Benguela is a coastal city in the rich African country of Angola, that has held great importance in Southern and Central Africa since the 16th century and to this day this Western Angolan city is a very important trading and business hub and as of late has become a very popular tourist destination inside Angola, Africa and the rest of the world.
In this article, we are going to be discussing travel to the city of Benguela, Angola as well as all the interesting facts and places to visit in this little known holiday gem in Africa.
The Population of the City of Benguela.
Benguela has a population of over 650,000 people making it the fifth most populated city in the central African country of Angola. For many centuries Benguela has been an important zone for trading for European Empires such as the Portuguese and Spanish who used the location as a trading point to send goods and slaves to their colonies in South America such as Brazil.
For this reason, the city of Benguela is one of the most developed cities in these countries which makes it a very attractive place for foreign businesses and entrepreneurs to invest in and thus attracting internal and external migration to the city from people looking for a better life.
One of the fastest-growing industries in the city is the tourist industry with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the from around the world to enjoy the amazing wildlife and beaches that Benguela is home to.
Notable People Born in Benguela.
Many famous and notable Angolans come from the city of Benguela, one such person is Leila Lopes who is an Angolan model, actress, and television personality that is best known for winning the Miss Universe title in 2011.
She became the thus Angolan born person to win the title, Lopes is now involved in charitable work particularly in finding a cure on HIV and raising awareness around this disease.
Other notable figures include Akwa who is an Angolan footballer that captained the Angolan national team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup; furthermore, Akwa is one of the top-scoring footballer’s players for the Angolan national team with 38 goals from a total of 78 appearances.
Additionally, another famous figure from the city of Benguela is Alda Lara who was an Angolan poet that was born in a white family in the year 1930 and is a national hero for her activism against colonialism rule.
History of the City of Benguela.
The city of Benguela was founded by the Portuguese in the year 1617 and was called back then ‘São Felipe de Benguela’ with the city acting as one of the main trading points from Africa to Portuguese colonies in Brazil and Cuba as well as vice versa.
Furthermore, during the 20th century in Benguela, the Portuguese Empire built one of the first railways on the African continent which helped to connect the Portuguese African colonies to Belgium’s colony of Congo.
The Benguela railway is still one of the best in Angola and acts as the beating heart of transportation and trade inside the country as well as exports.
Due to Benguela being under Portuguese rule for over 300 years, the most popular religion in the city and the surrounding regions is Roman Catholicism with Portuguese being still widely spoken and used legal documents in the area.
Architecture to Experience in the City of Benguela.
A good reason to travel to the city of Benguela, Angola is the unique colonial architecture that has been preserved to this way as well as the state of the art modern structures popping up all over the city.
One of the most famous and popular places for tourists to see in Benguela is the Se Catedral de Nossa Senhora de Fatima which is a Catholic Church that is popular for its unique design which is in the shape of a triangle.
The church is still in regular use with active tours throughout the week as well as the ability for tourists to attend mass on Sunday and Holy Days if there is space in the congregation space.
Colorful colonial Portuguese architecture is also very common in Benguela, tourists can visit the old Benguela city center where all the buildings have been purposely preserved to retain this unique architectural style.
Additionally, there is the Estádio Nacional de Ombaka which is one of the biggest stadiums in Angola that was built to host football games for the 2010 African Cup of Nations.
The Culture of Benguela.
The culture of the city of Benguela is heavily influenced by that of Portugal as well as the local Ovimbundu people that have lived in the area for hundreds of years before the Europeans first arrived and make up over 40% of the entire population of Angola.
Religion plays a big part in the culture of the people of Benguela with the two biggest annual festivals being the Procession of Velas of three Catholic saints known as the Our Lady of Fátima and also the Procession of the Body of God festival which is a festival where the participants reenact the last supper of Jesus and his disciples.
Moreover, Benguela is known as the literary capital of Angola with many famous poets and writers coming from this seaside city. Such famous writers include José da Silva Maia Ferreira whose poetry became popular for its realism and question what is the purpose of life.
Another notable person is Amílcar Barca who was a poet born in a mixed-race family with an African and European parent which was frowned upon in the 19th century, he is the writer of the popular Portuguese language poem Minha Terra.
Wildlife and Marine Life in Benguela.
Benguela is home to a wild variety of species of birds such as the Red-crested Turaco, the Angolan Cave Chat and the White-headed Robin-Chat there are an estimated one thousand plus species of sea bird in Benguela’s surrounding region due to its being located on the South Atlantic Ocean as well as on the Catumbela River.
There is also a massive array of marine life Benguela such as the Coptostomabarbus Wittei which is a very small fish numbering in the millions around the Atlantic coast of Angola.
The Spotted Weever which is a mid-sized fish noted for its amazing skin pattern that is often compared to that of land animals such as giraffes and cheetahs as well as sea mammals such as whales and dolphins that often seen traveling to the Angolan coats and rivers for breeding and feeding.
Popular Sports in Benguela.
Sports are ingrained in the fabric of this city, which is another key reason to travel to the city of Benguela, Angola. Many famous sportspeople have been born in Benguela and later on been scouted or traveled to other countries to be able make their dream to be a professional athlete a reality.
Some examples of this include famous Angolan sportspeople such as professional footballer Jamba, Neyde Barbosa an Angolan handball player, and Nadir Manuel a professional basketball player.
Benguela is also the home of its very own sport known as ‘Benguela Capoeira’ which is a type of African martial art that involves elements of dance and music with professional participants in this sport being to fight as well as to sing and play musical instruments making it one of the most interesting sports to watch.
Also read the article: Excursion To The City Of Huambo, Angola