Market Street, Seychelles
Written by Will Bendix
Market Street has been the lifeblood of trade for the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles since a fresh produce market was opened in the tiny capital of Victoria, on Mahé Island, in 1840.
Before telephones and television came to the Seychelles in the early 1980s, the only form of communication between the islands was the nation’s single-station radio service. “Births, deaths, love messages – whatever it was, you would send it to the radio,” recalls David Germain, Director of Tourism Seychelles. “The presenter would read out: ‘This is a message for Mr. David Germain of Praslin Island. Mr. Louis Bose wants the book you borrowed returned. He will meet you on Market Street this Saturday’.”
Today, communication between the islands is as easy as sending a text message or tweet, but one thing remains the same: everyone still meets on Market Street. “If you want to see a friend, have a business meeting, catch up on local news, or hear a bit of gossip, you go to Victoria Market.”
The market is open Mondays to Saturdays, the last being the best day to go because this is when farmers and fishermen from all the outlying islands come by boat to trade. “They bring fresh meat, fish, cassava, sweet potato, passion fruit, mint, lemongrass, and all the exotic herbs and spices of the Seychelles.
This goes on from six in the morning to midday; it’s a beautiful atmosphere.”
The market’s also the place to go for coffee. “It’s the only place a visitor can order local coffee that’s grown in the Seychelles and ground by hand. You can’t buy it and take it home because this coffee is not grown for commercial use. It’s scarce, so it’s only for tasting.”
If you’re hungry, head to Marie-Antoinette Restaurant. “It serves the traditional Seychellois comfort food that I love. All the real delicacies of my people, like fried aubergine, grilled fish, and real Creole curry cooked with coconut milk, local spices, and flavoured with a bit of cinnamon and vanilla.” You need to book in advance, though.
The best time of year to be on Market Street is during the Seychelles International Carnival of Victoria, held over a weekend in April each year. “This is a totally different carnival from any other in the world. It’s non-commercial, only troops from other carnival countries are invited, and the sole aim is to celebrate peace and friendship between nations. Practically the entire population of the Seychelles – around 95,000 people – comes to Market Street for carnival. It’s incredible.”
In 1970, David Germain was a boy scout on Praslin, the Seychelles’ second-biggest island, when US-based tour operator Lindblad Travel recruited him to take tourists around because there were no tour guides back then. Four decades later, the Seychelles Tourism Board’s Director for Africa and the Americas is still introducing people from around the world to his home islands, regaling them with tales of looting pirates, eco-tourism treasures, and how green turtles were turned from a culinary delicacy into a protected species.
Distance: 3,335 km
Flight Time: 4 hours, 55 minutes
Frequency: Beginning December 12, Qatar Airways will operate a daily service from Doha