Mahébourg is a small city on the southeastern coast of the island of Mauritius. It is the capital of the Grand Port District.
Mahébourg is named after Bertrand-François Mahé de La Bourdonnais, one of the most successful governors of the French colonial period. It was originally built by the Netherlands during their brief period of colonisation of the island. It was close to their landing port, had ample water supply from many rivers and streams and had a scenic view of the large bay area. Mahébourg knew major development around 1806 during the French colonisation era.
The well-planned wide streets in the old section of Mahébourg still bear testimony to this Dutch and French colonial past. After the French chose Port Louis as the main port Mahébourg declined into a sleepy coastal city. The past is still preserved today in the Historical Naval Museum which also recounts the epic naval battles of the past between the French Navy and the Royal Navy. The Dutch historical museum in Grand Port recounts the early Dutch settlement of the island.
Nowadays, Mahébourg is a bustling centre of local trade, located just minutes away from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport. The new waterfront complex promises some memorable walks along the sea-side. It even has a casino, mark of a developing tourism industry. There is a growing number of small inns in the city itself and the surrounding districts which cater for local and foreign visitors.
Sights and Activities
- Notre Dame des Anges
- Blue Bay Marine Park
- Mahebourgh Naval Museum
- Biscuiterie Rault - Biscuit Factory
Events and Festivals
- Fire Walking - This Tamil ceremony takes place between December and February. After ten days of purification, meditation and praying, penitents go to the temple where they walk slowly across a pit of burning coal - said to represent the outstretched sari of Draupadee - before dipping their feet in milk to cool down.
- Holi - This is an important time for joy and sharing in the Indian calendar. During this frenzied but always good-natured event, men, women and children throw coloured water and powder on each other while wishing one another good fortune.
- Id-El- Fitr - Signalling the end of Ramadan - the fasting period for people of Muslim faith - Id-El-Fitr sees participants exchanging gifts, giving alms to the poor, and visiting their families and friends to wish them good fortune for the months ahead.
- Thaipoosum Cavadee - Celebrated in honour of God Muruga, the son of Lord Shiva, Thaipoosum Cavadee is not only the most important festival in the Tamil calendar, but also the most spectacular. After ten days of fasting and prayers in January/February, devotees embark on a pilgrimage to local Kovils (Tamil temples). Throughout the procession, these devotees carry ‘cavadees’: carved, wooden structures decorated with leaves, flowers, fruits and photographs of saints, each designed to honour Lord Muruga. The celebration has gained notoriety in recent years because many of the devotees pierce certain parts of their anatomy with fine needles, including their cheeks, backs and chests.
- Chinese Spring Festival - Chinese New Year Day is celebrated each year on a different date because of variations between the lunar and solar calendars. According to Chinese custom, no scissors or knives can be used on the day of the festival. Red - a traditional symbol of happiness - is the dominant colour, and food is offered to attendees to ensure abundance during the year. A wax cake is, for example, customarily shared between relatives and friends. Firecrackers are set off to drive away evil spirits, but the ‘pièce de résistance’ is the famous Dragon Feast - performed a few days into the New Year - when Chinese dancers and musicians take to the roads and perform the traditional Lion dances.
- Maha Shivratree - In this festival, thousands of pilgrims, all dressed in white, walk long distances and converge on the sacred lake of Grand Bassin, carrying the ‘Kanwar’ - wooden arches covered with flowers and small mirrors. Maha Shivratree is celebrated in honour of Lord Shiva. Hindu devotees fetch holy water from the lake and ceremonies take place over three to four days. The whole scene is reminiscent of the great rituals that take place on the banks of the Holy Ganges in India.
- 12th of March, National Day - Independence Day is celebrated with great national pride all the way across Mauritius.
- Ougadi - This festival celebrates the New Year of the Telegu - an Indian ethnic group - and is characterised by the preparation of elaborate family meals, cultural shows and the distribution of prayers, cakes and sweets between relatives and friends.
August / September
- Ganesh Chaturthi - Celebrated by Hindus on of the fourth day of the lunar month in August/September, this festival commemorates the birth of the Hindu God Ganesh. Small replicas of the God, with its elephant head, are taken to the beaches or to riverbanks so they can be immersed before sunset.
- Père Laval pilgrimage - Every 9th of September, Mauritians of all faiths walk or drive to Sainte-Croix near Port Louis to visit the tomb of the Blessed Jacques Désiré Laval - the ‘Apostle of the Black People’. The celebration around Père Laval, who is believed to have healing powers, reminds us of the fervour of the Lourdes pilgrimage in France. Interestingly, Father Laval was the first person beatified in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.
October / November
- Divali - Celebrated in October/November, Divali marks the victory of Rama over Ravana: of light (truth) over darkness (ignorance). It also commemorates Krishna’s destruction of the demon Narakasuram. During this festival, small clay lamps are lined up on walls and balconies and in yards. They are lit at sunset and their golden beams - believed to guide the Goddess of wealth and good fortune into the lantern owner’s house - can be seen everywhere across the island.
The temperature on the coastal areas varies between 22 °C in winter and 34 °C in summer. The sea temperature varies between 22 °C and 27 °C. In the central part of the island, the maximum daytime temperature varies from about 19 °C in August to about 26 °C in February. The western and northern regions are warmer and relatively drier than the East and the South.
Air Mauritius is the national airline of the country and has its base at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MRU), 50 kilometres from the capital Port Louis. International destinations with Air Mauritius include Antananarivo, Bangalore, Cape Town, Chennai, Delhi, Durban, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, London, Melbourne, Milan, Mumbai, Munich, Nairobi, Paris, Perth, Reunion, Singapore and Sydney. Several other airlines fly to a few of these cities as well, like Air France, Air Madagascar, British Airways, Meridiana, Emirates, Condor and South African Airways. Additional destinations are Rome, Lyon, Nantes, Nantes, Mahé (Seychelles), Dubai and Zürich.
An internet connection can be hard to come by on Mauritius, although there are one or two small internet cafe's in Port Louis. Most hotels do have connections though.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Mauritius' international country code is 230.
Mauritius Post offers services, which are fairly reliable but not overly fast. For parcels, contact companies like DHL, UPS or FedEx.