Ibo Island, a tropical paradise with a brutal history

Wandering Ibo’s dusty streets, discovering it’s sights and sounds, will live with me for a very long time. The slow pace of life gets under your skin and seems to seep into your bones. The lack of activity – there are hardly any motorised vehicles on the island, never mind any roads for them to use – coupled with the heat, is very seductive. You could pass several happy days on Ibo without giving a thought to why it is home to a slowly crumbling European city in the tropics.

Fishing dhow, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Fishing dhow, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Scratch the surface though, and you’ll soon discover that Ibo has a terrible and brutal history, one that is intimately linked to the slave trade. Ibo’s Arab and European history is all to do with trade, trade that helped reorder the world economy and facilitated the colonisation of the Caribbean, Americas and the Far East. The sparkling blue ocean which surrounds Ibo was the gateway to exporting African slaves around the globe.

There are three old Portuguese forts on Ibo, built to protect trade from Arab and European competitors. The most impressive of which is the star-shaped Fort São João built in 1791. Fort São João commands great views over the ocean, the times I visited there were no other tourists exploring the battlements. Today the fort is home to several of Ibo’s legendary silversmiths, who work on fine sliver jewellery in rooms underneath the fort’s battlements, but it’s history is violent and bloody.

Fort of São João from the ocean, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João from the ocean, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João from the ocean, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João from the ocean, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort São João was originally built to protect Portuguese trade. This included gold, silver and ivory, but the main export from Ibo was human. The fort was intended as a very visual, domineering reminder of Portugal’s intentions to fight for control of the slave trade; and the grand colonial buildings on Ibo were constructed from the profits of the ‘human trade’. Fort São João was used to house slaves before they were shipped to other parts of the world, which makes any visit to the fort today not a little macabre.

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

If this history isn’t bad enough, during the struggle for independence Ibo’s isolation off Mozambique’s northern coast made it the perfect place to send political prisoners. Fort São João housed hundreds of independence activists, imprisoned here to keep them from communicating with supporters elsewhere. Prisoners were routinely tortured, many were murdered. The horrors the walls of Fort São João have witnessed can barely be imagined, but understanding what happened here is an important part of any visit to the island.

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

In atmosphere and architecture, if not in size, Ibo reminded me of the Sri Lankan city of Galle – another European outpost on the other side of the Indian Ocean. While several buildings on Ibo have been, or are in the process of being restored, many more are crumbling or being overgrown by tropical plants. It would be a shame if the incredible buildings of Portuguese Ibo were allowed to fall too far into disrepair. This is a site of great historical importance – history which needs to be remembered.

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fort of São João, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Ibo’s history could be the spark which provides much needed investment in what are very poor communities. Handled badly though, tourism could be extremely destructive to Ibo’s environment, society and culture. There is a fragility to Ibo’s beauty, which could easily be damaged by even limited tourist development. As it is, tourism seems to be largely controlled by outsiders, many of them European. If that trend continues Ibo’s population could find itself disenfranchised once more.

Ibo Island, scenes from a tropical hideaway

Time seems to stands still on Ibo, and thanks to the humid tropical heat so do most living things on the island. The temptation to sit under a shady tree reading a good book, with occasional plunges into the handy swimming pool at the Cinco Portas guesthouse, is hard to resist when the heat is so overwhelming. If Ibo seems largely undisturbed by the outside world, the remorseless heat of the tropics must be largely to blame – this is a place which redefines peace and tranquility.

Boat with plastic sails, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Boat with plastic sails, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Exploring the island, even early in the morning, is sweaty and energy sapping, but in the otherworldly surroundings of a decaying colonial city in the tropics, exploring is a truly wonderful experience. This is an island with a rich history and culture which demands attention. Elsewhere, you could expect that there would be several nasty tourist developments, but Ibo’s relative remoteness has meant it remains untouched by large scale tourism. Since the island has limited water resources, this is probably a very good thing.

