Ilha de Moçambique: Portuguese Navigator first arrived here in 1498 on his voyage from Europe around the southern tip of Africa in search of a maritime route to the spices and riches of Asia. Upon arrival, the Portuguese conquered the island from the Arab-Swahili tribes and established a fortress on the island. In the years that followed, the Portuguese established trading port-fortresses on the fringes of the Indian Ocean, on places that have since then conjured imagery of romance, battles and exoticism: Zanzibar, Mombasa, Mogardishu, Muscat, Hormuz, Bahrain, Goa, Galle, Melaka and Macau.
From Ilha de Mozambique, the Portuguese conquered a large swath of land on the Eastern Coast of Africa, which since then became known as Portuguese East Africa and then Mozambique, i.e., this tiny island of about 1 sq km and 15,000 inhabitants has given its name to a much larger territory of 800,00 sq km and 22 million people today. This island, as the capital of the whole territory, became home to a mighty fortress, a grand governor's palace and many grand public buildings. But the tiny size of the island was ultimately its greatest nemesis.
In 1898, the capital of the colony moved south to Lourenço Marques, which eventually became known as Maputo, still the capital of Mozambique today. Since then, the city has suffered a drastic decline and its buildings have gone dilapidated. Not even the declaration of the city as a UNESCO World Heritage Site seems to have much of an impact. Apart from a few freshly painted monuments, many of the old mansions have gone roofless, their walls collapsed and weeds overgrown in their once splendid gardens. Perhaps, it was the remoteness of the island that has led to the neglect not only by the far off central government in Maputo, but also the provincial government in Nampula several hours away. A new road now connects the island to Nampula, significantly shortening the once arduous road trip. Hopefully, that would bring tourists and much needed income as well.