PORLWI by light – an oasis of awesomeness in Mauritius

Wow, what a weekend. Excitement had been building up around the island for a first of its kind event in Mauritius – a real cultural event, a “festival dans capitale”, and above all, an absolutely free event. The unmatched budget for this event was a pleasant surprise for Mauritians, who have never witnessed such a huge, amazing show, all designed to put forward the wealth Port Louis had to offer in terms of history and culture. Suddenly, everybody forgot about the other woes of the country, and this is all they could talk about – Festival dans Capitale!

As a die hard lover of the capital, I always knew Port Louis was special: its cobbled streets, old buildings from the colonial age, the proximity with the sea…

I had never imagined wandering in the Port Louis streets at night. During the day, it was hard enough to walk around in the streets bustling with busy people and ruthless drivers. Not to mention, the scorching heat. More importantly, Port Louis by night could never be envisaged  because after work hours, the streets became suddenly eerily deserted, with only homeless people, drunkards and prostitutes claiming the capital for themselves. This is what made this weekend even more magical – Mauritians of all kinds walking along side these rejects of society, all of them similarly awed like children at all the beauty in Port Louis…

Seeing the old Port Louis theatre put in the limelight after all these years of abandon brought a lot of nostalgia. When I was much younger, I used to read some of my written work there every Friday evening. The place was magical, and the video  projected on its street facade showed all the forgotten, amazing possiblities that a theatre can bring to a city. I hope this can open people’s eyes, especially those in power, to the importance of art and places of art in a country. It is of paramount urgency to restore places like Theatre de Port Louis and Plaza back to their glorious state.

I also really enjoyed the singing trees in Jardin De la Compagnie, or like Mauritians love to call it, Zardin Compayi. In the daylight Zardin Compayi is a busy and fairly dirty place. The huge banyans that are probably more than 100 years old go mostly unnoticed. During Porlwi by Light, these majestic banyans were given voices to share their feelings with those walking through the Zardin, making the walk quite surreal and amazing.

La Vielle Prison – an 18th century women’s prison – was a building in ruins next to NPF Building. It has always been there, never been properly restored, and nobody took notice of it till now. Artists exposed in each of the 2x2m cells, portraying “evasion in confinement”. Another completely free and accessible art exhibition for Mauritians to enjoy.

The turnout of Porlwi by light is proof that Mauritians have a thirst for events like this. Mauritians love culture, art, lights, music, food! Each of them probably went to bed that night feeling proud to be a Mauritian. Events like this centred on art, culture, history is key to restoring a sense of patriotism. And I personally think that those 40,000 square metres should always be kept free of traffic, like the heart of big cities elsewhere in the world.

I saw Ministers, CEOs and the like in the crowd of people in Port Louis this weekend. I hope things change and they realise that we have now more than 40 years of independence, it is now time to look at things differently, and value what needs to be valued…

Like one of the organisers said “Without culture, we are all poor”. I would like to thank them for this great initiative, and I hope this becomes an annual event. How about Mahebourg next time?

Check out PORLWI by Light’s facebook page for more pictures of the event: https://www.facebook.com/porlwi/


Farewell my Beloved Port Louis

My last week in Port Louis has finally arrived. I have had absolutely no time to prepare myself for this, but they say this is the way change should occur, without too much time to dwell on it.

I have been commuting to Port Louis every week day for almost five years. I must admit, I loved it more than I hated it. Forty minutes of extended sleep / chill-out time in an air-conditioned (most of the time, if you are lucky) bus listening to your favourite tunes, watching as the ocean gradually appears on the horizon while you effortlessly glide from Plaines Wilhems (higher planes) to the capital (coastal and harbour city) on the motorway, our morning view on this delicious commute. The great thing is, if you know you are running late because of traffic, you don’t need to worry because 75% of the Port Louis workforce (most probably including your manager), will surely be late as well. So, you lie back and enjoy another few minutes of precious tranquility before entering the bustling city.

Now Port Louis is something else. You love it or you hate it. I love it. It’s the place in Mauritius where everything happens. The skyline (if you can call it a skyline) is made up of the jewels of corporate Mauritius: Mauritius Commercial Bank, Rogers, State Bank of Mauritius, Air Mauritius (even if the company has recently sold Paille en Queue Court), Mauritius Telecom… Then you have old colonial buildings that make up the Supreme Court and some other important government buildings. Most of the city was built during the French / English Rule and many old paved streets were meant for horse carriages. These streets have not changed much since and nowadays swearing motorists, busy professionals, and valiant women in heels brave the uneven paved stones to grab a quick lunch, pay some due bills, buy some confi (pickled fruit), or incidentally, get their shoes fixed at the corner Cordonerie (shoe repair shop).

One of the things that I will always love about Port Louis is the wide choice of lunch time food. You can get everything, and I mean it absolutely everything, and during my five years working in Port Louis, I have labouriously endeavoured to try it all! Briani – there are several kinds and I have tasted the two most famous ones – Calife of course, and my personal favourite – Nafi. Boulettes – too many to chose from, but I love Jim’s Boulettes, Singer, Medine Mews and Lynn’s. Chinese food – the list is endless but I recommend Aline and First (also great for Dim Sum). Great places for salads, paninis and baguettes: Entre Deux, Life, 27, Caviar, Cafe L’Exquis, Gourmandises D’Anne and Cafe du Vieux Conseil. And the Hare Krsna place in Fon Sing building is great for vegetarian food and all kinds of cakes. I also loved trekking to Bazar Port Louis for a quick alouda or to buy fruit. All in all, lunch time is never ever dull in Port Louis.

When you work in the same building for almost 5 years and you see the same people everyday, you tend to get attached to them. The parking guy who rushes to help me park when I drive in every morning, because he knows I’m a hopeless case. The security guy at the ground floor reception who never misses to respond to even my grumpiest good mornings. The tea ladies and messengers with contagious good moods and who share great philosophies on life. Your 300 or so colleagues with whom you gradually get acquainted to while waiting (or complaning about) the lifts. Helpful colleagues who end up becoming such a big part of your life. The jokes you share that make you laugh your head off, commiserating or celebrating together. Welcoming new faces, saying goodbyes… And now, after five years (violins please), the time has come for me to say goodbye…

I know it’s no big deal, to change jobs. Some people do it every year, some every six months. But I get attached to things and people, and even if I am looking forward to my new adventure in Ebene (which will save me at least one hour of commute time daily = more sleep 😀 ), I will miss my old job and colleagues, my old routine, and my beloved Port Louis.

So this week, I will make sure to enjoy every single minute of what I will soon leave behind, especially the breathtaking view at my workstation…