Luanda is the capital of Angola and the biggest city. During the years of civil war the city has been badly damaged, but it is getting back on its feet again.

Prior to the arrival of the Portuguese, the island of what today is part of Luanda was known among the native African population as Loanda, meaning flat land whose inhabitants lived in small villages known as libatas. They were ruled by a local governor who was, in turn, a subject of the King of Congo.

On February 20, 1575, carrying credentials from King D. Sebastio, Paulo Dias de Novais landed on the island of Luanda in command of a fleet of seven ships carrying a hundred families of colonists and 400 soldiers. The following year, de Novais moved to the mainland opposite the island and established the settlement that was to become So Paulo de Loanda. What attracted de Novais to the area was the prospect of controlling the legendary silver mines of Cambambe. Loanda and the So Paulo settlement offered a sheltered port in an excellent spot very close to the river Kwanza, the route to the mines.

From 1950 onward, the city grew with astonishing rapidity. The population of the Luanda municipality soon reached 200,000, of whom 70 percent were black. Many new districts appeared and civil construction increased apace. One of Luanda’s most famous landmarks, the National Bank of Angola building, was built at this time. The large pink structure overlooking the Luanda bay is a beautiful example of colonial architecture (but tourists are not allowed to take pictures because of ‘security reasons’).

Today, Luanda is home to some 1.5 million people. It is recovering from its years of strife. The first buildings built during the post-independence period are finally completed and are in use. Stores, restaurants, hotels and offices are multiplying and the city is returning to its former status as a major commercial hub. The Ilha, the peninsula in the bay of Luanda, is a good spot to catch some tan and eat (expensively).