The Beautiful Island of Mauritius, Part 5


Mauritius Flag

The food of Mauritius is varied, as there are so many different people of ethnic decadency from varied places around the world, with several distinctive styles of cooking. Most typically Mauritian is Creole cuisine. Boiled rice forms the basis of most Creole dishes, to this is added curry; meat or fish cooked with turmeric, aniseed, hot spices, onions and oil, and served with finely chopped tomatoes, hot chillies, and green mango. Another traditional savoury dish is a tasty green vegetable soup called bredes. Vegetables that are usually served with savoury dishes are patisson, or squash, boiled watercress and chou-chou, (a type of marrow.) Several restaurants on the island serve Creole food on their menu, so do give it a try.


Naturally, seafood is the speciality of Mauritian dishes; lobsters and shrimps top most of the menus, but also delicious is the local freshwater prawn, the camaron. I enjoy it in “sauce rouge”, which I recommend every person dining out when on the island, should eat at least once. Then there is a variety of Indian Ocean fish which are served, capitaine, gueule pave, damenerry, sacre chien, squid, urchins and tasty little oysters. From June to September venison are a speciality and some restaurants offer hare and wild boar. A delicious salad is Coeur de palmiste, (the heart of a seven-year old palm tree.) Try the beef that is brought into the island from the large island of Madagascar, the fillet in particular is tender and full of flavour. There is an abundant supply of exotic fruit, small, sweet pineapples, lychees, paw-paws, Chinese guavas, wild raspberries, mangoes, water-melons, custard-apples, bananas, and coconuts are some of the fresh fruit on offer. The bakeries sell French baguettes and brightly iced patisseries for the person with a sweet tooth. Wine from France, South Africa and many other countries can be found in a corner store, as well as the local rum. Of course there is always on offer the good old British cup of tea and delicious local coffee that is roasted in the way of the French.


The main recreational sport on the island is deep-sea fishing, with the main season falling in from October to March, but there is no closed season and a good catch can be had throughout the year. Fish caught are marlin, barracuda, tuna, wahoo, yellow fin and jack fish. Big game-fishing can be organised on line or at any large hotel group on the island. Full fishing gear is provided, along with an experienced crew. You can also find fishermen who helm their own pirogues, (the local fishing boats) who will take you out fishing for the day, which is what I prefer to do when visiting. For those of you who prefer not to fish, there are other things to do such as, golf, sailing, bowling, surfing, water skiing, swimming and sunbathing, and  one of the island’s other most important sports, skin diving. Skin diving was first started by the Sino-Mauritians in the 1940’s and now there is a very popular scuba-club which was founded by Australian, English and Mauritian divers. Some of the best underwater areas are Morne Brabant Reef, Black River, Whale Rock and Horseshoe Spit. As there are dozens of known wrecks around the coast dating back to 1615, it is a “must do” for anyone who enjoys this sport.


Don’t miss out on horse-racing at the Champ de Mars. The season is from May to October with the main meets being held at the end of May and August. Mauritius “Derby Day” is the Maiden Plate which is run in late August. Other popular sports are soccer, lawn tennis, sailing with regattas from July through to October, basketball, volleyball and athletics.


Nightclubs are situated all over the island, but the best are in the big-resort hotels, with cabaret, local d-j’s, dinner dancing and so forth. Unique to the Indian Ocean Island, is the sega, a dance accompanied by calypso-style singing, the musicians using drums, maracas and triangles, to accompany the dance. The sega first evolved by African slaves and is now part of Creole folk law. Performances are often organised and held at the big hotels, as is gambling which is also a huge attraction on the island. Casinos are situated in most of the large hotel groups.


