Luanda ~ No Longer the Paris of Africa

In 1576, the Portuguese explorer Paulo Dias de Nova arrived on what is now the Ilha de Luanda in Angola and the city he established here became the center of the slave trade (1550-1836) in Central Africa.


 At one time almost every enslaved individual in Brazil left Africa through Luanda. The Portuguese continuously staved off attacks by the Dutch and Spanish. In 1640, the Dutch took over Luanda, and the slave trade stopped; but the Portuguese took it back in 1648, and it resumed.


 Two of a group of musician/dancers who came to meet the ship

 After 400 years of colonization, an independence movement began in 1961, leading to armed conflict. It was not until 1975 that Angola finally gained its independence. Shortly thereafter, the country was plunged into decades-long civil wars that decimated its infrastructure and an already weak economy. Luanda is now undergoing a renaissance of epic proportions, driven by the vast natural resources of oil and diamonds. 

Oil was discovered in the country in 1955; and when the 30-year civil war ended in 2002, the country experienced an economic boom. Luanda is a city of about 5 million people, with slums ringing the city as well as present in the downtown area.



 For the last three years it has been the world’s most expensive city in which to live. Its population is either very rich (1/3) or very poor (2/3).


 As fast as multi-story government housing can be built, the residents of the “depressed areas” are moved into it and their old homes/hovels are bulldozed for new high-rise buildings to be built in their place. In some areas land is being reclaimed from the ocean and built upon.


 One of the sights was the Iron Palace designed by Gustav Eiffel or one of his associates. Originally the structure had been manufactured in Paris, France and then shipped in pieces to Madagascar, but it never reached its destination, as the ship washed ashore in Luanda and eventually was reassembled in its present home here in Angola. 



 Below are pictures of the Gothic-style Church of Los Remedios that was built in 1719.






The Angolan National Museum of Anthropology is a nice but rather small establishment. None of the signs were in English, so it did not help us learn much about the exhibits.







The San Miguel Fort built in 1576 was constructed to defend the port and city from the French, Spanish and Dutch armies. It was large in area and well built. Today it is Angola’s military museum.




Our last stop was the Agostinho Neto Mausoleum with its impressive obelisk marking the grave of Angola’s first president; it was built with funds from Russia. The edifice itself and grounds were both very well done and impressive 









At one point in its history, Luanda was considered the “Paris of Africa.” However, It will be many years before the city ever regains any sort of glittering stature. It still is a third-world country. The tour buses went in police protected convoys, sirens blaring and lights flashing, with an ambulance bringing up the rear. Shopping stops were practically non-existent and water was unsafe to drink       unless bottled. A few of our passengers were accosted and robbed during their visit to the city. We do wish the people of Angola will be able to pull their country back from strife and warring, but it might not be wise for you to put this one high on your bucket list. Check back in a few years.



“The Marginal” waterfront promenade with manicured grass and native vegetation.

It is a beautiful place for an afternoon stroll, or to walk your dog.






The gardeners who do the manicuring leaving on their lunch break.



National Bank of Angola

Meeting some of the local people on the streets of Luanda.







3 Responses to “Luanda ~ No Longer the Paris of Africa”

  1. Dear Barb, Richard and I depart for Myanmar on Thursday, so I will miss the rest of your trip until we get back on Dec. 22. Love, Judy

  2. Very enlightening! Great photos! Thank you.

  3. I almost think that this trip is producing the most interesting blogs and the most beautiful photos.

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