Introducing Port Louis
Forget what you've heard about Port Louis (por loo-ee) – it's the kind of place that can only be understood when you experience it in person. Although regularly compared to other African cities (and lauded for its advancements in the economic sector), the island's capital often feels like a kaleidoscope of countries and cultures, with flashes of India, Africa, Europe, China and the Middle East.
Despite being the national capital, the main economic hub and the biggest city in the country, Port Louis occupies a rather strange place in the psyche of modern Mauritius. Its low-lying position has historically made it an undesirable locale – disease swept through in the 18th and 19th centuries, prompting the professional classes to live in the towns of the Central Plateau. The trend continues today as thousands of commuters descend upon the capital, then rumble out of town at sunset giving the city centre a depressingly impoverished feel after dark.
This impression is totally false, however. Port Louis has plenty going for it, but it's a city that profits from exploration – those who only visit the Disney-esque Caudan Waterfront will get a very bland impression of the national capital. The bustle and chaos of the streets, the labyrinthine ethnic quarters and some wonderfully preserved colonial buildings make Port Louis far more than a place to come for some pricey shopping away from the beach.