For the shop-a-holics, the best places for souvenirs are the handicraft shops in Port Louis, but you can find them in the hotel shops at higher prices, which I try to avoid. Hire a small car or a taxi for the day and visit Rose Hill, Curepipe and the covered market in Port Louis. For a true Mauritian souvenir, consider a beautifully woven basket, applique pictures made from sugar cane leaves, woodcarvings of the do-do, finely embroidered tablecloths and napkins and an assortment of wall hangings and tapestries. Chinese tailors can be found in Port Louis and they run up beautiful shirts and suits in no time at all. Clothing shops stock a range of beach wear and chic French fashions which are reasonable in price.


The currency unit used on the island is the Mauritian Rupee, divided into 100 cents and most international banks can be found on the island.


Plaisance Airport is 27 miles from Port Louis. If staying at a hotel, they provide shuttles.


Hiring of vehicles can be done online or through various touring companies who have representatives on call at the airport and resorts. The roads are tarmac and good. Signs are in English.


Entry requirements are the usual passport and visas, (check if you need a visa online.) Visitors travelling through or from a yellow fever/cholera infected area must produce a yellow fever inoculation certificate.


©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer


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Beautiful Mauritius, Part 3

For such a small island Mauritius has many places of interest to visit. The capital, Port Louis was founded by Mahe de Labourdonnais in 1736. It has great character and in some parts has a battered elegance. Off the main square the, “Place d’Armes” is set amidst giant palms trees. For people who are interested in the architecture of the past, there are fine French colonial buildings like Government House built in the 18th century and the Municipal Theatre built around the same time. There are two cathedrals, a Supreme Court, 18th century barracks, a Historical and Natural History museum all watched over by numerous statues of various people of importance from the past. On the fringe of the town, nestling at the foot of the mountains is the Champ de Mars which was originally laid out by the French for military parades and now serves as a race course. A must when in Port Louis is the vibrant covered market where you can see the amazing crafts, tropical fruit and veggies and many other wares sold by the vendors dressed in colourful attire. Before leaving the town, make sure you visit the Port which is the main reason for the creation of Port Louis and lies quietly in the shelter of a semi-circle of mountains, holding its secrets of the past of the Spice Traders, battles and sunken ships.

Leaving the town, you pass through its suburbs, Beau Bassin, Rose Hill, Quatres Bornes and Vacoas where you must make a stop and view the extinct crater, Trou aux Cerfs some 280ft deep and more than 200 yards wide. You can stand on the rim and look out over one of the most spectacular views of the island, (a great place to take photos).

Then drive on to Curepipe which is the island’s main urban shopping centre. Here you will find retail outlets and good restaurants where you can have a meal before heading on to Mahebourg, one of the main fishing centres, situated in the bay of Grand Port and has a historical museum which is housed in the French Colonial Mansion where, apparently, in 1810 English and French naval commanders were both wounded in the same battle, and brought to the mansion and given medical attention at the same time, (I wonder what they had to say to each other? Perhaps they were too wounded to care.) Apart from naval relics, the museum has copies of the priceless Mauritius “Post Office stamps, such as the “Blue Mauritius.”

Travel back, towards the village of Souillac and a little farther along the south coast you can see where the island’s distinguished poet, Robert-Edward Hart de Keating lived in a delightful little house called “Le Nef” which is built of coral and volcanic rock. It now serves as a museum standing on the cliffs, looking out over the sea; – no wonder Hart was such a great poet! –

In the south west of the island, close to Le Morne, are the “Coloured Earths”, an amazing geological phenomenon which is believed to have been caused by weathering of the layers of rock. Try and see this sight on a bright, sunny day as this is when the colours are seen at their best.

Do not miss out on seeing the Black River Gorges where you shall discover great picnic spots and spectacular scenery as well as heavy forests bejewelled with rain drops, where there is an abundance of birdlife.

Passing the Moka Range of mountains, Le Pouce, 2661ft, which can be climbed and is categorised as “easy”, Pieter Both, 2700ft, categorised for experienced climbers and rock-climbers. Then head back south of Port Louis and stop at Le Reduit, the French colonial residence of the Governors’ of Mauritius and walk in magnificent 325 acre gardens that roll out in front of the residence majestically.

