The Island of Mozambique is an island city located in the province of Nampula in northern Mozambique, which gave the name of the country since it was its first capital. Due to its rich history, manifested by an interesting architectural heritage, the island was considered an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Currently, the city is a municipality and has a local government elected. According to the census of 1997, the municipality has 42.407 inhabitants and 14.889 of these live on the island.
Its name, which many locals say is Muipiti, seems to be derived from Mussa-Ben-Bique or Bique Mussa Bin, or Mussa Al Mbique, personality about whom we know very little, but gave the name (the 2nd version) to a university based in Nampula.
The island is about 3 km long and 300-400 m wide and is oriented northeast-southwest towards the entrance of the Bay of Mossuril, at a latitude of approximately 15 º 02 'S and longitude 40 º 44' E. The east coast of the island establishes with the sister islands of Goa and Sena (also known as Island of Snakes) the Bay of Mozambique. These islands and the coast nearby are of coralline origin.
Architecturally, the island is divided into two parts, the "city of stone" and the "city of macuti" the first has about 400 buildings, including the major monuments, and the second in the southern half of the island, about 1.200 homes of poor construction. However, many houses of stone are also covered with macuti.
The Island of Mozambique is linked to the mainland by a bridge of about 3 miles long, built in the 60s.
When Vasco da Gama arrived in 1498, the Island of Mozambique had become a Swahili village of Arabs and blacks with its sheik, subordinate to the sultan of Zanzibar and it was continuously frequented by Arabs who continued their trade of centuries with the Red Sea, Persia, India and the islands of the Indian Ocean. Where on the island is now the Palácio dos Capitães-Generais, the Portuguese built the Torre de São Gabriel in the year 1507, when they occupied the island and did a small fort that had 15 men to protect the trading post installed in.
The Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Baluarte, built in 1522 in the north end of the island, near the island of Goa, is the only example of the Manueline architecture in Mozambique.
In 1558, started the construction of the Fortaleza de S. Sebastião - entirely with stones which constituted the ballast of ships, some of these are still near the beach - which only ended in 1620 and is the largest in Southern Africa. This fortress was of extreme importance because the island had become the trading post for cloths and beads from India in exchange of gold, slaves, ivory and black wood from Africa, and was from the island that all the trading travels started, to Quelimane, Sofala, Inhambane and Lourenço Marques, and the Arabs did not want to lose the business privileges they had acquired over the centuries.
Fortaleza de S. Sebastião. Besides the Portuguese, other European competitors appeared in the race for the control of trade routes. The French managed to take the role of intermediaries in the business of slavery in the islands of the Indian Ocean, the British began to control the routes of navigation in this region and the Dutch attempted occupation of the island in 1607-1608, and when they didn’t succeed, they devastated it with fire.
The reconstruction of the village was difficult, because the colonial government existed only to collect taxes and was far more interested in the land of Sofala - in Zambezia, where it had been institutionalized the Crown Terms, and the development of the gold trade in that region lead to the loss of primacy of the Island. So, the Christians decided to build a Santa Casa da Misericórdia on the island which acted as a City Hall, to protect the people and the land until 1763, when the village became a town. This change resulted from the colonial government's decision to separate the African colony of the State of India and create a Capitania Geral of the State based on the Island of Mozambique, in 1752. The town returned to prosperity, and in 1810 the city was promoted.
The export of slaves was the main trade of the island, like the Ibo, but the Independence of Brazil in 1822, which was the main destination of this trade, left the island again in stagnation. The final blow was the capital of the transition from colony to Lourenço Marques in 1898. After opening the port of Nacala in 1970, the island lost what remained of its strategic and commercial importance.