Where: Farquahar Street, Port Louis, Mauritius, Indian Ocean
What’s in store: Neatly presented multi-coloured exotic fruits and vegetables for making curries, street food, and seafood
Best buy: Tiny shrimps washed down with a seafood drink
Where It’s At
Port Louis is the capital of Mauritius – star and key of the Indian Ocean. The capital was moved from Grand Port to Port Louis by the fifth French Governor of the island, Mahé de La Bourdonnais, back in 1735 who established a great, big harbour to encourage trade. As a result of his efforts, Mauritius became the most important port in the Western Indian Ocean.
Port Louis has had a face-lift in recent years, making the city more appealing to travellers, with lots of shiny new buildings, cinemas, restaurants, shops and cafés in the new Caudan Waterfront. But for a more authentic Mauritian shopping experience, head to the bustlingCentral Market on Farquahar Street where everything goes. It has lost some of its edginess after a renovation in 2004 from its 1844 construction – the marketplace’s original ironwork gates are dedicated to Queen Victoria – but it’s still a great place to spend a few hours for its many people, sights, sounds, and smells.
What’s in Store at the Central Market
Hawkers representing all of the island’s ethnic groups – Muslims traders, Indian touts, Chinese, and Creoles – shout to flog their wares which include lottery tickets, meat, patisseries, herbal teas, and a rainbow array of exotic fruit and vegetables (mangos, papayas, pineapples, coconuts, star fruits, jicamas, chiles, and coriander) – all neatly presented to command your attention. This amazing, bustling market has plenty of colour, distinctive smells, and fresh appetizing produce – perfect for cooking curries with.
Central Market Street Food
There are lots of great typical street foods here to sample like river shrimps, Gateaux Piments(deep fried lentil balls), Dholl Puri (a spicy pancake filled with lentils), and Bimbalou Confit (a very bitter fruit dressed with vinegar). The intrepid can also sample srevettes – tiny shrimps that are washed down with agar alouda – a jelly-like seaweed drink that has a habit of hanging out of your mouth.
After this, you may have a necessity to visit one of the market’s Indian herbal medicinal stall. Car-sized number plates announce cures for hernia, wind, constipation, aphrodisiac, and bad smells. The latter will hold you in good stead to visit the fishmongers’ warehouse – a smelly collection of octopus (fresh and dried), shark, wahoo, lobster, marlin, and other marine life caught in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean which provides the staple diet for Mauritius’s islanders. The market opens daily from 6am; get there early before the smells and heat become unbearable.
By Susi O’Neill