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fishing boat, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fishing boat, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

The simplicity of life on Ibo is fabulously seductive. Outside of the occasional festival, what action there is tends to be found around the shoreline and on the beaches when the tide is low. When the island’s fleet of small wooden fishing boats returns to land, the skilled fishermen sell their catch on the beach. Given the sedate, and sedating, pace of life on Ibo, this is as close to a rush hour as the island gets.

Boats and people on the beach, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Boats and people on the beach, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Boats and people on the beach, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Boats and people on the beach, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fishing boats and people on the beach, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Fishing boats and people on the beach, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Once this excitement has died down, there is little to do but return to wandering through the streets admiring the buildings, and trying to find a good spot to watch the dramatic sunsets in which Ibo specialises.

Sunset, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Sunset, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Sunset, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Sunset, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Sunset, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Sunset, Ibo Island, Mozambique, Africa

Ibo, a timeless island stranded in the Indian Ocean

Time seems to stand still on Ibo. Languishing off Mozambique’s north east coast, this magical island is shrouded in a The Land Time Forgot mystique. Those three letters – Ibo – conjure visions of a distant tropical paradise, a name redolent with meaning, full of adventure and mystery. Ibo is soaked in history – African, Arab and European. During the 16th Century Europeans dislodged Arab traders, who previously controlled these waters, beginning a period of European empire building in Africa that would last for five centuries.

It’s a cliché, but arriving on Ibo is like stepping back into history. It’s not just the old Portuguese architecture, the cemetery which has European, Chinese and Arabic graves dating back hundreds of years, or even the traditional dhows which sail these waters and are modelled on the Arab originals. Ibo seems to have turned it’s back on modernity. You’re more likely to spot goats on the sandy roads than vehicles. I saw only one motorised vehicle the entire time – a motorbike.

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

The Portuguese who replaced the Omani Arabs turned Ibo into the second most important town in Mozambique. Gold, silver and ivory passed through Ibo, but the main trading commodity was human – slaves from the African interior. The Arabs traded slaves and the European arrival expanded the trade in human flesh; slaves were shipped around the world, including to that other Portuguese colony, Brazil. Ibo’s existence can’t be understood without recognising that this was a centre of the slave trade.

When the Portuguese moved their administration to Pemba in 1902, Ibo slowly declined. People left the island, houses decayed and crumbled, tropical vegetation thrived, and the whole place took on the appearance of a ghost town. Even though tourism is bringing some life and commerce back to Ibo, walking down it’s dusty streets at night it’s possible to imagine the once grand colonial houses inhabited by the ghosts of their former occupants.

The port of Tandanhangue, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

The port of Tandanhangue, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

The port of Tandanhangue, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

The port of Tandanhangue, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Birds en route to Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Birds en route to Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Life on the island comes and goes with the tide. Tides also dictate the comings and goings of tourists. You can fly to Ibo but we decided to take a boat, intending to arrive on the high tide as people had done for centuries. Ibo lies in the Quirimbas National Park, about 40 km north of Pemba. The national Park includes a large area of the Mozambique mainland and a marine reserve, including several islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago.

No boats were leaving from Pemba so we had to take a car to the nearest ‘port’ at Tandanhangue. Here a channel cuts through the mangroves to the open sea. We left very early in the morning to ensure we caught the tide, the sun only started to rise as we bounced wildly over the final 50km of rough dirt road. Hitting a particularly enormous pothole my head crashed into the roof of the car for the twentieth time, I began to understand why people chose to fly.

The port of Tandanhangue, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

The port of Tandanhangue, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Birds en route to Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Birds en route to Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Reaching the port we gingerly got out of the car, checking for broken bones. While buying some overpriced water, our small motorboat arrived and instantly attracted a group of people wanting a lift. There was room for a couple more people, which meant a bit more money for the boat’s captain and very little inconvenience for us. We set off for Ibo full of expectation.

