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About Ilha de Moçambique

The Island of Mozambique (3km long / 500 m width) lies off Northern Mozambique, between the Mozambique Channel and Mossuril Bay, and is part of Nampula Province. The name of the island is derived from Ali Musa Mbiki, sultan of the island in the times of Vasco da Gama. 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).


Vasco de Gama landed on the island in 1498 and subsequently claimed it for Portugal. The Portuguese established a port and naval base in 1507 and built fortifications and a town over the course of three centuries. Today the island is divided into two sections, the Stone Town and Macuti Town. Three kilometers long and five hundred meters wide, the island is inhabited by approximately fourteen thousand people and is linked to the mainland by a three kilometers long bridge.

It was the capital of Portuguese East Africa up until 1898, when the Portuguese decided for economic reasons to move their administrative capital further South to Lourenço Marques, today Maputo. This slowly diminished the importance of the island and triggered its decline. Rich in history and surrounded by nearby sandy beaches, today the island is slowly rising up from it's forgotten past and increasingly becoming an off-the-beaten tract destination for intrepid and curious visitors.


The Island of Mozambique was designated a World Heritage site in 1991. Due to the particular architecture of the island which shows diverse Arab, Indian, and Portuguese influences while maintaining an unusual visual homogeneity, UNESCO launched an international campaign to conserve and restore the island’s architectural heritage in 1997.


The urban fabric and fortifications of Mozambique Island are exceptional examples of architecture and building techniques resulting from cultural diversity, and the interaction of people of Bantu, Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European origin.  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 and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, now considered the oldest European building in the Southern Hemisphere.



In 1498 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope and stopped in Mozambique en route to becoming the first European to visit India by sea. He landed on the island on March 2nd 1498 and stayed until March 29. 


First seat of the Portuguese colonial government that lasted from 1507 to 1898, It was the capital of Portuguese East Africa up until 1898.


Building of the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte in 1522, now considered the oldest European building in the Southern Hemisphere.  


Construction of the Palace and Chapel of São Paulo, as a Jesuit College and subsequently used as the Governor's Residence, now a museum.


A 3 km long bridge was built in the 1960s to join the island to the mainland.


In macuti town an enormous population influx occurred during the 16 years war (1976-1992)


The entire island was inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991 for its unique architecture — a melding of Arab, Indian, and Portuguese influences — which evolved over its long history as a trading hub. 

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