Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Luanda - The World's Most Expensive City

I'm currently in Luanda, Angola, the first Portuguese-speaking country I've visited in Africa.   This hot and humid capital, with a population of 5 Million isn't one of the world's garden spots, but is nevertheless interesting.  After many years of civil war and poverty Angola is booming economically with oil and diamond exports being major factors. Wealth is very evident in the port which is filled with oil tankers and supply ships.  Luanda is also in the midst of a construction boom with many future hotels, condo complexes and office buildings reaching upwards from the dusty, crowded streets.  Near the embassy is a British car dealership that sells all of the top English brands.  An embassy colleague told me that they had recently brought in a shipload of new cars and sold them all within a few days. Unfortunately the wealth isn't trickling down and Angola continues to rank among world's poorest countries.

Currently there are very few decent hotels in Luanda and I'm probably staying in the best one, the Tropico, which costs about $400 a night. I'd consider it a 3-star in the US, Europe or Asia. It is probably the hotel mentioned this week in Baobab, a blog published in the online version of the Economist Magazine which confirms Luanda's reputation as the world's most expensive city. See the following links for Baobab's explanation as to why it is so expensive.

 I will only briefly mention Angola's violent 20th Century history: the country became independent in 1975 following a coup d'etat in Portugal.  At independence a coalition of three separatist movements tried to run the county. Having irreconcilable differences, the coalition quickly broke apart, resulting in a very bloody civil war that continued into the 1990s.  For more details on the roles of the Cubans, the Americans and such well know personalities as Jonas Savimbi in the civil war, see the following links:

On Friday I will be flying to Maputo in Mozambique, my second Portuguese-speaking African country, and I will write a report from there.  There are two other former Portuguese colonies in Africa which are the Cape Verde Islands, off of Senegal in West Africa and Sao Tome and Principe, near Gabon in Equatorial Africa.  The US has an embassy in Cape Verde so I may audit there someday.  I'm very sure I'll never get to Sao Tome and Principe, one of the word's most isolated countries. Here are links for these two countries:

In ending this post, I recommend clicking on the following Youtube link to hear a haunting melody from Cape Verde's famous singer, Cesaria Evora. She is one of my favorites and I have several of her CDs. I believe her music captures the soul of Portuguese Africa.


Ingrid said...

What an experience, to see Luanda in its wild adolescence! It will be fascinating to follow it into adulthood. Wanna ask State to send you again?

Your Flyer Saga tops most of such stories around me. It needs a seasoned traveler like Paul Carpenter to survive something like this in dignity. Thanks for your very lively reports!

Paul Carpenter said...

One time in Angola is enough in the years I have left. But I would still like to go to Cape Verde!

Cheap Flights to Luanda said...
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