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Our first sight of the old Portuguese buildings that cluster together on the waterfront was electrifying. The uncomfortable journey faded from memory as we passed through a gap in the mangroves surrounding Ibo to reveal a centuries old Portuguese church. Small, brightly coloured fishing boats sailed by and more whitewashed buildings came into view as we headed towards the entrance to Cinco Portas, an old colonial house turned guesthouse.

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial buildings, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Fishing dhow, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Fishing dhow, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Stepping onto dry land we were instantly seduced by Ibo and Cinco Portas. The pace of life, the friendly people and the wonderfully relaxing environment quickly overpowered and disarmed us. We’d planned to stay for three days, in the end we spent eight days on the island – leaving only because we had a wedding to go to.

 

Cinco Portas, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Cinco Portas, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Cinco Portas, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Cinco Portas, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Cinco Portas, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Cinco Portas, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Fisherman selling lobster, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Fisherman selling lobster, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

We’d arrived in time for a late lunch, this being Ibo seafood was on offer. Our arrival had been noted by at least one local fisherman, who followed hot on our heels with a couple of Mozambique’s legendary lobsters. After a little negotiation, we became the proud owners of two lobsters, which the cook at Cinco Portas turned into something delicious. Is it any wonder people arrive on Ibo and find it difficult to leave?

Lobster, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Lobster, Ibo Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Memories of Magical Mozambique

Locked in the seemingly endless Northern European winter: lashed by gales, soaked by torrential rain and with parts of southern England currently under water, my mind drifts back to warmer climes and cheerier times. There’s not a lot on earth that is cheerier than Mozambique’s friendly people, endless golden beaches and the deep turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. I’d wanted to visit for years, finally a friend’s wedding in the lovely coastal town of Bilene provided the incentive to book our flights.

Planning a relatively short trip to Mozambique is tricky, the country is huge, the transport infrastructure not great. We’d decided to head north – almost all the way north – to the town of Pemba, from where we’d take a boat to the beautiful island of Ibo, in the Quirimbas Archipelago. Ibo is the site of a 16th Century Portuguese settlement, and it was from here that the Portuguese, and Arab traders before them, sought to control trade between the African interior and the rest of the Indian Ocean.

Mozambique flag painted on a wall, Mozambique

Mozambique flag painted on a wall, Mozambique

1930's statue from Portuguese-era, Maputo, Mozambique

1930’s statue from Portuguese-era, Maputo, Mozambique

Ibo feels like a Hollywod film set. It’s beautiful colonial houses and government buildings are slowly decaying in the tropical heat. Some of these magnificent buildings are now being renovated. A couple have been turned into hotels, allowing you to absorb the island’s African, Arab and European history in comfort. To romanticise this however, is to forget that Ibo was a centre for the slave trade. Slaves passed through here to other Portuguese colonies, Cape Verde and Brazil.

Fishing boat, Ibo, Mozambique

Fishing boat, Ibo, Mozambique

Beach and ocean, Quirimba Island, Mozambique

Beach and ocean, Quirimba Island, Mozambique

Vasco de Gama, the legendary explorer, arrived in 1498, and by 1505 the first Portuguese colonial settlements were established. The exploitation of Mozambique’s ample natural resources had started, and continued to independence in 1975. Mozambique’s independence came later than much of Africa. Portugal was determined not to surrender control of its colonial possessions, even while other African nation’s gained independence.

Despite Britain and France ceding control of their colonial possessions, Portugal, Apartheid South Africa and the white-settler government of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, supported each other to create a formidable barrier to independence in southern Africa. Independence was only achieved through a prolonged guerilla war led by The Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO). Portuguese collapse in Mozambique had a domino effect on white minority rule in Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe under black majority rule in 1979.

Fish and fishermen, Ibo Island, Mozambique

Fish and fishermen, Ibo Island, Mozambique

Beach and ocean, Quirimba Island, Mozambique

Beach and ocean, Quirimba Island, Mozambique

In the heat of the Cold War, white-controlled Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa launched a campaign to destabilise independent Mozambique. They received covert support from Europe and the United States, who saw Mozambique as a Soviet satellite. They armed and funded the anti-communist group RENAMO, leading to a devastating civil war which raged until 1992. By 1992 the Cold War was over, Nelson Mandela had been freed from prison and Western support for Apartheid South Africa had collapsed.

