Located in northwestern Angola, Luanda is the country’s largest city and the second busiest seaport.
Luanda was founded in 1576 by the Portuguese and was named São Paulo, a name it retained until Angola won its independence in 1975. The Cathedral of Luanda was built in 1583 and 12 years later the settlement was awarded city status by the Governor Manuel Cerveria Pereira, making it the first city to be founded by Europeans on the west coast of sub-Saharan Africa. For a while it was a major slave trading post, but when the slave trade declined during the first half of the nineteenth century its most successful exports were cotton, palm and ginguba oil, coffee, lime, leather and wax.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, newly developed road and rail networks established Luanda as an important centre for industry and commerce and the hub of a thriving colony. Owing to the rising price of coffee, the population increased rapidly after World War II.
After liberation Luanda has suffered as a result of the emigration of many technically qualified people, the influx of rural migrants, urban fighting and a failing infrastructure. Today it is in the process of recovering from many years of domestic strife. To the east of the city lies the industrial heartland of Viana. The poor live in the more elevated part of Luanda, whereas the lower ground is occupied by the commercial zone. Today the city’s major exports are coffee, cotton, diamonds, salt and iron. There is an oil refinery to the north of Luanda Bay.
Places of Interest
Amongst several sites of cultural significance and interest are the Museum of Anthropology, which houses a fine collection of native artwork, and the Slavery Museum.