Ibo Island History

January 11, 2013

Ibo Island is one of the oldest settlements in Mozambique, its history goes back at least to the sixteenth century. The Arab merchants had already begun around 600 D.C trading slaves, gold and ivory with local inhabitants and surrounding areas. 
In 1498 Vasco da Gama arrived for the first time in the Quirimbas and in 1522 the Portugueses attacked the islands, destroying the fortifications.
By 1590 the Portuguese had assimilated seven of the large nine islands, whereas only two still remained governed by Muslims; Ibo Island mostly traded amber, ivory and turtle shells.

Vasco da Gama chose Ibo as its main base because of freshwater reserves collected from the annual rainfall. This allowed the increase of the number of cattle, pigs and goats on the island. Several Agricultural products were exported and supplied to Mozambique Island. 
In mid-century XVII, the archipelago was governed by two main “Mzungu” (white) families – Morues and Meneses, and the island of Ibo became the commercial center of all other islands. 
At the end of the eighteenth century, the Portuguese built the fortress “Sao Joao”, which is still standing, while the city represented a port for the slave trade, driven by the French demand due to low cost labour. 
Ibo thus became the second most important outpost in the region after Mozambique Island.

The Fortress “St. Joao Batista” was completed in In 1791. The small chapel housed inside the fortress was constructed in 1795, followed by the fort ” St. Antonio” and the for St. José in the Rituto Neighborhood in 1847. These three monuments are now determining the triangle shape format to form triangle of the old town. 
Over the XVIII and XIX centuries, the inhabitants of Ibo and adjacent regions were constantly attacked by Dutch and Malagasy forces.

In 1897, Ibo, was integrated in the Niassa Company’s administration, and it was from this moment onwards that the island and the locals started enjoying a relative peace and security.

In 1902, the provincial capital of Cabo Delgado was transferred from Ibo Island to Porto Amelia, renamed after the independence to Pemba, which still is the provincial capital today. This was the beginning of the decline for Ibo as trading slowly moved to Pemba, a city that offered a deeper bay and harbor. Later, the civil war gave the final blow to Ibo and all the examples of the Portuguese Colonial architecture of the XIX and XX centuries started slowly deteriorating, while Ibo became a city ghost.

In 2002, the Quirimbas National Park was created and with it Ibo emerged from a long hibernation, finally opening its doors to tourism. It gave a new impulse to the local economy as well as the conservation, preservation and restoration of the existing legacy of its fascinating history. 
Today Island Ibo, thanks to its rich past and its imperial architecture still wonderfully preserved the uniqueness of its art jewellery, its landscape and the warm colours of its sunset; is running to become a UNESCO World Heritage.

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