Mauritius is a cultural melting pot. The culture is rather a blend of many different cultures, resulting in a diverse range of captivating sights, smells and sounds.
An interesting history has brought many different influences to the island. Europe, India, China and Africa have all contributed to Mauritius’s culture as it is today.
Mauritius does, of course, have strong ties to the French culture, after being claimed by them for nearly a century. During the nineteenth century, after the abolition of slavery, workers from different parts of India bought with them their different traditions. The end of the nineteenth century saw the arrival of the Chinese migrants, who came mostly from the Cantonese region. The last twenty years, aspects of more modern lifestyles have become a part of the Mauritian culture.
A multi-lingual place, English and French are the languages of choice for education, media, government, law and business, but there are also several ethnic languages, e.g. Hindi, Marathi, Urdu, Tamil, Mandarin and Cantonese. The common language used by speakers of different languages is Kreol Morisyen or Mauritian Creole. Emerging in history when French settlers interacted with African slaves, Creole transcends all ethnic, religious and class barriers and does not have a written form.
Through the years, as diverse groups came to call Mauritius home, so their customs and practices fused together and contributed towards making the island the colourful, vibrant and fascinating place that it is today. This can be seen in all aspects of Mauritius’s culture, including gastronomy, with its amazing diversity of flavours and aromas that have been passed down the generations from France, India, China and Africa.
Mauritius’s unique cuisine is an exotic synthesis of continental and oriental influences and it is common for tastes from different parts of the world to merge as one or for very different dishes to be enjoyed together as a part of a daily diet. Some of the various delicacies have been adapted to suit the Mauritian taste – a unique combination of flavours from the East and the West.
Authentic tastes from all over the world can be sampled. Daube, civet de lièvre and coq au vin will transport you to the top of the Eiffel Tower, romance thick in the air. Chapattis, roti, dholl puri, biryani and mysterious spices will have you imagining that you are staring up at the large white dome of the beautiful Taj Mahal, still waters and nature in the background. Fried noodles and rice, chopsuey, spring rolls, shark fin and abalone soup will fill your mind with daydreams of the forever stretching stone and earthen fortifications of the Great Wall. Flavourful burgers and pizza might remind you of home. And, as if there isn’t enough variety already, Mauritius has their own unique flavour to offer on top of all the others. Creole cuisine includes the ever popular meal, Creole rougaille served with “achards” (pickles) or dals and rice. To truly feel like a local, try a pair of dholl puri with a glass of Alouda or tamarind juice.
Music and dance
The sounds and rhythms of Mauritius have also been influenced by those western, eastern and African nations that have set foot on its land and some of these have blended together to create unique sounds and rhythms.
Dressed in traditional sarees, elegant Indian dancers form a union of bright colour as they move to the exquisite sounds of the sitar and tabla and mesmerize viewers with their refined, precise poses. Also of Indian origin are Bhojpuri songs, which are especially popular in the interiors.
Precise, agile, brightly coloured dancers perform the traditional Chinese ancestral lion and dragon dances.
Amidst these eastern dances and sounds, exist the western sounds of rap, hip-hop, rock, jazz and hits from the 60’s and 70’s.
A connection to France has not been broken in this area either, with locals cherishing French music and artists.
But Mauritius’s typical folklore dance is the Sega. In this dance of African origin, the beating of the ravane (a circular drum) and other rhythmic instruments such as the maravane and triangle, rouse sensual, frantic movements which date back to a time of slavery. More recently, a new sound has developed. A mixture of Sega and Reggae music, this sound has aptly been labelled ‘Seggae’ and has found its way into Mauritian night clubs and mainstream music.
A great way to treat your senses in Mauritius is during a festival or special culture show that many big hotels are known to organise. Here, delightful aromas tickle your nose, colourful traditional clothing attracts your eyes’ attention and catchy sounds will please your ears.