To the north of Port Louis you will find my favourite place on the island, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Pampelmousses, an absolute haven of peace and tranquillity. Founded in 1770 as a nursery for tropical crops, it was from here that cloves were first introduced to Zanzibar. Famous for its pond where you will see the huge floating Victoria Regia lily-pads that look like large round trays proudly displaying their exquisite purple flowers that reflect into the pond’s liquid surface.

The tear-jerking French classic, “Paul et Virginie” the novel by author Bernardin de St. Pierre was written by him after his stay on the island of Mauritius and the Pampelmousses are wrapped into the saga. This is a must-read book to pack in your travel bag when you plan to visit this tropical paradise.

©Susan Cook-Jahme, Freelance Writer

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Did we put a tyrant in power?

– Lord Carrington The Times April 5, 2008

The former Foreign Secretary remembers how Mugabe became president of Zimbabwe

Peter Carrington:

If you want to understand this week’s events in Zimbabwe, a little history might be helpful. For it demonstrates how the responsibility for what has happened in that country over the past two decades lies firmly with Robert Mugabe and the decisions he has made.

The past terrible few years raise questions about how President Mugabe came to power.

Was the Lancaster House agreement – which brought an end to the civil war in Zimbabwe and allowed for the victory of Mugabe – a mistake?

I am convinced that it was not. When I became Margaret Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary in 1979 the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe problem was near the top of my in-tray. It had bedevilled successive governments ever since Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence in 1965 and set up a white-minority government. It had soured Commonwealth relations and damaged our relationship with some of our closest allies. The election of 1979, under a constitution that gave disproportionate power to the whites, which brought Bishop Abel Muzorewa to power was not recognised as legitimate by any other country, except South Africa, because Joshua Nkomo and Mugabe, the main rebel opposition leaders, were not allowed to take part. Towards the end of 1979, however, the situation had changed. Nkomo felt that time was not on his side. He wanted a settlement as soon as possible. The Muzorewa Government and the whites in Rhodesia were fighting a war against the rebels that was draining the economy and which could not be sustained for much longer. The South Africans, who were supporting the Muzorewa Government, were finding the burden too great.

The frontline states surrounding Zimbabwe all had reasons for wanting a solution; Zambia was the host to Nkomo’s army, an imposition which they wished to end. However, there was one person who did not feel it necessary to press for a settlement – Robert Mugabe.

He felt that his Zanu guerrilla group was winning the war and that he would become Zimbabwe’s leader. Despite this, it seemed that it was worthwhile to have at least one more try to settle the problems at a conference to be held in London. I did not think it likely at the time that the Lancaster House conference would succeed.

There were a number of difficulties to be solved.

There was the constitution, the elections and perhaps the most difficult of all, the land question. There was no way in which the whites in Zimbabwe would be prepared to accept the compulsory purchase of their farms. What was agreed to in the end by all parties was that willing sellers should be paid a fair price for their land and that the British and Americans would be prepared to finance this. As the conference was reaching its end, it became clear that, albeit reluctantly, Nkomo and the Muzorewa/Smith Government would be prepared to accept the agreement on the table.

Zanu, the Mugabe party, was not prepared to do so. He thought that, since they were bound to win power, election or no, success would be theirs without an agreement. Presidents Nyerere of Tanzania and Machel of Mozambique pressurised Mugabe to accept. Privately, President Nyerere made it plain to me that he would not accept the result of any post-settlement election unless Mugabe won it. In the event, as was wholly predictable, Mugabe won the 1980 election easily. The prospect of a Mugabe Government was worrying, since he was known to be a Marxist and had made incendiary remarks about what would happen if he gained power.

