Luanda, one of the largest cities in Africa, is divided into several districts, of which Baixa Luanda is considered to be the old city. After visiting the officially closed Fortaleza de São Miguel, I walked down into the western side of Baixa Luanda, and continued exploring the old city from there. While I had somehow expected alleys with cobble stone streets lined with attractive colonial buildings, in reality I walked in bustling streets, with a background - and sometimes foreground - rhythmic noise of construction works accompanying me along the way. I saw tall buildings, heavily damaged and dilapidating, empty spaces with yellow cranes, ready to add yet another modern shiny tower, to the skyline of Luanda, but also one or two-story older buildings, that looked tiny compared to the new towers surrounding them.
These old, colonial buildings are the reminder of the rich past of the capital of Angola that was founded in 1576. The more I walked around and the more turns I took in the streets, the more of those old buildings seemed to appear; it was probably just a matter of keeping my eyes at ground level instead of looking up at the modern constructions. Shiny new cars sped by as I crossed the street and reached the Church of Our Lady of Remedies, with remarkable bell towers and plenty of people in front of it, just having a break on the small square in front of the church. This is one of several old colonial churches, built in the second half of the 17th century; its inside was quite straightforward. From here, I walked back towards the Marginal, the broad boulevard separating Baixa Luanda from the waterfront, under heavy reconstruction but looking promising. On the way, more reminders of the colonial past of Luanda; and seeing that many of those buildings housed ministries and such, I remembered the warning that taking photographs of government buildings could mean serious trouble. But no one seemed to care much.
Staying on the southern side of the Marginal, I walked past the great Bank of Angola building, on a corner and with an impressive look of colons and a large dome. Passing some more side streets, I reached yet another small square on which I found the Church of Our Lady of Nazareth, an endearing, white washed jewel of the colonial past. Inside, a few women were sitting on the wooden benches in prayer; and while I sat on the last bench, I took in the old walls, partly covered in Portuguese azuleijos, or tiles, on which the late afternoon sun was now seeping through the windows. The next day, I returned again, and walked back along the Marginal, turned left, until I found the Church of Our Lady of Carmel, another 17th century church left virtually untouched by the wars that have raged in the country. Outside, a crown in the facade of the church reminds one that it was commissioned by the queen of Portugal; there is another crown on an arch inside the church as well. The interior proved even more impressive, since not only the walls were covered in the typical Portuguese blue and white tiles, but the ceiling was hand painted as well. The overall impression was almost overwhelming, and after taking it in from the back, I moved forward as many people were leaving the church after the service that had just ended. A small group of people remained, and a woman was yelling out loud, and banging against a guy, apparently trying to drive an evil spirit out of him. The sun was going down again, and I wanted to be back before the night. Baixa Luanda has many hectic spots, but also some places where you can really step back in time and savour the old flavour of the city.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Baixa Luanda (Angola). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Baixa Luanda. Read more about this site.