In the centre of the island, 5 km south of Port Louis, lies a huge urban agglomeration 17 km long and 4 km wide, where nearly one out of every two Mauritians lives. In fact, it is made up of several towns: Beau Bassin, Rose Hill, Quatre Bornes, Phoenix, Vacoas, Floréal and, most importantly, Curepipe.
This area developed from the second half of the 19th century, when Port Louis, where the majority of Mauritians resided, began to be hit by dreadful cholera and malaria epidemics. Many Port-Louisians, terrified, decided to settle on the plateaus in the centre of the island, whose altitude (between 400 m and 600 m approximately) guaranteed a cooler and healthier climate. The Mauritians even lent therapeutic virtues to the water of Curepipe, which later proved to be infected with the typhoid bacillus due to the marshy past of the region! Soon, the highlands were enriched by superb colonial mansions, surrounded by large lush gardens with green lawns, planted with palm trees and hedges of Chinese bamboo.
As it was necessary to continue going to Port Louis to work or trade, and as the new villages were located exactly on the axis linking the capital to Mahébourg (then the country's second largest city), the plateau region quickly benefited from the best infrastructures on the island: one of the first railway lines as early as 1865 and the first motorway, between Port Louis and Phoenix, in 1962.
The intense development that the region continued to experience during the 20th century profoundly altered its landscape. The greenery gave way to the city and almost all the beautiful Creole houses of the time were replaced by new concrete infrastructures. Today, this part of Mauritius is far from being the most beautiful, but as it constitutes the industrial and social lung of the island, as well as its main centre of craftsmanship, it is still worth a detour.
In fact, it is a popular destination for receptive guests, who include the many shopping centres in the highlands in their daily excursion itineraries. On the shopping list: model ships, factory outlet clothing and duty-free products.
The attentive traveller will also be interested in the few remains of Creole architecture, official buildings or private homes, as well as the authentic urban atmosphere, especially that of the markets.
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