The quietly spoken Mugabe worried me: he was secretive, seemed not to need friends, mistrusted everyone. Devious and clever, he was an archetypal cold fish. Christopher Soames, a man of great good sense and the Governor of Southern Rhodesia, developed a close working relationship with Mugabe. A big and friendly man, Soames was able to persuade Mugabe that an orderly transfer of power and a tolerant attitude towards those who had been his enemies would be the right way forward. Mugabe’s Government started tolerably well. Having seen food shortages while in exile in Tanzania and Mozambique, he knew it would be counterproductive to seize the well-managed farms of the whites. Nonetheless, we were never certain which way Mugabe would jump; I just had a dreadful feeling that he would leap in the wrong direction. In the end, Mugabe has proven to be a textbook example of Acton’s dictum about how power corrupts. If there had been no agreement in 1979 the war would have continued, many more people would have been killed, and Mugabe would, in the end, have won both the war and the presidency. Economic devastation would have come much earlier. There can be no doubt that the election of Mugabe in 1980 reflected the majority opinion in Zimbabwe.

For all that has followed we did the right thing, the only thing that could be done back then. So much for history.

Now the future beckons.

It will take a long time to restore the prosperity which that beautiful country once enjoyed. Yet the people of Zimbabwe are resilient. It says a great deal for them that, despite threats and intimidation, the recent election seems to have overthrown the Zanu-PF majority in Parliament. Strictly speaking, this is now no longer our business, but a great many of us will feel that we still owe the people of Zimbabwe, who have been through such desperate times, all the help we can give them.

Although Mugabe tries to paint Britain as a colonial foe, we should feel no embarrassment for our role in Zimbabwe’s recent past nor about doing all we can to assist its people today.

And those of us who remember the country as it once was can only condemn the selfishness and folly of the man who has brought this about.

Lord Carrington was Foreign Secretary, 1979-82,

and chaired the Lancaster House conference

An Apology to Africa

Bishop Catherine Roskam delivered this apology to Africa during a Service of Liberation at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Sunday January 13th 2008:

