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Angola: Baixa Luanda

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Baixa Luanda | Angola | Africa

[Visited: July 2012]

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.

Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): The coastline under reconstruction at the Marginal with part of the skyline of Luanda

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.

Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Contrasts aboundin Baixa Luanda: colonial building next to modern one

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.

Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): The Igreja de Nossa Senhore da Nazaré with original Portuguese tiles
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): 17th century Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo with impressive tiles and hand-painted ceiling
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Statue in the pink facade of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Modern building crumbling away in the Baixa Luanda neighbourhood
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios with remarkable bell towers
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): View of the Rua Rainha Ginga with dilapidated buildings
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Detailed view of the ceiling of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Colonial scene with lantern and wall in Baixa Luanda
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Colonial building with balconies and windows in Baixa Luanda
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Colonnaded building of the National Bank of Angola along the Marginal
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Portuguese tiles on a wall in the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Nazaré
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Fragment of the painted ceiling of the Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Carmo
Picture of Baixa Luanda (Angola): Detail of the ceiling of the Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Carmo with tiles and crown

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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