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Step back in time to the 1400’s where it was once an Arab port and boat building hub, and where later Vasco da Gama visited. Welcome to Ilha de Mozambique (Island of Mozambique) just off the shores of Nkala – a UNESCO world heritage site this beautiful island is just 3km long and at the most 500metres wide! Ilha de Mozambique is home to many historical buildings, churches, mosques and temples and is connected to the mainland by a 3km long bridge!
Rich in history, the Island of Mozambique is a sought after tourist destination, where the Fort Sao Sebastiao, the magnificent hospital and its gardens, the Palace and Chapel of Sao Paulo, the Church of the Misericordia which houses the Museum of Sacred Art, the Church of San Antonio and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte attract and inspire thousands of visitors annually.
Not much has changed on the island in the past few hundred years; this has led to it retaining its natural charm and beauty and where most residents still live in traditional reed houses. Unlike other areas where commercialism has integrated with history, the Island of Mozambique has maintained a cultural and historical way of life and is now a World Heritage Site protected by international treaties.
Crossing the 3 kilometre bridge from the mainland Ilha de Mozambique greets you, almost as if time has stood still. Be prepared to spend a few days on the island as it has so much to offer, with almost every historical building in “Stone Town” in the North of the island, claiming a rich history – let yester year unravel before you as you explore the 4 corners of this remarkable island.
The small population of approximately 14,000 mostly live in the southern area of the island in Makuti Town and are made up of mostly subsistence farmers and local fishermen who spend their days on their dhows fishing for predominantly squid, king fish and reef fish. These are sold in the local markets and to the guest houses, lodges and hotels in and around the Island of Mozambique. In true Mozambique style the local markets are vibrant and colourful where a variety of products can be bought, from fresh produce, local arts and crafts, souvenirs and paintings.
Fort Sao Sebastiao – located at the Northern end of the island the Fort of Sao Sebastiao, stands imposing, towering over the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte. Built by the Portuguese and completed in approximately 1608 the fort remains one of the oldest in sub-Saharan Africa and of significant architectural importance.
Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte – Built in 1522 by the Portuguese it is now incorporated into the fortifications of the massive Fort San Sebastian below who’s walls it diminutively stands; it features some of the finest Manueline vaulted architecture (which the fort echoes) and is considered to be one of the oldest European buildings in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Hospital – Once the largest hospital in sub-Saharan Africa it now stands in semi ruin with a small portion of it now serving as a district hospital. Built in 1877 in the neo-classical style of architecture, this impressive building once flaunted magnificent gardens complete with ponds, fountains and beautiful statues.
Palace and Chapel of Sao Paulo – Completed in 1610 this grand terracotta building was built as a Jesuit College, converted later to the former governor’s residence (1759 to 1898) it is now home to the Museum which gives travellers remarkable insight to the diverse cultures which made up the island and a glimpse into the aristocracy of the 1800’s. The Museum is adorned with beautiful pieces from Portugal, India, Arabia and China and includes an important collection of carved Indo-Portuguese pieces, an impressive collection of Ming dynasty bowls and an array of gold nuggets, jewellery and coins retrieved from a Portuguese ship that was wrecked in 1558. The Museum of Sacred Art is situated behind the palace and houses many paintings, religious ornaments and carvings.
The Island of Mozambique has played an important role since the 10th century in intercontinental trade to the East, in the 16th century is was an established and wealthy trading port for ships sailing on monsoon winds and where cargoes of ivory, gold and slaves were traded for fabrics and spices from India and Arabia.
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