Off major shipping routes, Mauritius remained uninhabited until the 16th century, allowing it to develop into one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. It was favored by pirates and occupied briefly by the Dutch before the French brought African slaves to work the sugar plantations. Captured by the British in 1810, Mauritius achieved independence in 1968. Its diversification into textiles, tourism and, of late, financial services, telecommunications and cyber services has been an Indian Ocean financial success story. So too has its stable multicultural society.
Descendants of Indian labourers brought in after the abolition of slavery in 1835 now comprise 70% of the population, and Chinese and Muslim traders add to a French and Creole cultural legacy. This friendly co-existence of cultures expresses itself in croissants for breakfast and curry for dinner, and garish Indian temples near French colonial mansions.
Mauritius attained independence in 1968, and the country became a republic within the Commonwealth in 1992. Mauritius has been a stable democracy with regular free elections and a positive human rights record, and has attracted considerable foreign investment earning one of Africa's highest per capita incomes.
Today with world-class hotels offering the best service in the Indian Ocean and a renowned gastronomy as well as top spas and golf, Mauritius also offers more to do than many tropical islands, with trekking, mountain climbing and ecotourism playgrounds. And with its signature sunny days, the world's third largest coral reef surrounding a turquoise lagoon and silky, blonde, sandy beaches, this island certainly comes close to paradise.
The government's economic policy aims to counter the threat to the two largest sectors of the economy (sugar and textiles) from new regulations introduced by the World Trade Organization. The centerpiece of its strategy is the creation of a custom-built @ cyber-city', based on similar development in India, using high-speed communications links to offer e-commerce and financial transactions. It also becomes a duty-free shopping zone by 2010.