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Friday, June 20, 2008

Mauritius


Mauritius is the most accessible island in the Indian Ocean, boasting as much tropical paradise as Maui or Martinique and, better still, offering it at a bargain price. Though nestled up alongside Africa, it's actually more influenced by its British and French ties and predominantly Indian workforce. The first people to set foot on the island of Mauritius were Arab sailors and merchants. Arabs merchant ships have been sailing the Indian Ocean for centuries. Important trading routes linked the east coast of Africa and Madagascar with the Arabian peninsula, India and Indonesia.
The Mascarenes Islands were a long way off the usual trading routes of Arab or Indian sailors. Perhaps the islands were discovered when a cyclone (hurricane) caught an Arab dhow unaware and pushed it towards Mauritius. Evidence that points to the discovery of the Mascarenes Archipelago by Arab seamen comes from copies of Portuguese maps of the early 16th century that depict a group of three small islands south east of Madagascar that bear Arabic names.In 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama succeeded in rounding the cape of Good Hope and called at various Arab-Swahili cities along the East African coast on his way northwards. It was at one of those city ports that an Arab or Indian pilot showed him the way to Goa, India. Within the next ten years, numerous Portuguese expeditions explored the Indian Ocean, visiting Madagascar, the Seychelles and the Comoros Islands.
Around 1507, the Portuguese seaman Fernandez Pereira sighted Mauritius and named it Cerne. The group of islands consisting of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues were given the names of Mascarenes after the Portuguese captain, Pero Mascarenhas.

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