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Mauritius

currency of Mauritius, Agalega, population of Mauritius, Piton, Bhojpuri

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Mauritius, independent island republic in the western Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The country includes the island of Mauritius, with an area of 1,865 sq km (720 sq mi); the island of Rodrigues (104 sq km/40 sq mi) to the east; the Agalega Islands to the north; and the Cargados Carajos Shoals to the northeast, which have a combined area of 71 sq km (27 sq mi). The country has a total area of 2,040 sq km (788 sq mi).

Land and Resources

The island of Mauritius is of volcanic origin. From a low-lying plain in the north, the terrain rises to a plateau that covers the central part of the island. The south is mostly mountainous, rising to a maximum elevation in Piton de la Petite Riviere Noire (828 m/2,717 ft). Several lakes are located in the plateau region, and numerous streams rise in the highlands and radiate to the coast. The island is almost entirely surrounded by coral reefs, but Port Louis, the capital, has a fine harbor, accessible to oceangoing ships. The climate is tropical and generally humid. The average annual temperature is 23C (73F) on the coast but is lower in the central plateau. Average annual precipitation ranges from about 1,000 mm (about 40 in) on the coast to about 5,000 mm (about 200 in) in the plateau region. Strong cyclonic storms occur often during the hot season (December to April). The main natural resource is the relatively fertile soil of the island.

Population

The population of Mauritius (2008 estimate) is 1,260,781. The overall population density of 621 persons per sq km (1,609 per sq mi) is one of the highest in the world for countries. Port Louis, the capital and largest city, has a population (2003 estimate) of 143,000. More than two-thirds of the people are Indian immigrants and their descendants. People of mixed African and European descent, known as Creoles, constitute about a quarter of the total. Chinese and European minorities also exist. The majority of the Indo-Mauritians are Hindus; the rest are Muslims. Most Creoles are Roman Catholics. English is the official language, but Creole, a French patois, is commonly spoken. Other common languages are French, Hindi, and Bhojpuri.

Economy

The economy of Mauritius has traditionally been dominated by a single cash crop, sugarcane. More than half the cultivated land is planted with sugarcane; sugar and molasses are major exports. Other crops include tea, peanuts, tobacco, and vegetables. Manufactures include refined sugar and sugar by-products, fertilizers, beverages, electronic components, and leather goods. The clothing and textile industry boomed during the 1980s, and tourism is increasingly important. The currency of Mauritius is the Mauritian rupee, which consists of 100 cents (31.70 rupees equal U.S.$1; 2006 average).

Government

From 1968 through 1991 Mauritius was a constitutional monarchy; executive power was nominally vested in the British monarch, as represented by a governor-general. In March 1992 the country became a republic. Under the 1992 constitution, the head of state is a president, elected to a five-year term by the legislature. The president appoints a prime minister (traditionally the leader of the majority party in the legislature), who is the chief executive. The legislative body is the National Assembly, which consists of 62 directly elected representatives and 4 others appointed by the Supreme Court to ensure representation of various ethnic groups. National Assembly members serve five-year terms.

Sources

Mauritius

Cohen, Robin, and others. African Islands and Enclaves. Books on Demand, 1983. Small islands in the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean.

Moree, P. J. A Concise History of Dutch Mauritius, 1598-1710: A Fruitful and Healthy Land. Kegan Paul, 1998. A comprehensive account of the Dutch East India Company's occupation of the ebony-rich island.

Selvon, Sydney. Historical Dictionary of Mauritius. 2nd ed. Scarecrow, 1991. History of this peaceful, multiethnic state and its inhabitants.

Contributors

Microsoft Encarta 2009. 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.



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