Quatre-Bornes is a town with a double identity. It is one of the oldest towns in Mauritius and we can still see the “old Quatre-Bornes” and the “new Quatre-Bornes”. On the border line, there is the Royal Road. Lots of shops and restaurants can be found along that road also named St Jean Street. There even is a shopping centre and some second category hotels. But the favorite place of the Mauritians and foreigners remains the market of Quatre-Bornes. Some days of the week, you can find souvenirs and clothes there, but on Tuesdays and Fridays, this magical place gets full of fruits and vegetables to offer a marvelous trip for your senses.
That old market made of metal sheets, wood, iron bars and tent fabrics may seem out of place in this modern town. The Municipal Council has often talked about a new marketplace for the five last years. It may be a good thing on the health and safety point of view, however, the actual market is acting as a jewel box for the scenes will find there.
From the dark green of the water cress, to the lively one of the lettuce and the various ones of the herbs, the market is dressed with the main colour of Mother Nature. Here and there, red tomatoes, bright bananas and other fruits and vegetables break the pattern. The fresh smell of the parsley and the thyme blends with the rich and spicy ones of the masala and the cinnamon. When you get into the market, you simply can’t be in a rush. The urge to slow down, look around and enjoy the scents in the air is too strong to hold.
Zis Pri Sa?
Mauritians are natural bargainers. May be in our genes or in the air, but even if the seller is proposing those carrots for less than the displayed price, one simply have to bargain. “Zis pri sa?” – “Is that a fair price?” So begins the seller-buyer dance. The seller swears that it’s the best price of the whole market; that this week he is selling his vegetables Rs 10 cheaper than last week. The seller makes three reluctant steps aside, saying that he saw better prices “over there”. Rs 5 of discount per pound will finally be allocated given the quantity of carrots bought. End of the first dance, time to find a new partner.
In a place where so many merchants have to sell their stock, all arguments are good to attract the buyers. You may be asked to touch an eggplant to see how fresh and firm it is. Or you could be offered a grape to be convinced of the sweetness and juiciness of the fruits worth of every rupee you will spend on them. If the veggies or fruits are too ripe or not enough, you may even be given recipes to use them in the best way. Raw bananas? Make a chutney or a pickle out of them. Overripe pumpkin? Don’t eat it with rice, because it is just perfect for a cake or a gratin.
In a Mauritius turning into an “Cyber-Island”, with students receiving tablets from the government, shopping malls bigger than some villages, the market of Quatre-Bornes is a place worthy to visit if you want to get connected to the authentic everyday life of Mauritians.
Image Source: Wikipedia.