Difference between revisions of "Luanda"
Revision as of 14:39, 30 March 2013
Luanda is the capital of Angola. It is on the Angola's Atlantic coast. Its current renaissance is a truly inspiring success story. In recent history, the center of decades of conflict, the start of the 21st century has seen a massive boom in construction in Luanda, where peace and stability have attracted numerous foreign companies to invest in offices in the city. The government of Angola, getting rich off revenue from oil, diamond, and other natural resources, is also investing heavily in and around Luanda, including large social housing highrises to replace slums and existing dilapidated (and often bullet-ridden) highrises; extensive repaving; the construction of several six-lane highways leading out of the city; the reconstruction of railroad lines leading out of the city; and a large new airport on the south side set which opened in 2011 two years ago.
Luanda was founded in 1575 under the name São Paulo de Loanda by a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers. Two forts were constructed in the early 17th century and the city became Portuguese Angola's administrative center in 1627. From the late 16th century until 1836, Luanda was port where nearly all slaves bound for Brazil left. Aside from a brief period of Dutch rule (1640-48), this time period was relatively uneventful, with Luanda growing much like many other colonial cities, albeit with a strong Brazilian influence as a result of the extensive shipping trade between these Portuguese colonies. With the independence of Brazil in 1822 and the end of slavery in 1836 left Luanda's future looking bleak, but the opening of the city's port to foreign ships in 1844 led the a great economic boom. By 1850, the city was arguably the most developed and one of the greatest cities in the Portuguese empire outside Portugal itself and fueled by trade in palm and peanut oil, wax, copal, timber, ivory, cotton, coffee, and cocoa. Post-emancipation (resisted by the Portuguese but enforced by the British) forced labour began. Numerous imported crops grew well in the surrounding area to support residents, such as maize, tobacco, and cassava. In 1889, an aqueduct opened, supplying fresh water and removing the only inhibitor to growth in the city. The city blossomed even during the Portuguese Colonial War (1961-74), which did not affect the city, and this modern city was even labeled the "Paris of Africa" in 1972.
After so much success, the city took a turn for the worse in the mid-1970s. While largely untouched during the Carnation Revolution (Angolan independence), the start of the Angolan Civil War in 1975 scared almost all Angola's population of Portuguese descent out of the country as refugees (including the majority of Luanda's population). This led to an immediate crisis as Angola's African population knew little about how to run or maintain the city. They were helped a little by skilled Cuban soldiers who were able to help the MPLA government maintain some of the city's basic services, but hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled fighting in the countryside created slums stretching for miles on all sides of the city. The city saw some sporadic fighting during the Civil War which left bullet holes in many highrises and government building. When peace was reached in 2002, the government began planning to rebuild using oil revenues. Today Luanda's skyline is dotted with cranes, erecting numerous social housing highrises to replace slums and existing, but grossly dilapidated, 40-plus year old highrises as well as offices for numerous foreign companies operating in Angola. Just South of Luanda in an area aptly called Luanda Sul, Western-standard housing, many compound style, is being built for the growing expat community. Major improvements are being made to roads, highways, and the rail system in and around the city but there is yet an overwhelming amount of work to be done. And while certainly still home to a large impoverished population (59%), free housing and the creation of thousands of new jobs each year means that Luanda may in years to come have a bright future ahead.
The climate is largely influenced by the offshore Benguela current. The current gives the city a surprisingly low humidity despite its low latitude, which makes the warmer months considerably more bearable than similar cities in Western/Central Africa. The city receives an average of 323mm (12.7in) of rain a year, mostly in March and April and no rain from June through October. However, this is quite variable depending on the strength of the current and the coefficient of variation is 40% (there can be a sixfold difference between rain received in the driest of years and wettest of years). The temperatures are fairly stable year-round, with the coldest months being July (24 max/19 min)and August and the warmest months being January (31 max/25 min) to April.
Luanda is divided into 10 municipalities: Ingombota, Maianga, Sambizanga (centre), Samba, Rangel, Cazenga, (middle ring), Cacuaco, Viana and Kilamba Kiaxi, as well as the municipality of Belas (periphery).
