Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Historic City Series: Lobito

The city of Lobito is long considered “the guest room of Angola”. Located on the south-central Angolan coast, in the province of Benguela, it is the city that most resembles Luanda, adorned with a wide bay, where stands the Port of Lobito, and a magnificent tongue of land which penetrates the sea - the famous Restinga ex-libris of the city, which hosts the famous Carnival of Lobito.

The Restinga do Lobito is the most attractive area of the city, with over ten kilometers of white sandy beaches and clear waters, a network of hotels, restaurants and bars, which extends from the Colina da Saudade to Ponto Final, with its towering lighthouse guiding the constant movement of ships towards the country's second port in importance and grandeur, after the one in Luanda.

Categorized as “international first class seaport”, with its mineral pier recently expanded and modernized, it is in line with the Benguela Railway (CFB), for flow of goods into the interior of Angola and neighboring countries - particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, which need it mainly for export of its minerals.

The origin of the name Lobito comes from the word Pitu in Umbundu language, preceded by the particle Olu, which results in Olupitu, which means “door, walkway, passage"which the caravans of porters coming down the hills from the interior, travelled before reaching the “trade square” of Catumbela. With the passage of time, the name changed from Olupitu to Lupitu and, then, was finally translated to Portuguese to Lobito. 

Historical records show that the establishment of the city was prompted by the sea access to the major resources of the area:  produce of the local lime ovens, sea salt and the storage and launching point of human cargo (slaves) for international transaction; already illegal practice but widespread in the world by those who found physical shelter in this harbor and tax evasion”.

Proposals for founding the city of Lobito date back to 1650addressed to the then Portuguese Overseas Council. Given the importance of the location, in 1842 an Regal ordinance from D. Maria II ordered the change of the administration from the “stagnant and unhealthy Benguela, to the most favorable zone, bounded by hills and low breakwater (sandbank) safe and attractive” of Lobito.

In 1902, the potential of Lobito Bay is recognized, in 1906 the port’s project is elaborated and, in the surrounding region, the design of the first part of the city (shopping today) emerges, made official on September 2nd, 1913, by order of the governor Norton de Matos.

In 1923 begins the construction of the port, opening up to exploration in 1928, and in 1931 the British builders take Benguela’s railway from Lobito to the border with the then Belgian Congo, currently the Democratic Republic of Congo. With the construction of the port and the railway line, Lobito would become the first city in Angola after Luanda, to exceed 100 thousand inhabitants to about 1970. Today, it still retains a remarkable human and urban growth, being of the cities of greater economic development in Angola, with its tourism potential, its cement industry and its factories of equipment for the exploration and production of oil. (TAAG Austral Magazine)

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