There he was, casually strolling down a bustling lane in one of the vibrant outdoor markets in Mauritius. I spotted him immediately. His colorful flowered shirt open almost to the waist. The massive gold jewelry around his neck. The tight, bell bottomed trousers. The slicked back, coal black hair. The ever-present dark glasses with the extra wide temples.
There was something different about him though. Sure, a lot of time has passed since he reportedly passed on, but this was something else. He had slimmed down quite a bit from the later years, but the look was there; but somehow different. Then, of course, I realized what it was. I had been so mesmerized by his sudden appearance in the alley in front of me that it was only after I photographed him (yes, I did actually get a photo of Elvis!) that it finally struck me.
What was it about Elvis that was now, after all these years, so different? He appeared to be Indian! Not his sometimes reported Cherokee heritage, but really Indian, as in India. He had very dark skin and this may be how he has managed to go unnoticed for so long on this tiny island nation of Mauritius where 52% of the population is Hindu.
Of course, it’s still hard to believe that he has gone undiscovered for lo these many years. After all, while Mauritius is not in India, the population here is still much influenced by Hollywood and Indian movies are shown in many of the local theatres. Can a nation of so many moviegoers not even notice Elvis when he walks down the street? Or is there such love and respect for the King here in Mauritius as to foster an island conspiracy to help him hide his identity from the outside world?
Whatever the answer may be, if you visit this wonderful English speaking French island half full of Hindus in the Indian Ocean you will find a tropical paradise that is thought to be the peak of an enormous sunken volcanic chain stretching from the Seychelles to Reunion. Mauritius boasts a unique marine environment surrounded by one of the largest unbroken coral reefs on the planet.
Port Louis is the capital of the country, the largest city and the main commercial and administrative center. The weather is great with an average annual temperature of 73 degrees on the coast with an average rainfall of about 40 inches. Up to 200 inches of rain inland.
Originally occupied by the Dutch (named after Maurice of Nassau, stadtholder of the Netherlands), taken over by the French and captured by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. To offset the labor problem arising from the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, the planters were allowed to import indentured laborers from India, and since 1861 the population has been predominantly Indian. Mauritius was granted independence in 1968 and it is not known when Elvis immigrated to the island nation.
Good buys in Mauritius include Indian fabrics, postage stamps and spices. Local cuisine offerings to sample are Creole, European and Chinese, with the specialty usually seafood. A typical Mauritian buffet might include a Muslim biryani, Indian chicken curry, Chinese pork dish, Creole roast beef and French style vegetables. Boiled rice is served with just about everything! A favorite local beverage is lassi, a refreshing yogurt and ice-water drink or alouda, a syrupy brew of agar, milk and flavorings – available everywhere from street vendors.
The local currency is the Mauritian Rupee.
If you fly check into Delta and Air France. Several cruise lines make a stop in Mauritius – Silversea Cruises, rated best of the small ship cruise lines is a great choice.