Fishing, Pemba, Mozambique

Fishing, Pemba, Mozambique

Small port near Pemba, Mozambique

Small port near Pemba, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial church, Ibo, Mozambique

Portuguese colonial church, Ibo, Mozambique

Multi-party elections were held in Mozambique in 1994. Although this led to greater stability, the social and economic impact of decades of war left Mozambique in a perilous situation. The official end of hostilities between FRELIMO and RENAMO hasn’t stopped periodic fighting from erupting, and RENAMO maintains armed military groups. Conflict erupted again only a few months ago, with government military operations sparking fresh violence.

Despite much development, and a vastly improved economy, Mozambique remains one of Africa’s poorest nations. Travelling in the country, particularly rural areas, this poverty – unemployment, poor health, education and transport infrastructure – is evident everywhere. Life is unrelentingly hard for the vast majority of Mozambique’s population, not helped by the official corruption most people face on a daily basis. Yet it remains safe for tourists, and is a friendly country to visit.

Fishing boats in the Indian Ocean, Pemba, Mozambique

Fishing boats in the Indian Ocean, Pemba, Mozambique

Repairing fishing nets, Pemba, Mozambique

Repairing fishing nets, Pemba, Mozambique

After couple of weeks in the north, we would spend a few days in Maputo before heading to the wedding festivities in Bilene. First we had to negotiate our way to Pemba. Thanks to the awful customer service of Virgin Atlantic and South African Airways this almost didn’t happen. To cut a long story short, our flight to Johannesburg on Virgin Atlantic arrived late, we missed our connection on South African Airways, and were left stranded in International Transit with neither airline willing to take responsibility.

Camp fire over the Indian Ocean, Pemba, Mozambique

Camp fire over the Indian Ocean, Pemba, Mozambique

Sunset, Ibo, Mozambique

Sunset, Ibo, Mozambique

I’ve spent a lot of time in airports, but 18 hours in Jo’burg International is the worst experience I’ve had. We were in danger of reprising the role of Tom Hanks’ character in the film The Terminal. Even when finally liberated from the airport, it was to discover our bags had made the connection to Mozambique without us. We would only be reunited with our bags (clothes, toiletries, books, shoes, etc.) two weeks later when we physically searched lost luggage at Maputo Airport…picture the scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Beach and Indian Ocean, Bilene, Mozambique

Beach and Indian Ocean, Bilene, Mozambique

Transport, Ibo Island, Mozambique

Transport, Ibo Island, Mozambique

Putting this poor start to one side, and quickly purchasing some necessities in Jo’burg, we finally arrived in Pemba…proof, if proof were needed, of the healing power of sunshine, blue skies and a warm ocean.

Cidade Velha, oldest European town in the tropics and epicentre of the slave trade

Flying to Cape Verde’s capital city, Praia, you can’t help but wonder what it must have been like to stumble across the Cape Verde islands as a Portuguese sailor in the 15th Century. Seen from the air – rocky, barren outcrops surrounded by the foaming Atlantic Ocean – they personify isolation. The nearest landmass, the coast of modern-day Senegal in West Africa, lies 570km away, and the waters in-between can be ferocious and perilous.

If that wasn’t inauspicious enough, the islands have few resources and are prone to drought, making agriculture unpredictable and hazardous. Yet they could support sufficient agriculture to sustain the first Portuguese settlers, who arrived in 1462 and founded Cidade Velha, the first permanent European city in the tropics. Situated at a point where a river tumbled down the mountains into the ocean, the town boasts the oldest colonial church in the world, Nossa Senhora do Rosário, completed in 1495.

