San Serriffe is a fictional island nation created for April Fools' Day, 1977, by staff members of Britain's Guardian newspaper. An elaborate description of the nation, using puns and plays on words relating to typography (such as "sans serif"), was reported as legitimate news, apparently fooling many readers who did not understand the joke and did not understand that there was a reason that the island was also known as Hoaxe. In more recent years knowledge of typography has spread through widespread use of computers, and so the jokes are much more likely to be spotted.
The first version of the hoax appeared in the British newspaper The Guardian on April 1, 1977. A seven-page supplement was published in the style of contemporary reviews of foreign countries, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the island's independence, complete with themed advertisements from major companies. The island was reused for similar hoaxes in 1978, 1980 and 1999.
The original idea was to have it located in the Atlantic Ocean near Tenerife, but due to the ground collision of two Boeing 747s there a few days before publication, in the original Guardian newspaper report it was moved to the Indian Ocean, near the Seychelles Islands.
Long unfairly neglected by travelers, the islands of San Serriffe truly offer something for everyone: a rich culture full of fascinating customs, an informative case study for environmentalists and economists, and a treasure trove of unusual tubers for botanists. Now under nominally democratic government, now is the time to discover San Serriffe's distinctive cuisine, tropical climate and quaint transportation, before the next volcanic eruption occurs.
Written history of the archipelago is somewhat unfairly dated from European colonisation in the early 15th century, though there is clear evidence of a rich history before that. In particular, some have identified San Serriffe as the Biblical land of Abyss, where "an island was removed from its place" (Revelation 6:14) and from where the Beast will crawl out onto Earth. Some scholars, however, contend that the Apocalypse has already occurred and San Serriffe is the result.
The island is named after Sant Sharrif, a 10th century Indian saint who set sail with his band of followers from the coast of present-day Gujarat on a quest to go around the world and reach the Himalayas from the North. This desperate attempt was made necessary by the fact that overland pilgrimage routes to the Himalayas were blocked by Jain monks who insisted on engaging all pilgrims in debates on the epistemological challenges arising from Anekantavada.
Unfortunately, the Chinese-made compass the voyagers were carrying malfunctioned and they were swept into what is now known as the Bay of Tilde. Sant Sharrif claimed that the land he had just found was actually one of the seven islands they'd have to cross to reach the Himalayas, and claimed the islands in the name of King Harsha Verdhana who had financed the expedition. The name that stuck, however was that of Sharrif.
From 1432, San Serriffe was colonized, conquered and retaken in rapid succession by the Spanish, the Portuguese, the British, the Italians and, on one memorable occasion, Luxembourg. It was the Portuguese, though, who had the most influence and who finally granted San Serriffe its long-awaited independence in 1967.
Alas, independent San Serriffe rapidly turned into an autocratic dictatorship under the rule of General Pica, whose Justified Party led with an iron fist and crushed all traces of the Aligned rebellion. Pica's machete-wielding paramilitary hit squads -- called Chapoo Peeko or Smallcaps for their trademark headwear -- kept the population in a constant state of terror. However, following a palace coup in 1990 led by General Melior (formerly Pica's gardener), in 1997 the islanders held their first democratic elections and elected the charismatic Antonio Bourgeois, who ran on an emphatic platform of the redistribution of banana and pineapple wealth for all.
During the post-World War II years, from about 1946 through approximately 1970, the United States government operated a secret base for various scientific and military operations somewhere in the jungle hills about 25 miles (40 km) north of the city of Arial. The U.S. government has confirmed that a base once existed on the island, but has not provided any details of its operations or experiments. Today, all staff have been evacuated. Modern conspiracy theorists provide details that the base was the center of operations of Project Lucida, a project whose primary goal was weather control.