Mozambique Islands | Ilha de Mocambique

Mozambique Islands | Ilha de Mocambique


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Mozambique Island (Ilha de Mocambique), is only two and a half kms wide and one and a half kms long.
It lies just over 3 kms off the mainland to which it is connected by a bridge.
Mozambique Island has been declared a UNESCO heritage site and is the oldest European settlement in East Africa.


Vasco de Gama (Portuguese explorer) was the first European to reach Mozambique, when he landed there in 1498.
Mozambique was in fact named after the Arab sheik on Mozambique Island called "Musa Bin Biki" when Vasco de Gama first landed there.
Mozambique Island became the capital of Mozambique once the Portuguese had wrested control from the Arabs.

It became known as a meeting point of various civilizations, viz. Arabs, Dutch, English, Indians, Persians and Portuguese, because it was one of the main trading points in the Indian Ocean.


The beautiful Portuguese colonial architecture is a legacy of the Portuguese who colonised the country for nearly 500 years. Mozambique Island was the main starting point for trade with the Mozambican hinterland and was the capital until this was moved to Lourenco Marques, now Maputo in 1897.
Being totally cut off from the mainland, during the 20 year civil war, resulted in it's historic sites and architecture being preserved.


Mozambique Island today still has an exotic atmosphere stemming from hundreds of years of trade between many nations and cultures.

Stone Town. Most of the historic sites are in Stone Town, in the northern part of the island with it's mass of narrow streets, and life has hardly changed over the last 500 years. The Palace of Sao Paolo, which was the residency of the governor in the 1700s has been restored. It's European architecture is an example of the grandeur of the colonial lifestyle during the 18th century. You can see examples of different funriture styles, carpets, Chinese porcelain and chandeliers on display giving an idea of the opulent lifestyle of old.


Sao Sebastian Fort is 400 years old. This fort was vitally important in the defense of the island against invasion and was built by slave labour. Numerous old cannons still point out to sea. Within the walls of the fort is the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, which is the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere. The Portuguese converted many of the Bantu people to Catholicism. One of the most interesting aspects of the fort is the roof which was designed to collect rainwater, which was then channeled down to underground storage cisterns, as there is no fresh water on the island. This water storage system enabled the Portuguese and 11,000 residents on the island to withstand a four year siege by the Dutch.
Locals residents still collect and use water from this source today.

As a cultural and beauty practise, the Makua women paint their faces white, which helps to protect their skin from the sun.

Many ships have been wrecked off the coast and old trade beads still wash up on the beach.You can see the local boys digging on the beach for these beads which they make them into necklaces, to sell to tourists.


The locals use the beach as a toilet, so care must be excercised when visiting the beach.

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