Far off the coast of East Africa lies the idyllic island country of Seychelles. Small yet prosperous, Seychelles has grown into a jewel of the Indian Ocean.
Want to learn more about Seychelles?
- Capital (and Largest City): Victoria
- Population (2016): 94,205 (183rd)
- Total Area: 459 km² (198th)
- Official Languages: English, French, Seychellois Creole
- Currency: Seychellois rupee (SCR)
History of Seychelles
Early History and British Colonialism
While Portuguese explorers spotted the islands as early as 1502, the Seychelles were uninhabited for the most part of human history. While sometimes used for trade or piracy, things didn’t change much until the French claimed them in the mid 18th century. Then near the end of the century, British warships forced the French administrator to surrender the islands. Initially governed alongside Mauritius, Seychelles became a separate colony in the year 1903.
Independence and Modern Era
After many decades as a British colony, Seychelles achieved independence in 1976 (though it remained part of the Commonwealth). While initially a popular retreat for rich Westerners, a 1977 coup orchestrated by France Albert René shifted the country’s focus away from this somewhat.
Over the next several years there were other coup attempts – including one by South African mercenaries disguised as rugby players. A 1986 coup forced René to call on India to aid the government (which they did).
René eventually left office peacefully in 2004 and is still credited with helping to turn Seychelles into a middle-income country with a high human development rating (he is generally viewed as a benevolent dictator). While inclement weather and income inequality have sometime stunted growth, Seychelles has become a largely prosperous and safe nation.
One of the most enduring elements of Seychelles culture is that women have a preeminent role in society. In this largely matriarchal country, women run the household (including controlling expenses). Unwed mothers are also common, though men are still required to pay child support.
Another important part of Seychellois culture is the music. It is a diverse and eclectic mix of African, French (and other European), Indian, and Polynesian styles.
Adopted in 1996, the flag of Seychelles consists of five bands – blue, yellow, red, white, and green. These are the colors of the two major political parties in the country, while also representing things such as sky, sun, unity, and the natural environment.
Seafood is very common in Seychelles – namely fish and shellfish. Often combined with rice, these seafood dishes can be cooked in a variety of ways. Curries, fresh tropical fruits, and deserts are commonplace throughout the country as well.
Basketball is the most popular sport in the country. While not a major power, they have played some important games against other strong teams on the continent.
Geography of Seychelles
Located over 1500 kilometers from the African coast, Seychelles is an archipelago, which consists of 115 islands. Of these, just 42 are home to nearly the entire population while many are uninhabited. The main groups are the ‘Granatics’, the ‘Amirantes’, the ‘Farquhar’, and the ‘Aldabra’. Largely tropical in nature, the islands can be quite humid but are also famed for sandy beaches and warm waters.
Cities and Towns
Victoria is the largest city in Seychelles with over 25,000 calling it home (in a country that numbers less than 100,000). There are other smaller towns and retreats throughout the islands, but none come close to Victoria as the center of commercial life.
Did you know?
- The country is home to many rare birds
- There are stories of hidden pirate treasure on the islands to this day
- Round Island was once a leper colony
- The coco de mer is a nut native to Seychelles than can weigh over 30 pounds
- A large population of giant tortoises can be found here
Despite a recent history of coup attempts, Seychelles is a stable and largely well off island country off the coast of Africa.
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