Mauritius, a volcanic island of lagoons and sandy beaches in the Indian Ocean, has a reputation for stability and racial harmony among its mixed population of Asians, Europeans and Africans.
The island has maintained one of the developing world's most successful democracies and has enjoyed years of constitutional order.
Even though the previous government of Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam was criticised over corruption scandals, the country preserved its image as one of Africa's few social and economic success stories, with a thriving market in sugar exports, textiles and up-market tourism.
Various cultures and traditions flourish in peace, though Mauritian Creoles, descendents of African slaves who make up a third of the population, live in poverty and complain of discrimination.
Mauritius, an increasingly popular tourist spot, was uninhabited when the Dutch took possession in 1598. It was home to the flightless bird, the dodo, which was hunted into extinction. The island was abandoned by the Dutch in 1710, taken over by the French in 1715 and seized by the British in 1810.
It gained independence in 1968 as a constitutional monarchy, with executive power nominally vested in the British monarch. It became a republic in 1992. The island of Rodrigues and other smaller islets also form part of the country.
source: 27 May, 2003 BBC News