Map of Mauritius

Mauritius flag

Flag description: four equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue, yellow, and green.

Location: Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar.

Geographic coordinates: 20 17 S, 57 33 E.

Climate: tropical, modified by southeast trade winds; warm, dry winter (May to November); hot, wet, humid summer (November to May).

Independence: 12 March 1968 (from UK).

Nationality: Mauritian(s).

Capital City: Port Louis.

Population: 1,179,368 (July 2000 est.).

Head of State: President Cassam UTEEM.

Area: 1,860 sq km.

Type of Government: parliamentary democracy.

Currency: 1 Mauritian rupee (MauR) = 100 cents.

Major peoples: Indo-Mauritian 68%, Creole 27%, Sino-Mauritian 3%, Franco-Mauritian 2%

Religion: Hindu 52%, Christian 28.3% (Roman Catholic 26%, Protestant 2.3%), Muslim 16.6%, other 3.1%.

Official Language: English.

Principal Languages: English (official), Creole, French, Hindi, Urdu, Hakka, Bojpoori.

Major Exports: clothing and textiles, sugar, cut flowers, molasses.

History: Although it was explored by the Portuguese (1510) and Dutch (1598), Mauritius--previously uninhabited--was not permanently settled until 1721, when the French occupied the island, established sugar plantations, and brought East African slaves to work on them. In 1810 the British captured the island and brought Indian servants to work on the plantations.

Since gaining independence in 1968, the country has claimed the BRITISH INDIAN OCEAN TERRITORY (administered by Mauritius until 1965). Members of the unicameral legislature are both elected and appointed to ensure representation of all ethnic groups. A governor-general represented the British crown as head of state until Mar. 12, 1992, when Mauritius became a republic. Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam served as prime minister from 1968 until his electoral defeat in 1982. His successor, Aneerood Jugnauth, remained prime minister following legislative elections in 1987 and 1991.