View of Cidade Velha with Fort Real de São Filipe (top right), Cape Verde, Africa

View of Cidade Velha with Fort Real de São Filipe (top right), Cape Verde, Africa

Nossa Senhora do Rosário, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Nossa Senhora do Rosário, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

The founding of Cidade Velha was a fateful event for the future course of the islands’ history: the only way the settlers could make a profit was to import free labour in the form of slaves from the African mainland. Within a hundred years of the first settlement, over 14,000 slaves were living on Cape Verde’s islands, many thousands more had been shipped there over the preceding 100 years.

The terrible economic model which made settlement in Cape Verde profitable, was being replicated across the Americas and Caribbean. European nations, in a scramble for overseas possessions, were crossing the Atlantic in ever larger numbers and competing to establish colonies in the New World. The colonies needed settlers and settlers needed slave labour to grow sugar cane, cotton and provide replacement labour for all the indigenous peoples of the Americas who died from war and European diseases.

Boats on the beach in Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Boats on the beach in Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

View of Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

View of Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

African slaves even found their way into the diabolical conditions of the silver mines in Potosi, Bolivia, as replacements for dwindling indigenous slave labour from across the Andes. Here, in the frozen highlands of Spanish Bolivia, at altitudes of over 4000m, they died in their tens of thousands. We think of ourselves living in a connected world, yet for over 300 years the tentacles of the slave trade snaked their way around the globe, the human lubricant which greased the wheels of global trade.

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Cannon detail, Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Cannon detail, Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Suddenly, Cape Verde’s location on the shipping lanes between Africa and the Americas gave it global importance: water, salt, meat and other foods were loaded onto ships, already crowded with their human cargo, before sailing to the Americas. The islands isolated location became a centre of global trade, albeit a terrible trade in human suffering.

Cidade Velha became the fulcrum of the Portuguese slave trade, and became central to Portuguese explorations around the world. Vasco de Gama restocked his supplies here en route to India in 1497; Christopher Columbus visited in 1498 on his third voyage to the Americas. Over the next 300 years, hundreds of thousands of Africans were shipped as slaves to Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, the United States and the Caribbean.

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade, Cape Verde, Africa

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade, Cape Verde, Africa

View from Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

View from Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

The city grew rich, so rich that it became an attractive target for pirates from other European countries. One famous attack came in 1585, when Sir Francis Drake attacked the islands and sacked Cidade Velha. In 1590, the Portuguese responded by building the imposing Fort Real de São Filipe on a hillside above the town. The fort makes for a fascinating visit today and offers spectacular views over the town and ocean.

(English interest in the islands persisted for another 350 years. The main town on the nearby island of Maio is known as Porto Inglês, English Port, thanks to English ships regularly stopping to collect salt.)

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

View from Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

View from Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

View from Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

View from Fort Real de São Filipe, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Before long English (French, Spanish and Dutch) competition usurped Portugal’s slave trade monopoly, and with this came a change in the way the slave trade operated. Instead of ships going to the African coast for slaves – a coast where disease was rampant and hostile tribes not uncommon – they turned Cape Verde into a massive clearing house for slaves. Ships would bring slaves to Cidade Velha, and those who survived were sold onwards and shipped to overseas colonies. It was a singularly efficient business.

Pillory Post, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

Pillory Post, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

People swim in the ocean, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

People swim in the ocean, Cidade Velha, Cape Verde, Africa

The history of Cidade Velha is the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and the modern nation of Cape Verde the result of European settlement and slave owning and trading. It is an incredibly important place, and rightly an UNESCO World Heritage Site. As well as the fort and churches, the narrow streets of the original town still exist. As does the disturbing Pillory of Justice, a stone pillar topped with a Christian cross where escaped slaves would be whipped if they were caught. This is located in the old town square, where much of the trade in slaves was conducted.

What is perhaps surprising, but very cheering, on the Sunday I was in Cidade Velha lots of families and couples from Praia were visiting the town to swim, eat at beach-side restaurants and have a lovely day out. That seems like a good way to overcome the terrible history of this place.