Ilha de Mozambique

The island was a major Arab port and boat building in the years before Vasco da Gama visited in 1498. The name of the island (Portuguese: Moçambique, pronounced [musɐ̃ˈbiki]) is derived from Musa Al Big, an Arab trader who first visited the island and later lived there. This name was subsequently taken to the mainland country which is modern day Mozambique, and the island was renamed Ilha de Moçambique (Island of Mozambique). The Portuguese established a port and naval base in 1507, and built the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, in 1522, now considered the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere.
During the sixteenth century, the Fort São Sebastião was built, and the Portuguese settlement (now known as Stone Town) became the capital of Portuguese East Africa. The island also became an important missionary centre and is now a World Heritage Site. It withstood Dutch attacks in 1607 and 1608 and remained a major post for the Portuguese on their trips to India. It saw the trading of slaves, spices and gold.
Apart from the ancient fortifications, only half of the town is stone-built. The hospital, a majestic neo-classical building constructed in 1877 by the Portuguese, with a garden decorated with ponds and fountains, was repainted white after the Mozambican Civil War. For many years it was the biggest hospital south of the Sahara.

The Island of Mozambique bears important witness to the establishment and development of the Portuguese maritime routes between western Europe and the Indian subcontinent and thence all of Asia. The town and the fortifications on the island, and on the smaller island of St Laurent, are an outstanding example of an architecture in which local traditions, Portuguese influences, and to a somewhat lesser extent Indian and Arab influences, are all interwoven.

Inhabited by a Bantu tribe, the territory of Mozambique was occupied around AD 900 by Arabs who set up trading posts. In their search for a maritime route to India to avoid Muslim forces, the Portuguese decided to go around the continent of Africa. King John II (1481-95) sent Bartolomeu Dias to explore the African coast. Sailing beyond the coast of the Congolese kingdom, the great navigator rounded the extreme southern tip of Africa, unaware of the feat he had accomplished. It was not until his return that he discovered the 'Cape of Storms', which John II renamed Cape of Good Hope.

Manuel I (1495-1521) ordered Vasco da Gama to continue the search for a maritime route. Leaving Lisbon in July 1497, he reached the Island of Mozambique on 2 March 1498, where he was well received by the sultan and the people, who thought the Portuguese were Muslims. During his second voyage, he occupied the territories of present-day Mozambique and returned to Lisbon in 1503 laden with gold.

Some years later, Mozambique had become one of Portugal's principal ports and trading posts on the sea route to India. The first fortress, St Gabriel, was built in 1507. At the end of the 17th century, after enjoying strong economic expansion, the town with its fortifications, along with the smaller island of St Laurent, went into a period of decline. In the second half of the 18th century, the economy was revived by the slave trade.

In 1898 the capital of Mozambique (the Portuguese colony) was transferred to Laurenço Marques (Maputo), considerably slowing down the economy of the town on the island of Mozambique. The town had developed unequally over some 400 years. Less than half of it was built from stone, a little more than a quarter in macuti (straw), with the remainder being the various fortifications.

The incredible architectural unity of the island derives from the uninterrupted use of the same building techniques with the same materials and the same decorative principles. The island's patrimony also includes its oldest extant fortress (St Sebastian, 1558-1620), other defensive buildings and numerous religious buildings (including many from the 16th century).

The island has been classed on the national level and for about 10 years has benefited from restoration work and studies by international specialists. However, while the present state of conservation is not fully satisfactory, a restoration and management programme is in progress.


Ilha, written with an Iphone ... Early morning in Ihla de Mozambique Techonolgy connect people... Fishermen The leading hotel on Ilha de Mozambique, The fortified city of Mozambique is located on this island, a former Portuguese trading-post on the route to India. Its remarkable architectural unity is due to the consistent use, since the 16th century, of the same building techniques, building materials (stone or macuti) and decorative principles. * Click on image for full size