I am sorry, Africa.
Of all the places we have exploited-and we have exploited many-it is only from you that we have also stolen the people.
I am sorry that we took your people and held them in bondage for centuries, a holocaust of perhaps twenty million souls.
Africa, we transported your children in conditions unfit for any living creature. When they became sick or died, we threw them overboard, like so much unwanted ballast. Those that completed the excruciating journey, we sold like cattle, auctioning them off to the highest bidder.
This past summer after going to Tanzania on pilgrimage with
Carpenter’s Kids, my husband and I spent two days in Zanzibar. We visited the Anglican Cathedral there, built over the site of the old slave market. We saw the tiny airless chamber below, the only one preserved to show how inhumanely the slaves were kept while waiting to be sold. We saw also the inlaid marble circle in front of the altar marking the place of the whipping post where slaves were tied one after another and whipped to see if they would cry. If they did, they brought in a lower price.
What allows such brutality to rest in the hearts of those purporting to be Christian? Where was compassion?
I am sorry, Africa. I benefit still from that brutality. The whole U.S. economy is based on stolen goods. It was built on the backs of slave labor, on the trafficking of human beings and on the precious gems and metals ripped out of the bowels of Africa over the years. The first stock sold on the stock market were African people. I am sorry.
Africa, we deprived your people of language and culture, forcing upon them new names, new language, new identities. We heinously stole their stories from them. We continued to abuse them physically, using the whip and working them to early death. We split up families, selling off children, separating husbands and wives. And to our deepest shame, we raped your women and your girl children, using some as sex slaves. And we blasphemed against the Bible by using it as an instrument of oppression instead of liberation.
Our evil did not stop with slavery, Africa. Even after abolition we continued to abuse your children. Every time black folk started to climb up the ladder of success behind us, we put a foot in their face and kicked them down. When they began to get just a taste of equality under the law, we changed the laws, or ignored them. We ambushed, beat and lynched in the name of Christ, burning crosses as warnings, turning our symbol of love and redemption into one of hatred and damnation. We would not let your people get ahead.
Bp. Sisk and I returned yesterday from a Province Two Bishop’s meeting in Haiti. Haiti was the first independent free black nation in the world. We did everything we could do to undermine its founding, for fear our slaves might get the “wrong idea” about running away to Haiti to get their freedom. Much more recently, we kept in power modern day slave drivers, the Duvaliers, who beat, tortured and killed Haitians at will.
Africa, you had a wonderful son (among many wonderful children I could name). His name was Martin. And for a brief blessed moment we had a glimpse of the Kingdom, of black and white and brown working together for justice and freedom. But we killed him too, and the legacy has been hard to hold onto. The progress we made is slipping away. Our schools are as segregated now as they were at the time of Brown vs. the Board of Education. Only the worst states are no longer Mississippi and Alabama, but New York and California, Illinois and Michigan. We white folks in the north congratulate ourselves on not being racist but we don’t send our children to school with black children. Our prisons are filled with young black men who should be in college, not jail. And for sure not all black votes are counted even today-especially today.
In 1923 white people massacred the people of Rosewood, a prosperous, self sufficient and peaceful black town in Florida. We cluck our tongues and shake our heads at this old brutality. Surely this could not happen today. But there is no outrage as the black people of New Orleans are dispersed, disenfranchised, and unable to return to their homes. Katrina ruined some of the housing, but white people just recently voted to tear down some of what was left standing, even though it was sound and of some architectural value. The foot dragging around rebuilding black neighborhoods is a scandal and a sin.
Throughout history, our church has worked both sides of this particular street, participating in oppression and also liberation. Most recently I give God thanks for Bishop Charles Jenkins and the people of the Diocese of Louisiana who have named the racism and continue to work for relief and development in the black community in New Orleans, rebuilding homes as part of a project call Jericho Road. But as you can imagine, it is an uphill battle.
And we and other developed nations still hold your continent in bondage through global economics.
So then, what of reparations, Africa? I can’t wait for something official to happen. I am too old and these things grind exceedingly slow. So I offer you this-the education of your children in Africa and here. I offer you Carpenter’s Kids and All Our Children. I offer you awareness from which I pledge not to retreat. I offer my voice to speak up for justice and I offer my ears to hear your cry and your call, lest I presume too much.
For as you know, I too am a racist, dear Africa, but I hope I am in recovery a day at a time. My eyes have been opened to so much by my black friends both here and in Africa, who by the grace of God have risked telling me the truth. Then I was able to see Martin’s truth more clearly, and Malcolm’s also.
I have been called to repentance and I do repent and I pledge amendment of life, so help me God.
The Rt. Rev. Catherine S. RoskamBishop Suffragan of theEpiscopal Diocese of New York

About Rt. Rev. Catherine S. Roskam:
The Rt. Rev. Catherine S. Roskam, Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, has oversight of the 66 congregations of Region II, the area encompassing Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties, where she continues her work in congregational development, clergy care, and leadership training. Her vision for mission includes a deep commitment to youth and young adults and to cultural and racial inclusiveness.
Bishop Roskam served on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church as Chair of the International Concerns Committee and is a representative from the Episcopal Church to the Anglican Consultative Council. She was instrumental in founding the Global Womens Fund of the Diocese of New York, which is devoted to empowering women in the developing world, as well as The Carpenters Kids, a program developed in relationship with the Diocese of Central Tanganyika in support of AIDS orphans in Tanzania through parish to parish linkage.
Prior to her call to the episcopacy, Bishop Roskam served as Missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of California and in various parishes both in California and New York, including Holy Apostles, Manhattan, where she did extensive AIDS work and also developed the counseling and referral service for Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.
Bishop Roskam has consulted on the national level in church growth, managing congregational change, and cultural sensitivity training. She is a graduate of General Seminary and an Associate of the Society of St. John the Evangelist. She has been married for 40 years to Philip K. Roskam, a Psychologist. They have a daughter Gemma living in Los Angeles