192-Part Guide to the World: Fiji

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The Independent Travel

Official nameRepublic of the Fiji Islands

Official nameRepublic of the Fiji Islands

LocationThe 844 Melanesian and Polynesian islands that make up Fiji are in the South Pacific.

LanguageOfficially English, but there are some 300 regional variations of standard Fijian, and the large Indian minority speaks a unique variety of Hindi known, logically enough, as Fiji Hindi.

SizeAbout 18,300 square kilometres of land, so about two-thirds the size of Belgium (but if territorial waters are included, 1.3 million square kilometres, the size of western Europe).

PopulationAbout 800,000, of whom barely half are indigenous Fijians, the majority of the remainder being Fiji Indians, descendants of labourers brought in during the time of the British Empire.

National dishThe drinking of narcotic kava is fundamental to the culture.

Best monumentThe capital Suva contains colonial buildings dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, including the cathedral.

Most famous citizenRebel leader George Speight has become famous by taking the government hostage.

Best moment in historyOne of the finest assertions of Fijian rights over colonialist overlords occurred in 1867 when missionary Thomas Baker was killed and eaten - down to and including his shoes - by irritated villagers. Total independence from colonial rule only came in 1970.

Worst moment in historyProbably the current crisis, triggered by the actions of George Speight (see above).

Essential accessoryYour scuba-diving certificate: the diving is among the best.

What not to doTurn your back on kava bowl, or disattach the cord connecting the bowl to the cowry (don't ask why - these things matter).