In the center (Ingombotas and Maianga) the oldest colonial town is divided in Baixa de Luanda (lower Luanda, from the port to the fortress), Cidade Alta (upper city, where the presidential palace is), and Ilha do Cabo (a peninsula surrounding the bay, with beaches and expensive night-clubs, bars and restaurants). Behind and above the historic center, central bairros include Maianga and Alvalade (residential) and Miramar (embassies), as well as Kinaxixe and Maculusso, which are characterized by Portuguese apartment blocks. Further outside the center, the neighborhoods become more informal (self-construction), dotted with 1970s Cuban apartment blocks and new developments. In the south, luxury gated communities (condominiums) predominate.
Despite the city's very low tourist number, it has a surprisingly large number of international connections, which largely service Angolans living abroad (such as Brazil) and the growing number of firms servicing the oil and diamond industries as well as reconstruction (done largely by Chinese workers and Brazilian firms). A couple of carriers still operate routes based on Cold War alliances (to Havana & Moscow).
The city is the hub of national carrier TAAG Angola Airlines, one of just three profitable airlines in Sub-Saharan Africa, which offers flights to 15 Angolan cities. They offer flights to many cities in West-Central/Southern Africa including daily flights to Johannesburg as well as Douala, Cameroon; Sal, Cape Verde; Bangui, CAR; Kinshasa, DRC; Brazzaville & Pointe Noire in the Congo; Windhoek, Namibia; Sao Tome, Sao Tome and Principe; Lusaka, Zambia; Harare, Zimbabwe. Their long-haul offerings include: Dubai, Beijing (via Dubai), Lisbon, Paris, and trans-Atlantic flights to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.
Aside from TAAG, two Angolan airlines (Air Gemini & SonAir) serve about a dozen airports each around the country. International service includes flights to/from: Frankfurt (Lufthansa), London-Heathrow (BA), Paris-de Gaulle (Air France), Windhoek (Air Namibia), Brussels (Brussels Airlines), Havana (Cubana, seasonal), Moscow (Aeroflot), Dubai (Emirates, begins 25 Oct. 09), Beijing (Hainan, via Dubai), Addis Ababa (Ethiopian), Lisbon (TAP Portugal).
Delta Air Lines was to commence weekly flights from Atlanta (via Sal) in June 2009, but delayed its large African expansion until 2010 due to the financial crisis. TAAG was removed from the EU blacklist in July 2009 and (as of Aug 09) is expected to introduce more flights to Europe in the near future (specifically London-Gatwick). The airline had sought to begin a service to Houston, USA when it received new Boeing 777-200ERs in 2006, but was rejected for its poor maintenance/safety record.
When leaving the country do not take any Kwanza to the airport as it is illegal to try to take Kwanza out of the country; you may be stopped by the fiscal police and receive a heavy fine (all your Kwanza taken and most of your other money) or imprisoned.
There are a few short passenger lines, but they are not very safe. Angola once had the most extensive rail network in Africa while under colonial rule. All but a couple short link fell into grave disrepair during the war for independence and civil war. It is currently undergoing extensive reconstruction and modernization by Chinese firms and should be restored to its former glory in the early 2010s.
The main road for tourists will be the coastal highway leading north to the DRC and South to Namibia. It is very scenic and in reasonably good repair. Roads are one of the top priorities in reconstruction efforts, including a handful of six-lane highways leading out of the city. Expect a mix of okay pavement on old highways and a smooth ride on new roads.
The National Bus Service has just re-opened but routes are not organized yet. There are some local services in Luanda and in between cities.
As of 2007, there was a ferry operating from Luanda to the Cabinda exclave, useful to avoid a transit of the DRC. It takes 14 hours and costs $180 (including a bike), so you may be better off flying.
The government is currently investing in an expansive a bus system and attract Luandans to use it.
A popular means for locals to get around the city is by mini bus taxis (Candongueiros), easily identifiable by their pale blue and white. Although they are considered dangerous by most expats, locals use them on a daily basis. During the daytime, until around 8PM, they are a safe, convenient, and usually very fast means of transport in the inner-city. Fares are 100 Kwanzas per trip, except in rain or heavy traffic, in which case the fares are doubled.
Consider to use the Macon Taxi a private taxi company (around 20 / 30 USD trip).
