Ilha de Mozambique
Sensations on Ilha de Mozambique
Culture, history, architecture on that enchanting island, ancient capital city of Mozambique and a UNESCO world heritage site.
In Northern Mozambique, Ilha deMoçambique is an enthralling must-visit island, connected to the mainland by a 3 kilometers long bridge. Despite its small size, about 3 kilometers long and 200 to 500 metres wide, Ilha is a historical treasure and was placed on Unesco World Heritage list in 1991.
Ilha has the densest population per square meter in Mozambique with a permanent population of approximately 15,000 people. Most historical buildings are at the island's northern end (called ‘Stone City’ as this part of the city is stone-built). Most residents live in reed houses in Makuti Town at the southern end of the island.
It was occupied by Arab merchants from the 10th century until the end of the 15th and was a major Arab trading post on the sea route from Europe to the East Indies.The blend of Arab, Indian and Portuguese architectural influences are evident in this port of Mozambique.
Vasco de Gama visited the island in 1498 and in 1507 the Portuguese established a port, a naval base and built a fortress. During the sixteenth century, the fort San Sebastian was built, and the Portuguese settlement, now known as Stone Town, became the capital city of Portuguese East Africa. The island also became an important Missionary center. As a bustling port, it saw the trading of spices, gold and regrettably, of slaves.
With the opening of the Suez Canal, the island's fortunes waned. In 1898, the capital was relocated to Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) on the mainland. By the middle of the twentieth century, the new harbor of Nacala took most of the remaining business.
Major historical buildings include the Palace and Chapel of Sao Paulo, built in 1610 as a Jesuit College and later used as the Governor's Residence, the Church of the Misericordia,the Church of Santo António, the hospital -a majestic neo-classical building built in 1877 by the Portuguese - Mosques, a Hindu Templeand the Chapel NossaSenhora de Baluarte built in 1522 and considered to be the oldest European building in Africa.
With its rich history, fascinating cultural mosaic, magical mix of Portuguese and Arab architecture, colonial-era buildings, sandy beaches and timeless atmosphere, not to forget its gastronomy, the Island of Mozambique is one of the must explore destinations of Mozambique.