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Les Abymes

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Les Abymes: For excellence

The district of Les Abymes, which extends over 8,125 hectares, is bordered to the west by the Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin, with its landscape of bayous and mangroves, and linked to northeastern Grande Terre by the N5, a road running through endless fields of sugar cane and punctuated by a succession of hills or “mornes” and small valleys to the east.
Les Abymes is a rural region, dominated by sugar cane farming and vegetable crops. Although some of its many natural treasures may not be very well known, it has nevertheless managed to build an architectural and cultural heritage worthy of the most populated city in Guadeloupe.
Apart from the city center with its traditional architecture, Les Abymes offers the visitor a wide variety of places to discover.
The Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin Nature Reserve, which is run in conjunction with the National Park, is clearly an area of considerable ecological interest. Listed as an internationally important wetland, it also represents one of the world’s major biospheres, and offers a number of activities, including traditional small-scale fishing, various watersports and guided tours of the area. Birdwatchers can observe many species here, including seabirds (terns, frigate birds, brown pelicans, etc.), freshwater birds (moorhens, kingfishers) and land birds (cattle egrets, colibris, etc.). Here, the mangrove dominates: this is a forest where the trees, shrubs, creepers and grasses must survive in oxygen-poor, brackish waters. The mangrove is traversed by two canals: Belle-Plaine Canal and Perrin Canal. These waterways, a veritable paradise for fish, crabs and clams, are also ideally suited to long leisurely boat cruises. To the east is the area known as Grands-Fonds, a spectacular landscape that takes you through steep rocky slopes, in a region where cacao and orange trees grow successfully alongside more exotic species, and where traditional vegetables gardens grow yams, sweet potatoes and malangas. Here and there, tucked away in a leafy enclave, you’ll discover a charming pond, or “mare,,” such as Mare Fidelin, Mare à Rose, Mare Abricot and many others. To the southwest of the city, near Baimbridge, a major road, the “Boulevard des Héros,” leads to Pointe-à-Pitre. It was officially opened in May 1998 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. As part of this tribute to those who fought for freedom, you can admire the imposing statues created by Guadeloupian sculptor, Jacky Poulier: the memorial in honor of Joseph Ignace, the statue of the mulatto woman named “Solitude” and the monument in homage to Delgrès. Although a lively and forward-looking city, Les Abymes has not lost its passion for traditional sports, and from December to June, curious visitors are welcome to attend a local cock fight in any of the city’s four “pits.” Alternatively, from May to December, they can watch another famous sporting event, the “bœufs tirants”: this involves two bulls being yoked to a cart weighing more than a metric ton; they are then coaxed up a hill by a “driver” assisted by two “korés” (runners), with the aim of negotiating an incline between 100 and 180 meters long as fast as possible. In a noisy but friendly atmosphere, you can witness and even join in with the enthusiastic crowd as they cheer on their personal favorites.

Visiting Les Abymes

According to the famous Father Labat, the area owes its name to the thick, pestilential fog, commonly known as the “Savanna Shroud,” which once covered this area, immersed as it was in the damp climate of the mangrove trees and bayous.
The parish of Les Abymes was founded in 1726. Originally located up on Morne Miquel, the city moved to its current location after a large area of swamp had been drained and filled in. The new site was a little further away from neighboring Pointe-à-Pitre, the idea being that this would help it to develop at its own pace, but also to take advantage of the great sugar cane plantations nearby.
The city center is of a traditional design, and several of its buildings bear the imprint of Ali Tur, the architect commissioned by the French government to reconstruct a number of public buildings following the hurricane in 1928: these included the church, the former City Hall, the covered market and the city middle school. On Morne Calvaire (Calvary Hill), you can find the chapel of the same name. Inaugurated in 1856 by Monseigneur Fourcade, the chapel is a popular destination for pilgrims, particularly when celebrating the Stations of the Cross. The chapel contains several stained-glass windows by the artist Dany Kress, a fine marble altar, and a superb Virgin and Child in Carrara marble. The belvedere offers a magnificent view of Les Abymes.
Although agriculture continues to be a mainstay in this area, Les Abymes, with more than 60,000 inhabitants, is nevertheless the most populous city in Guadeloupe. It is nowadays associated with the greater metropolitan area known as “Cape Excellence“ along with the cities of Pointe-à-Pitre and Baie-Mahault, and has a resolutely modern, forward-looking ethos that is fully in step with its demographic and economic growth. The central location of Les Abymes, ideally situated between town and country, means that it acts as a natural counter-balance, at least in economic terms, to the over-concentrated industrial and business centers of nearby Jarry. Districts like Raizet, Grand-Camp, Petit-Pérou and Dugazon de Bourgogne, with their high concentration of commerce and craft trades (including the “Trades Collective” in Raizet) do a great job of stimulating the local economy.
Development still continues, however, including the recent creation of the “Guadeloupe Pôle Caraïbes” business park, right in the heart of a landscaped park, containing shops, offices, hotels and other services. There is also “La Providence,” another business park: this one extends over an area of 90 hectares and aspires to become the second biggest economic hub in Guadeloupe. With the “Milénis” shopping center already open, the project hopes to attract several businesses here, along with a number of administrative buildings and health facilities. In fact, as the first retail park based in a French overseas department to receive ISO 14 001 certification, it is committed to the most rigorous environmental standards, adhering to strict quality control specifications in terms of architecture, urban planning and landscaping, and employing up-to-date, responsible policies regarding waste management and recycling.
The environment and nature are also central themes where the Belle-Plaine Canal is concerned: it includes a “self-guided interpretative trail,” the “Maison de la Mangrove” and a tree nursery.
There is no lack of sporting events in the area, and perhaps the most famous of these is the “Les Abymes Half Marathon,” which enjoys an international reputation. The city’s stadium seats 15,000 and is used both for local football (soccer) teams and top-level international athletics (track and field) competitions, including the Carifta Games.
There is also the Regional Center for Physical and Sports Education (CREPS), an intermunicipal swimming pool, a golf school and numerous sports facilities.. The initiatives undertaken by the various groups and the major role played by the Sonis Cultural Center are all aimed at encouraging cultural and artistic activities. The city boasts a year-round program of festivities, like the “léwoz” festival, local fêtes and of course many art exhibitions. The annual carnival takes place in February and draws large crowds every year, as do the traditional flower festival in March, the theatre festival in May and the patron saint festival in December, not to mention the festival of the Immaculate Conception and the fête des marchandes (female stallholders’ festival). - www.ville-abymes.fr.

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