The adventures of Angola and Fortalez de Sao Miguel

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Africa » Angola » North » Luanda
June 1st 1997
Published: June 1st 2012
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I have been meaning to write about my past travels, but if you live in the United States, you know that time can be such a scarce thing; well only because we make it scarce. Between work, children, home chores and sleeping, one needs more than 24 hours (thank goodness I'm not a soccer mom). Having said that, I have figured out a way to make time available for what I enjoy most – travel. I will start by writing about Angola, one of the odd countries in Africa I visited many years back.

My memories of Angola are not exactly exciting, neither are they bad. Angola has never been the tourist destination. Even in recent years, very few tourists go to Angola. Majority of foreigners in the country are either diplomats or contractors with foreign companies or aid agencies. The country has been war torn for many years and continues to be such an unstable place politically. Safety is an issue for most people interested in visiting the country. The fallout from a lengthy civil war has left the country war-torn and economically burdened. The civil war ended in 2002, I visited in 1997 when I was completing my final year of Undergraduate studies from Makerere University. During this period, the country was ragging with war and no one was safe, the locals and foreigners alike. The streets were as unsafe as they come; reminded me of the war in my country (Uganda) during the Idi Amin era.

Angola was a colony of the Portuguese, the Portuguese speaking country is in fact a beautiful country seen with open eyes, the landscape and natural attractions are without a doubt some of the most breath-taking. Minus the war, the country had beautiful structures and a great culture that has been diminished by the war. 6 of my adventurous friends at the University boarded a bus in Kampala and headed to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania with a mind to go all the way to southern Africa. When we arrived in Dares-salaam, we meet with our academic friends from the University of Dar and decided to fly to Luanda since three of them were doing research on the effects of War on third world economies. As a student of Political Science myself, I was going to benefit from understanding the underlying causes and effects of such a long drawn war. By now, we were 9 in the group and needed one more person to qualify for a group fare with Kenya Airways. Two more days in Dar, gave us a tenth person for a group travel. Back then, flights were cheap compared to what we pay now. Kenya Airways gave us a great return fare for 10 to Luanda. Luanda is the capital city of Angola, we were to spend 1 week there doing research. Moses our Tanzanian friend, had family in Luanda, so we did not have to worry about accommodation.

We arrived in Luanda on a Tuesday evening and were met by Moses' family. They came with 2 armed soldiers (part of the family), but I remember feeling unsafe just seeing them. They were pleasant people, beautiful and welcoming. They spoke with us as though they had known as a very long time; this made me feel more at ease and by the time we arrived at the house, we were at ease. Along the way, the damage was evident in houses torn to the grown, children picking up things from trash cans and on the road side. Women selling things on dusty dirt mound (street food). Many Angolans live in shanty homes resembling those in Cape Town, South Africa. Tin homes covered with plastic wraps for roof tops. The colonial structures torn down spoke of the Portuguese colonial rule. After over 500 years of Portuguese rule, the country might as well be considered Portuguese. But this is also the reason why the wars have persisted. The Portuguese influence is evident in the Angolan language and architecture. Angola received independence from Portugal only in 1975, which is quite recent when compared to many other colonized African countries. We spent most of our time in Luanda, and managed to visit 4 historic locations including Sao Miguel Fortress, Museu Escravidoa (the Slavery museum), the Marginal and the local markets.

Sao Miguel Fortress

The Portuguese fortress of Sao Miguel is one of Luanda's main attractions and Landmark. The fortress was built in 1576 by Paulo Dias de Novais the first governor of Angola. In 1627, the fort became the administrative office of the colonial government and the main outlet of Slave traffic to Brazil. It's convenient location on the overlook across the port was an easy access to the sea. Heavily fortified and walled in counter forts and rubble work edification, the fortress was also a military strong hold that kept invaders away, and symbolized power. It justified the presence of the Portuguese in Angola and protected the harbor and the Luanda village where slaves and captured merchandise were stored. The fortress is maintained by the government as a military and historic museum.

The courtyard of the fortress has an amazing display of military armament used in the 17th century. The fortress was designated a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site in November, 1996. From the fortress a breathtaking view of the marginal is available and while down at the marginal, the view of the fort is unmistakable. A stroll in the courtyard is actually nice, besides seeing the statues of the previous governors and explorer Vasco Da Gama.

"Travel is an exciting and adventurous passion, it is quite expensive but the reward outweighs the expense. If you can afford it, do it!" Africancrab.


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