Fiji is a nation that occupies 7,056 square miles within the Pacific Ocean and is one of the most popular countries in the region. The people of Fiji are some of the warmest and most welcoming in the world which regularly surprises visitors to the nation. The residents warmly greet people they come into contact with regardless of whether or not they know each other. Fijian culture places a huge emphasis on friendship which is the main reason the residents are so welcoming to foreigners. The warm nature of the Fijians is one of the reasons the nation has a large tourism sector. Here are 10 other facts about Fiji you might not know:
1) Fiji is composed of more than 300 islands.
Fiji's territory is comprised of 332 islands although some sources have indicated that there are 333 islands. Apart from a large number of islands, Fiji also has at least 500 islets. Most of Fiji's islands and islets owe their formation to volcanic activity which began occurring in the region approximately 150,000,000 years ago. The residents of Fiji reside in 110 of the nation's biggest islands with Viti Levu having the most significant population. The largest proportion of the inhabitants of Viti Levu live along the island's coast since the interior is not as habitable due to the terrain. Another of Fiji's islands with a significant population is the island of Vanua Levu.
2) Fiji was once under British rule.
For nearly a century beginning in 1874, the British government ruled over the territory of Fiji. British control over the area formally started after a number of the highest ranking traditional Fijian chiefs such as Ma'afu and Cakobau signed the Deed of Concession. The impact of British rule in Fiji is readily visible in most areas with the national flag being one of the most notable examples. Other areas with significant British influences in Fiji include the legal and parliamentary systems.
3) Fiji has a large Indian population.
A large section of Fiji's population traces its descent to India particularly the regions of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The recorded history of Indians in Fiji dates back to 1813 when an Indian sailor survived a shipwreck and lived the remainder of his life among the natives of Fiji. Most of the Indians who arrived in Fiji came to the island to work as laborers in some industries, particularly in the sugarcane sector. The descendants of the Indian laborers have succeeded in some fields such as sports and politics. Some of the most famous Fijians of Indian descent include Hafiz Khan and Joy Ali.
4) Fiji is one of the few nations to have three official languages.
The official languages of communication within Fiji, according to the nation's constitution, include English, Fijian, and Fiji Hindi. English is one of the subjects taught within the Fiji education system which ensures the country's residents can converse in the language. A large number of English speakers in Fiji makes it easy for tourists to communicate with the residents. At nearly 200 different dialects, Fijian has more dialects spoken on the island than any of the other official languages.
5) Fiji has a traditional drink known as Kava.
One of the most iconic beverages from Fiji is referred to as Kava and not only is it a traditional drink but it is the country's national drink. The major ingredient in the making of Kava is the ground root of a plant that belongs to the pepper family. The citizens of Fiji believe that the drink has numerous medicinal qualities particularly in the treatment of insomnia, headaches, and stress. Kava is an essential component of Fijian culture, and an elaborate ceremony is usually performed during the drinking of Kava. In some regions, Kava is referred to as Yaqona.
6) Rugby is the most important sport in Fiji.
The residents of Fiji hold rugby in high regard as it is the national sport. The British are credited with introducing rugby to Fiji during the period when Fiji was under their rule. The most popular form of rugby within Fiji is the seven aside, and their national team is one of the most successful in the world. The achievements of the Fijian national rugby team include winning gold at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Fiji is one of the most successful nations to compete in the Hong Kong Sevens having won the event 15 times. In the past, the rugby team of Fiji performed the Cibi war dance before the beginning of each match, but it was replaced by the Bole war cry.
7) The practice of walking on hot stones began in Fiji.
Nearly five centuries ago on Bega Island, the Sawau tribe introduced the fire walking ceremony which would later come to be one of the most popular activities within Fiji. The fire walking tradition was handed down from one generation of the Sawau tribe to the next. Most visitors to Fiji can witness the tradition in some hotels and resorts throughout the island.
8) Fijians still use traditional methods to prepare many their dishes.
Fijian cuisine is famous the world over due to its flavor as well as the methods used in its preparation. One of the most well-known traditional food preparation methods in Fiji is the use of underground pits which the locals refer to as lovo pits. The lovo pits are preferred when preparing vast quantities of food as they are exceptionally efficient.
9) Cannibalism is a part of Fiji's history.
Cannibalism was a significant part of Fijian culture until the introduction of Christianity into the country. The Fiji Museum indicates that according to archaeological evidence, the practice is at least 2,500 years old. Various archaeological sites have been located with evidence to prove that the practice was widely prevalent on the island. Reverend Thomas Baker, a Methodist missionary, and seven of his followers were the last recorded victims of cannibalism within Fiji. The precise reason for cannibalism in Fiji is yet to be identified; however, several reasons have been suggested such as it gave someone control over their enemies. The residents of Fiji also believed that eating someone's flesh allowed one to possess their knowledge.
10) Fiji has a booming tourism industry.
Although this fact may not come as a surprise, it is interesting to note that the tourism industry in Fiji is a major contributor to the economy. Fiji is expecting the tourism industry to continue to grow with hopes of reaching $2.2 billion by 2020. Tourists to Fiji are primarily from Australia with 367,273 visitors in 2015 followed by New Zealand (138,537) and the United States (67,831).