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Promotional Feature: Trinidad & Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago: Culture capital of the Caribbean

Trinidad and Tobago has a long and diverse heritage, and this diversity has lent itself to an incomparable cultural experience

Trinidad and Tobago: Culture capital of the Caribbean

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Trinidad

The culinary fare in Trinidad is as diverse as the people that have settled on the island. The choices available for sampling and savouring range from fine dining in up-scale restaurants right through to street food —both of which can be found within the same district, and sometimes even on the same street.

Ariapita Avenue, located on the western side of Trinidad, is touted as the island’s restaurant and food mecca, with an enviable combination of haute cuisine and street-side delicacies. Located in the Woodbrook area, this long strip isn’t just somewhere to grab a tasty bite but also an area that’s full of traditional architecture, with embellished wooden trimmings and trellises that attest to a level of craftsmanship that required time and patience.

Just west of Woodbrook is St. James, where food and Trinidad’s national pastime of ‘liming’ (hanging out) comes alive. The leading roadside delicacy is ‘doubles’, a dish of East Indian origin that’s suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything else in between. It consists of curried chickpeas between two fried flatbreads and is served on paper with the palm of the hand for reinforcement. Other dishes to be found on the street include roasted corn, corn soup, oysters, refreshing coconuts, ice cream, blood pudding and fried pies.

The many festivals that are celebrated each year are as diverse as the cuisine. Trinidad is home to eight major religions and each one has its own time and space through the year. The Muslim festivals include Hosay and Eid while Hindus celebrate Divali and Phagwa. Both sets of celebrations rival the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, though not in terms of scale, but certainly in creativity and colour.

Carnival is often touted as the ‘greatest show on Earth’ and is reputed to have been the forerunner to all other carnivals the world over. The two main days are the Monday and Tuesday prior to Ash Wednesday, which occurs in either February or March. It’s a time that highlights not only the locals’ creativity in costuming, but also their passion for music and dance.

Although Trinidad is geographically located in the Caribbean, when visitors arrive they discover an island that’s nothing like the Caribbean they were expecting.

Tobago

Although Tobago is known primarily as a beach holiday destination, it also boasts cultural nuances that, like Trinidad, speak to a rich heritage that’s all its own. Dance is considered to be the cornerstone of Tobago’s culture with many distinct dances such as the ‘heel and toe’ and the ‘jig’. Both are British in origin but feature a heavy African influence.

The annual Tobago Heritage Festival is one that’s not to be missed. For Tobago, this event is just as important as carnival is for Trinidad. This celebration of all things traditional in Tobago, which travels from village to village, is held in the last half of July each year and is a mainstay on the Tobago events calendar. The village of Moriah delivers a taste of ‘old time weddings’, while the villages of Golden Lane and Les Couteaux highlight their folk tales and superstitions. Productions and competitions vary from village to village, and this diversity follows the entire festival across the entire island.

These two islands were considered extremely valuable for colonisers and were settled by everyone from the British to the French; however, Tobago in particular is reputed to have changed hands or ownership 33 times. The majority of the 1.5 million residents are either of African or East Indian descent, but there’s a healthy mixture of all races, which is why this twin-island destination is considered to be the most cosmopolitan in the Caribbean.

Two other key celebrations are Emancipation Day and Indian Arrival Day. The first commemorates the freedom fought for by African slaves and the second marks the arrival of indentured labourers from India. For every race there’s a festival or a way to remember their impact. After all, the Africans, Indians, First Peoples, Syrians, Chinese, Spanish, French, British and all the rest in between came to Trinidad and Tobago, settled down, and infused the inhabitants with a piece of their homeland. While this may speak to a confusion of sorts, Trinidadians and Tobagonians believe that this speaks to fusion without the first syllable. It’s a fusion that makes these people culturally diverse, uniquely colourful and therefore, a joy to experience.

Whatever you’re looking for in a vacation experience, you can either find or lose yourself here.