Ilha de Mocambique is the forgotten former capitol town Mozambique with its mixture of African, Arab and colonial influences and historical dependence on trade. It was an important trading post as early as the 10th century, when merchant ships from as far afield as India and Arabia traded slaves, ivory, gold and spices along the Mozambican coast, the Muslim merchants intermarrying with African families and shaping the region’s culture.
Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama sailed onto the scene in 1498, opening the trade route from Europe to the East Indies and establishing Ilha’s importance. The three-kilometre-long island was the capital of Portuguese East Africa for more than 300 years, its colonial history obvious in everything from the layout of the streets and buildings to the massive fort, church and palace.
After 1869 the trade that sustained Ilha went through the Suez Canal and the island’s future faded; later the southern city of Maputo became the capital in 1898.
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