Living in paradise. Someone’s got to do it. Yet beyond the beaches and luxury resorts Priscille d’Arifat Koenig explains why she loves to live in Mauritius.
When I’m overseas and I tell people I am from Mauritius, they often look at me with these big round eyes and say “Really! Oh wow, you live in paradise!” and even though part of me believe they are right, and part of me knows I do live in a beautiful island, deep in my soul that this is not why I absolutely love my island.
Mauritius is so much more than its white sandy beaches and five stars hotels that you see in magazines and I’m here to tell you my top three reasons on why I love to live in Mauritius.
A rich history
Mauritius was a very strategic location in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, ideally situated in the Indian Ocean. It was first colonized by the Dutch, then by the French and the English. Mauritius retains the mark of these colonization periods may it be by its places, architecture or language.
The Pieter Both mountains, for example, were named after a Dutch governor who died in a shipwreck on his way back to Mauritius. Mahebourg, a town in the south east of the island was named after the French governor Mahe de Labourdonnais. The Naval museum of Mahebourg recounts the Battle of Vieux Grand-Port which was the only French Naval Battle won under Napoleon rule.
During these periods slaves were brought in from Madagascar and Africa to work for the ebony wood trade or in the sugar cane plantations. When slavery was abolished in 1835, indentured labor was brought in mainly from India, but also from China, Malaysia, Africa and Madagascar.
Two properties are today inscribed on the Unesco’s World Heritage list from these events: Le Morne cultural landscape and the Aapravasi Ghat.
Perhaps one of the most singular effects of these periods is the language heritage as in Mauritius the spoken language is mainly French, or creole, a dialect derived from the French language, whereas the official language and most administrative formalities are done in English.
The cultural diversity
Due to this wide and diverse ancestry, the Mauritian population is often referred to as ‘mosaic’.
From this wide ethnic and religious diversity (68 percent Indo-Mauritians, 27 percent creole, three percent Sino-Mauritians and two percent Franco-Mauritians) comes the most colorful and lively celebrations, food and music.
From the dragon and firecrackers of the Chinese New Year’s festival to the amazing and luminous festival of lights of Divali, or the Cavadee celebration where devotees carry their offering on beautifully decorated wooden arcs on their back.
Mauritian cuisine is also an honor to this diversity as you can easily find a Chinese restaurant in every town or even have a ‘mine bouie’ on the side of the road. Next to which a ‘dholl purry’ and ‘farata’ vendor could tempt you with his delicious ‘rotis’. In most restaurants there is a convivial mix of spicy curries and European cuisine to match all tastes.
Last, but not least, music is also tainted by different cultural experiences. Its traditional ‘sega’ with typical Mauritian instruments will make you want to move to its warm rhythm.
The Mauritian people
Mauritian people are warm, open and welcoming.
The deepest reason why I love this island doesn’t lie in its landscape; it lies within its people, who decide to live in harmony despite their differences. It’s obviously not always easy and some succeed better than others, but for the most, Mauritian people choose to live peacefully and with happiness.
Wherever you go on the island, you will encounter a smile, a hello or a nice word. The openness to each other and to the world is for me the greatest gift Mauritius has to offer.
So, whenever people try to figure me out, and ask, “So, what are your origins?” I usually answer, “I’m Mauritian.” Because whatever my origins, my parents, grand parents and great grand parents were born and lived on this island and I totally identify with the Mauritian culture and vision.
My advice to you
On your next trip to Mauritius, try see past the beautiful scenery and beaches. What you’ll find is so much more valuable; you’ll find the heart of Mauritius.
What was your experience like when you traveled to Mauritius? Would you consider a love to live in Mauritius? Let us know in the comments below.
Priscille D’Arifat Koening
Growing up in Mauritius has been great for Priscille d’Arifat Koenig. She cherishes the moments she spent visiting the island with her parents as a child. Today she visits her island in more depth with her own family and share her adventures with others on her website: www.discovermauritiusisland.com