After one week in Colombo, this exotic city is beginning to unravel its many customs and peculiarities. Here history and culture join with global influences in a frenetic case. Anything can be purchased here – so long as you can afford it. And thus there is a polarisation of classes, the haves and have-nots, that makes a visible fabric to the city.
Sri Lanka is now a middle-income country. It is no longer among the poorest and has seen a decrease in international aid as the global community invests its money elsewhere. Yet the social divide that exists in Colombo intensifies when leaving the city boundaries. In Colombo the majority is affluent; the rest of the largely rural population is poor. The capital is pulling the country into middle-income territory.
High end boutiques appear across the city and similar developments adorn street advertisements. There is a big market for expensive products. But similarly there is an even bigger market for affordable local and essential goods, with entire districts lined with bustling small trade that produces a colourful and busy scene.
There are many memories of the first week. From sampling the local delights in restaurants and shops to snapshots of local culture on the streets and parks. But the overall reflection is a city that, so far at least, tries to balance a polarised population.