Arabs probably came here as early as the 10th century but the island remained uninhabited until the 16th century when the Portuguese and then the Spanish settled it until the arrival of the Dutch in 1638. They introduced the sugar cane and gave the island its name Mauritius but they abandoned it to pirates in 1710.
The French took it over in 1715 and it prospered until the British invaded it along with Réunion and the Seychelles in 1810. The 1814 Treaty of Paris returned Réunion to France while Mauritius and the Seychelles remained in British hands.
Mauritius became independent in 1968. It had a rightist government until a left wing coalition took over in 1982.
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At the Mahébourg airport, a bad humoured customs official suffering from a poor self image made an effort to boost his ego by giving me a hard time. It didn't really bother me for I somehow felt that he was just passing on a bit of nastiness he had received from his boss or his wife.
In the end, I considered myself lucky for the scene he made brought me the sympathy of a local couple who generously offered to drive me to my hotel, "L'Aquarelle" from which this view of Lion Mountain was taken.
L'Aquarelle is a pleasant family run hotel with a great view where I had a nice room for 12.00$US.
Over half of the population descend from Indian indentured laborers that were brought here to work the cane fields after the abolition of slavery in 1835. They were numerous enough to remain endogamous and have preserved their ethnic specificity as can be seen in the colourful Mahébourg market.
Naturally, there are Hindu Temples all over the island.
The Hindu Mauritians I have talked to explained that most of them still respect the constraints of the caste system regarding marriage but that they will eat at the same table as lower caste members of their community.
The capital Port Louis is on the opposite side of the island from the airport next to Mahébourg. Port Louis is the commercial center where all the island's business is transacted. This is "Intendence" street in the center.
The island's airport is next to Mahébourg but its port is Port Louis where the Caudan Waterfront Complex and labordonnais Hotel are located.
Here is Gordelle street at the northern edge of Port Louis' important market.
The fine Municipal theater was built in 1822 to satisfy the need for cultural distinction of the island's wealthy plantation owners. It is used only occasionally now by local amateur groups and sometimes for Hindu weddings.
Here is a fine example of 18th century French colonial architecture on Rue Royale.
The Hindu religion is doing well in Mauritius as evidenced by the construction of new, elaborately decorated temples like this one in Grande Baie north of Port Louis.
The island's economy, which traditionally used to be based on the sugar cane, had been diversifying into textiles, light manufacturing and tourism. There are tourist resorts all around the island but most are located on the north coast from Grande Baie onwards. Here is a view looking south across the bay.
Tourists going for a tour of the bay
Dreams of adventure...
Beautiful sailboats like this one generally make me dream of adventure but after months of accumulating vivid images, I become saturated and I need time to digest all the strong impressions I have gathered.
On this trip I had so much to digest about the Indian caste system, the Hindu religion and religions in general that I was less impressed by the South Indian Ocean islands than I would have been if I had come here directly. I flew back to Bombay, then to London via Damascus.
It was raining and cold in London and was more of the same was forecasted for the week ahead.
I had planned to visit Ireland with the hope of understanding why Christians were so intent on killing each other but my mind was saturated with India and the bad weather nudged me into deciding to head for home.