based on beach-bound tourism and other man-made attractions. It is a beautiful country with many miles of beaches.
This is a food blog, yes? Cuisine, just like language and culture is diverse, but widely borrowed from other countries. French, Creole, Chinese, and Indian are major components of the cuisine. But, Mauritius is quite capable of its own flare.
On our cuisine tour, we had cheese fritters, (made with chickpea flour and Dubliner cheese), Ojja (Mauritian Shakshuka), rougaille (shrimp/tomato dish) on couscous. In the next Touring from the Home Kitchen post, I’ll post the recipes of these dishes.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Mauritius, possibly for the first time. Stay tuned for the recipes!