For centuries tiny Mozambique island – just 3 km long and 500 meters wide – played a disproportionate role on Africa’s east coast. Well before the Portuguese arrived, the island was a meeting point of cultures on the Indian Ocean trade routes, with ties to Madagascar, Persia and Arabia.
Explorer Vasco da Gama landed here in 1498 and later in 1507, a permanent settlement was established as a trading station and naval base, connecting to other Portuguese settlements in Macau (China) + Goa and Diu in India.
In the late 16th century the massive San Sebastian fortress was built and the island became the capital of Portuguese East Africa.
By the end of the 19th century, the capital was shifted south to Maputo. And by the 1950s, development of the mainland port of Nacala saw Mozambique Island fade into history. And decay. Today, amid the lively fishing village and crumbling streets of colonial architecture, tourism and renovation is slowly bringing a new golden age to this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Travels in Mozambique – 2013