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Mauritius (French: L’île Maurice, Mauritian Creole: Moris) is a small, multi-cultural island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, NorthEast of Reunion and southeast of the Seychelles. Mauritius also controls Rodrigues Island and the remote, sparsely populated Agalega and Cargados Garayos (Saint Brandon) islands.

The island of Mauritius was first discovered by Arab sailors, at some time in the 9th century, the exact date is unknown. At that time the island was uninhabited and covered in a dense forest. The Arab sailors were not interested in settling on the island which they named Dina Arobi or Dinarobin. Diogo Fernandes Pereira, a Portuguese sailor found the island in 1505 and decided to give it the name of Cerne. However, the Portuguese did not settle permanently on the island either.

The first to colonise the island were the Dutch. They took possession of the island in 1598. The Dutch settlers landed on a bay in the south-eastern part of the island which was named Warwyck Haven after the commander VanWarwyck, the bay is now known as Grand Port. Mauritius also got its name during this period; the island was named after the Prince of Holland Mauritz de Nassau.

In 1710, the Dutch abandoned the island, leaving behind macaques, the java deer, sugar cane, fugitive slaves and, also, an irreversible damage to the endemic and indigenous flora and fauna of the island - the Dodo was, by then, extinct due to extensive hunting, the bird being very easy to capture, while the once abundant black ebony tree population was almost completely depleted due to over-exploitation for its timber.

The French settled on the island in 1713, also landing at the bay in the south-east. They renamed the bay Port Bourbon and renamed the island Ile de France. They settled on the north-western side of the island and established their main harbour there, Port Louis, the present-day capital of Mauritius. During the French settlement there was a lot of development in the country. Mahé de Labourdonnais , whose statue can be seen across from the harbour in Port Louis, is known as the founder of the capital city and the island prospered under his governance (1735-1746).

In August 1810, the British tried to take over the island but lost after a fierce battle against the French in the famous Battle of Grand Port. However, the British came back in December 1810 and successfully defeated the French. From then on, the island was renamed Mauritius and remained under British rule until it attained independence.

In 1835, slavery was officially abolished and, as most of the African slaves chose to abandon the agricultural fields and move to small coastal villages, indentured labourers (coolies) were brought in from India (Tamilnadu & Bihar) to work in the growing sugar-cane industry.

On 12 Mar 1968 Mauritius became an independent nation within the Commonwealth led by Prime Minister Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, also known as the "Father of the Nation", led the island to independence and did a lot to develop the country.

A stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, Mauritius has attracted considerable foreign investment and has one of Africa's highest per capita incomes. Recent poor weather and declining sugar prices have slowed economic growth leading to some protests over standards of living in the Creole community.

(wikitravel)

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