The island of Mauritius, Mauritius. Island number 17 (out of 100), country number 14 (out of 25), month number 16 (out of 100.)
The history of Mauritius is a story of change.
The island was discovered by the Arabs, re-discovered by the Portuguese, colonised by the Dutch, the French and then the British.
Over the years slaves from Madagascar and later workers from China, Malaysia, continental Africa and India were brought to the island.
The result is a paradise island with a very, very diverse mix of people from different parts of the world, different backgrounds and cultures – that is living in a society that is very friendly, peaceful and calm.
When we are living in a time where it is fashionable to say that the multi-cultural society doesn’t work (Even Angela Merkel said it) it’s refreshing to come to Mauritius and find a paradise island where people are living very peacefully together side by side from a multitude of backgrounds and cultures.
(Sure Mauritius has it’s own set of problems, it is in no way an utopia, but it is really amazing how a country in the middle of nowhere, far from most big economical centres can do so well and be so peaceful.)
I think one reason is that the country has been able to develop relatively successfully is that Mauritius has a long history of changing and/or being forced to change.
The Arabs came, and left.
The Portuguese came but abandoned it
The Dutch came but abandoned it.
The French came but had to give it up to the British
The British let it go by giving it independence.
The island was used for harvesting ebony trees, then suger cane took over, then when countries like Brazil started to compete for the sugar business the island became a centre for textiles and then countries like India and Bangladesh started to compete for the European textile market.
Now the island is a centre for financial services and tourism.
Today this small island state with no exploitable natural resources, located in one of the more remote corners of the world (in the Indian Ocean, outside Madagascar) has one of the highest GDP per capita of Africa and is ranked as having the 8th most free economy in the world.
I think that has to be called an impressive success granted the circumstances.
And I think the success can be attributed to a mentality of being open to the outside world – and open to change.
If you visit Mauritius you can not ignore to see pictures of the Dodo – the flightless bird that went extinct within about 100 years of humans arriving on Mauritius (The last one was killed in 1681.) You see pictures of the Dodo in every tourist shop, on t-shirts, hats, shirts, bottles of rum – The Dodo is even in the coat of arms of the country.
It might seem a bit weird for the citizens of a country to embrace an animal that humanity made extinct shortly after arriving in the country.
But for me the Dodo is a symbol. A symbol of how anyone (an animal, a country, a people, a company – an island – or a planet) must change, adapt and evolve in order to survive.
Or, as I ended my speech in Mauritius: “you have to Do or you have to Dodo” – as in “You have to react and change with change or you will go extinct just like the Dodo did.”
And one of the best ways to make sure that you are open for change and new ideas, is to have an open mind to people, influences and ideas from all over the world – something that you really feel that Mauritius have had, and has.
I leave this paradise island inspired by how such a diverse group of people from different cultures and backgrounds can live together in such a peaceful way – and by how humanity can survice on a small little island in the middle of nowhere by constantly being open to change.
Fredrik Haren, aka “The Island Man”, plans to visit 100 islands, in at least 25 countries, on at least 6 continents – in less than 100 months. The purpose of this “World Tour of Islands” is to get a better understanding of the world, a deeper understanding of the people who live here and a broader understanding of life. The island of Mauritius was island number 17, country number 14 and month number 16. (Countries visited so far: China, Sweden, Maldives, Austria, Nigeria, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, USA, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, India and Mauritius.)