Eco Tur also do 4x4 / minibus hire and airport transfers with bilingual drivers (firstname.lastname@example.org) +244 912 501 387
B Home  will provide airport pick ups and are available for hire (drivers) +244 222 264 423 B Home has offices in Luanda, Angola and in Houston, Texas. +1-281-444-5988 (Houston Office).
A new company Afri-taxi started operations at the beginning of January 2010, in time for the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament. The company will have 150 vehicles in Luanda and a rank at the airport.
The roads in Luanda are generally of okay standard, as is the case on the main routes between cities, but elsewhere road quality greatly decreases. Don't be surprised if you encounter unexpected problems during the rainy season. In Luanda main streets are paved, but streets in the slums are in disrepair, and most roads have no lines or signals. As mentioned before, there are improvements being made throughout the city. Congestion is a major problem with lack of public transport and the plethora of minibus taxis.
Drive down the beautiful bay.
Additionally, you MUST try the Benfica market, which sells everything from perfume to ivory to animal skins and tourist guidebooks. Also take the boat out to Mussulo, the best beach in town.
Jobs are mainly available in the oil sector, but also in the increasing number of international Angola based companies which are investing in Angola now that peace and stability are offering great development prospects for the country. It started giving life to every body in the country.
Local crafts, they are at extraordinary low prices, check out the Benfica HandCrafts Market just south of Luanda.
The majority of restaurants are on The Marginal or on Ilha De Luanda. Be careful; when eating out, do not to drink the tap water.
The Belas Shopping mall has a food court with a variety of options from local foods to pizza and burgers.
Luanda city is largely influenced by Portuguese culture, - Portuguese beer is widely consumed, although Heineken and Carlsberg make an appearance. Super Bock, Sagres, and Cristal (most consumed) are the most consumed beers from Portugal. Besides, you may find a broad range of local beers such as Nocal, Cuca (the most consumed - especially the excellent draught version, or "fino" in Portuguese)and Eka. Surrounding countries also try to find lucrative market, so don't be surprise when in other beer brands are served in local restaurants. Try Portugalia (Portuguese Beer House) at the beginning of the Ilha, or either of the two boat clubs just on the Ilha for a nice sundowner (Clube Nautico and Clube Naval).
Don't forget the excellent Portuguese wines also widely available.
As far as safety is concerned, Luanda is average among African cities. Don't venture into the slums...period. Don't go out at night alone. Keep your car doors locked at all times. Violent crime has been on the rise, but it is mostly in the slums. The colonial part of the city is safe from violent crime; but like most African cities, pickpocketing or muggings are a fact of life. You will greatly reduce your chances of such if you stay low key: no fancy clothes or car, use a money belt, etc. The city is an expensive place to live and Angolans have realized that most expats in the city are high-salaried employees from large corporations, so you should especially avoid business attire.
Do not give beggars money; if you do, you will soon have a lot of them surrounding you.
This is Central Africa...many police in Luanda are very corrupt. Check for their identity number (should be located on an arm band near the shoulder) and you may present charges against any abuse. As a visitor, it's important to carry an authorised photocopy of your passport at all times. Otherwise, you WILL get a on the spot fine or worse, courtesy of the police. Do not carry your original; the police may ask for it and keep it until you pay a "fine".
Consulates and Embassies
Go a bit south of Luanda and you will find the outstanding Parque Nacional Da Kissama (also spelled Quiçama in Portuguese), home to elephants, antelope, exotic birdlife, ostriches, zebras, wildebeest, and giraffes, which are still thriving in great numbers but because tourism is just beginning to start in Angola, it still has a bit of a wild side to it. It is also very beautiful with spectacular views.
Eco Tur run trips there in specialised 4x4 game viewing vehicles, be in the wild and beautiful bush and on the magnificent Kwanza River within 3 hours ! www.eco-tur.com +244 912 501387 / +244 923 601601 / +244 923 602420
Kissama Game Park, a beautiful and enormous national game park just 2 hours south of Luanda recently restocked. Contact Eco Tur who run safaris there in specialist game viewing vehicles www.eco-tur.com / +244 912 501387 / +244 923 601601 / +244 923 602420