Roseau, Dominica is the main capital city of the island better known as the Nature Island of the Caribbean. Dominica is the largest island in the Windward island chain in the Caribbean. Roseau in Dominica is positioned on the west coast of the island surrounded by the peaceful waters of the Caribbean Sea. Dominica capital, Roseau is home to approximately 14 000 of the 72 000 persons who make up the population of Dominica. Roseau in Dominica is the heart of the country’s commerce and Dominica’s capital Roseau is bustling with business and commercial activities. On Sundays, Roseau the capital of Dominica, transforms into a quiet and peaceful historical west Indian capital, dotted with church goers.
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The French were the first Europeans to settle in Roseau, Dominica capital and also named the town which was later developed by the British. It was customary for the French to name a town or village based on the natural features within it. Roseau in Dominica, was built on the banks of the Roseau Rivers and one of its main features was the roseaux reeds growing along its banks hence the name Roseau. Prior to the French settlers the area now known as Roseau was once a Carib settlement. Caribs are the indigenous people of the island and inhabited the island prior to Columbus’s discovery, at present they live on a reserve on the east of the island. In 1642 when a French priest father Breton visited Roseau then called Sairi by the Caribs. The Carib Chief Ukale presided over a settlement there. According to history as more Europeans began to settle in the area the Caribs retreated to the forests and to the east of the island.
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Roseau, Dominica was not the first choice for a town of the British but circumstances over which they had no controls forced them to make it the commercial centre. Portsmouth was chosen as the area to develop the main commercial center on the island but the residents were soon plagued by malaria and yellow fever as a result of the many swamps in the Portsmouth area. The English population began to dwindle and they were forced to look for a new town. Roseau was the best choice since it already had a harbor, was located near the sea and was declared a free port by the British government. By 1770 the British had put plans in place to establish Roseau in Dominica as the main town. Portsmouth to this date remained the second town with Roseau being the largest and main town.
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As the capital of the Dominica, Roseau is the busiest town but still has a “happy go feeling” that can be noted in the people all around the country. Compared to other more developed countries in the Caribbean there is no hassle, elbow shoving and congestion often related to development. In Roseau, as the main commercial area, most business houses have their offices in Roseau and on a week day the town is filled with people going about. Generally, offices, supermarkets and shops are opened to the public from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon. The bigger supermarkets stay open later than four on a weekday and even later on Fridays and Saturdays.
Most government offices are located in Roseau and are also opened to the public form eight in the morning. Up until a few years ago the Government Head Quarters in Roseau, Dominica was one of the tallest and biggest buildings in the town. Roseau is also the educational centre with most of the Secondary schools located within Roseau capital.
One of the main characteristics of Roseau is its historical architecture. Most town and cities are characterized by high rise buildings and modern architecture but not old beautiful Roseau. The city itself is separated into tidy little blocks which date back to the first plans of the city made by the British Government in 1770’s. A number of houses seen around Roseau all date back to the Victorian era. Small houses made out of stone and timber with verandahs which provides shade for the sidewalks, jalousie louvers, wooden shutters, porticos and fretwork are all characterisistics of another era which can seen in the town of Roseau.
Other buildings from colonial times which survived and can be seen in Roseau include the Old Post Office building which was constructed in 1810 and today houses the Museum in the Old Market Plaza. The plaza itself dates back to the days of slavery and was used as a market for the auction of slaves and other commodities. At present the plaza is used as a craft market. The Roseau Town Council offices or the Baracoons Building was also used as an area to auction and store slaves. The Roseau Roma Catholic Cathedral is also of architectural and historical importance to the city.
Like almost every area in Dominica, Roseau has a natural feel to it. The town is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the Roseau River flows nearby. The Botanical Gardens one of the main attractions in the city is located in the town and showcases numerous species of tropical plants and birds found on the island. This makes Roseau very unique when
Roseau is the main shopping area in Dominica. There are no high rise malls or giant departments stores found in developed countries but shopping in Dominica is fun. Stores are generally small in size but most carry a bit of everything. Duty Free shopping is available in a few Roseau shops specializing in jewelry, perfumes, eye wear, wines, liquors and cigars have been opened over the past couple years.
A very popular place to shop for souvenirs is the Old Market Plaza. Once the original site of slave trading post, this renovated, but well preserved areas houses local vendors who sell local crafts and souvenir items. This area is most alive when there are cruise ships docked at the nearby Roseau Cruise Ship Berth.
Dominica people, especially the native Caribs are very good artists. The products available include; baskets, straw hats, jewelry, mats, sculpture both wooden and ceramics, pottery, local soaps, herbal teas and candles. All products are made locally made from materials obtained in the surrounding forests, sea or otherwise.
The country’s main sports stadium is located in the capital, Roseau. This is mainly used for sporting activities but also serves as a prime venue for hosting concerts and local festivals. The Botanical Gardens also has a cricket pitch which is used quite often to host local cricket leagues. Cricket is one of the favorite pastimes and sports on the island.
The busiest and most colorful place in Roseau on a Saturday is the Roseau Market. Saturday is the main market day and the area is covered with vendors and buyers. Local produce including fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, root crops, meat and fish and locally prepared foods and drinks. The Roseau market is a very lively and colorful place.
The town of Roseau, Dominica capital, is small but has a lot to offer.