Capital of the island with its 148 147 inhabitants, Port Louis is bordered by the Moka mountain range and surmounted by two of the "highest" peaks of Mauritius: the Pouce at 812 m and the Pieter Both at 821 m. Protected by a rocky outcrop, the city stands on the seafront and offers a fairly simple urban layout around attractive, cultural and commercial centres: the port and its docks, the Caudan commercial complex, the Chinatown, the bazaar... A metropolis on a human scale, Port Louis, in spite of several attempts at decentralisation (including a motorway bypassing the city), remains the nerve centre of the country and a bottleneck for all motorists crossing it at rush hours. Little inhabited, the city vibrates only during the day and dozes off with the departure of its employees who prefer to stay in the outlying towns. This makes it one of the few capitals in the world to offer no real nightlife.
A day can be enough to discover the city's curiosities, whose architectural heritage and various museums are no less interesting than the eclectic atmosphere of the markets and busy streets: streets crowded with cars and bicycles, sidewalks crowded with street vendors, old and dark stalls leaning against brand new buildings... Port Louis has a change of scenery and knows how to change things. Lively, heterogeneous and messy, it juxtaposes modern buildings with historic houses, tangible witnesses of a colonial past. The saris rub shoulders with the costumes, and the pagodas with Hindu temples. As you approach the ancient wooden houses, you can guess the ancient splendour and find the courage to climb up to the citadel to get a global panorama of the city. But the ambient humidity pushes us towards the port and its airy shopping areas. We get lost for a few hours between the historic buildings, have lunch on the spot, do some shopping and return to the softness of the lagoon.
History. The existence of Port Louis really begins in 1735, when Governor Mahé de La Bourdonnais established the capital of the island and the seat of government in Port Nord-Ouest (now Port Louis) in place of Port Bourbon, future Grand Port, in the southeast of the island.
La Bourdonnais then undertook, over a period of ten years, numerous works and measures that contributed to the rapid development of the town and its maritime vocation: design of an urban development plan according to a grid layout, construction of buildings and in particular a vast hospital, construction of ramparts on the sides not protected by the sea or the mountains, development of the roadstead into a port and a shipyard.
Thus, throughout the 18th century, Port Louis became a relay on the road to India and was an important naval base. To address the problem of supplying fresh water to city dwellers, La Bourdonnais also had an aqueduct built from the Grande Rivière Nord-Ouest. This work, known as the "La Bourdonnais Canal", was later followed by other developments under the royal government: the Dodin Canal to the north and the Dayot Canal to the south. During the second half of the 18th century, under the royal administration, the premises of the educational system of Port Louis were laid out, with the opening of a primary school and then a college. The first printing works and theatres also appeared at this time. The administrative centre developed, the city's inhabitants sought leisure activities, and the city took on a new dimension under Pierre Poivre. This learned botanist made it a stopover and meeting place for travellers and scientists exploring the Indian Ocean.
During the first half of the 19th century, under English colonization, impressive works were undertaken, particularly at the initiative of John Augustus Lloyd: construction of the central market, a meteorological observatory, a customs shed, development of the roadstead... In 1850, the town was given an elected municipality with a mayor at its head, thus constituting the first democratic structure on the island. At the same time, several epidemics struck Port Louis and led to a movement of the population to the villages of the high plateaux with a cooler and healthier climate: Beau Bassin, Rose Hill, Quatre Bornes, Vacoas, Curepipe. On four occasions, cholera wreaked havoc and then, between 1866 and 1868, malaria decimated a large part of the population. The advent of the railway in 1864 thus favoured the exodus of the inhabitants of Port Louis to other villages in the interior, which were gradually transformed into towns. The first railway line linked Port Louis to Flacq in 1864, and the second, the following year, Port Louis to Mahébourg.
In addition, the construction of the Suez Canal, a formidable shortcut between Europe and Asia (access to India without having to bypass Africa), makes the Mauritian port of call unnecessary. Port Louis is temporarily suffering from a significant reduction in naval traffic in its waters, without ceasing to pursue its development. In 1962, the city expanded to include the surrounding villages and suburbs. And, on August 25, 1966, on the eve of independence, Port Louis celebrated a double event: the inauguration of the present town hall, more functional, and the granting of a new status that gives the city more importance. After independence, the first magistrate of Port Louis will be Sir Gaétan Duval. Today, Port Louis is the only port in the country. It has the status of a free port.
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