Ilha de Mozambique: a big blend of cultures in a very small place
The small island of Ilha de Mozambique offers a unique and enthralling example of a fascinating compound of African, Arabic and European culture. Connected to the mainland by a 3,200m narrow road bridge, this UNESCO World Heritage Site splices churches and mosques, beautiful colonial architecture and small traditional houses – all to produce the perfect holiday destination for those with an interest in history.
Roughly 3km long and no more than 500m wide, you’ll find the island easy to explore on foot. Local guides have been running tours of the island for decades and will bring its history to life, explaining how the cultures have coexisted, cooperated, commingled and occasionally collided over the years. As they take you around the island, you’ll learn all about Ilha de Mozambique’s past as a major Arab port and boatbuilding centre and, from the early 16th century, as a Portuguese naval base.
Today, the island’s unique history is clearly evident from its architecture. The striking chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, built in 1522, is now considered the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere. Though small, the island hustles and bustles with charm, sophistication, culture and a very big sense of history.