An introduction to the city of Manaus
At the north bank of the Rio Negro River, about 11 miles from its confluence with the Rio Solimoes to bring about the Amazon River lays Manaus, a sprawling city that rises on a hill. The 7th largest city in the country and the capital city of Amazonas, a northern Brazil state, Manaus is the center of port activities and it is right at the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
Portuguese settlers needed to defend themselves against invasions from the Spanish, the protection came in form of a small fortress they constructed in 1669, the Forte de Sao Jose da Barra do Rio Negro. The native tribe known as the “Manaos” were however the original inhabitants of the area where the fortress was built. So, in 1832 when the new settlement gained recognition, the name Manaus which in local Portuguese means the home of the lord was adopted in honour of the early native dwellers. Manaus became a full fledge city in 1848. It was later, in the year 1856 that the name was changed to Cidade de Manaus, the city of Manaus.
The city of Manaus enjoyed tremendous growth and it was the center of activity between 1890 and 1920. A port which ushered in the highly successful river trade that has since become a trademark of the city was built in 1902. The rubber boom also started within this period and the city came to light as the hub of the Brazilian rubber trade. This led to rapid prosperity and growth as the city spread to most part of northern Brazil.
With a lot of wealth flowing in the land, the social and cultural activities began to pick up pace and it was in this period that the grand opera house, Teatro Amazonas whose significance in the history of Manaus cannot be brushed aside was built. Many opera troupes started visiting the city and there was also an influx of immigrants from neighbouring northern Brazil, people who were attracted by the affluence and glamour that Manaus had to offer.
Rubber prices however dropped because the Asians started producing rubber at a lower price, the city therefore went into a quick decline. Manaus has however emerged into a commercial city thanks largely to her declaration as a duty free zone. Many goods are now delivered to the city first, before further distribution around Brazil.
Manaus was once swimming with wealth and it attracted many Europeans who infused their urbane taste into the land, a quick look at the architectural design of the city is a testament to this. The city is 900 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean and at the core of river tourism comprising of cruises and forest lodges. It is at the Amazon’s rainforest center which houses a great variety of plants, fishes, and birds and it is therefore the point of entry for people looking to visit the enviable plant and animal collection of the forest. Due to its proximity to the equator line, Manaus is one of the few places that do not follow the daylight savings time.
Manaus currently reaps economic gains from its Free Economic Zone status. A lot of industrial and manufacturing activities take place in the zone courtesy of companies like the oil refineries and chemical industries. The city has an international airport and a free port. When Brazil hosted the 2014 FIFA world cup, Manaus was one of the host cities, its magnificent stadium, the Arena Amazonia is very modern with up to date infrastructure.
One of the most symbolic landmarks in Manaus is the Teatro Amazonas, a magnificent opera house styled after the best opera houses in Paris. It was constructed to give the city the distinctive touch of class during the rubber boom era and no cost was spared to adorn the design with the most luxurious decorations. The opening of the opera house in 1897 was graced by a world celebrated tenor but it soon went into silence as a result of dwindling fortune and it remained so for 90 years. The opera house has however sprung back to life and it is home to the Amazon Philharmonic Orchestra whose doors are opened to visitors who wish to attend orchestral performances at a token. The theater has also brought activity back to the opera house as it plays host to annual film festivals and free tours are conducted to the theater.
Another landmark in the city is the Centro Cultural Palacio Rio Negro, a palatial residence that was once the residence of a rubber baron. In present day, it accommodates a few museums in which one can savor and come to appreciate the great cultural heritage of Manaus and indeed the Amazonas state. For people hoping to travel into the past to see what life was like for the indigenous people of the city, the place to go will be what used to be the garden of the palace which now houses what is called the ‘People of the Forest Exhibit’. There are also special museums with a rather large collection of rare coins from around the world within the palace.
Manaus spreads over an area of 11,406.06 square kilometers with density of 144.4 inhabitants per km2 and the number of people living in the city was put at 2 million in 2013. The city is further divided into 7 regions: north, southern, central-south, east, west, mid-west and the rural area with the eastern region of the city being the most populated with approximately 600, 000 inhabitants.
Manaus’ market offers cheap prices for food items, accommodation prices is relatively cheap depending on the part of the city while transportation is also very affordable. However, the prices in the modern malls in the city are quite high.
Places to go
There are quite many attractions in Manaus; historical sites such as the Rio Negro Palace cultural center, the Amazonas Opera house, medieval-styled palatial custom buildings, museums are all on offer. There are cultural events all year round including the Opera, Theater, Jazz festivals and many more. For sure there is also the rainforest and the Amazon River which offers a generous amount of wildlife and some of the most endangered species in the country. Swimming is a common activity and there are several public swimming areas as well as some in private clubs.
The confluence, where the blackness of the Rio Negro Rivermeets with the brown waters of the Rio Solimoesand flows side by side without mixing up is an enthralling sight. There is also the beach neighborhood, Ponta Negra beach where a standard nightlife is in operation and a plush hotel is just nearby. You also do not want to miss visiting the oldest market in the city, Mercado AdolphoLisboa where food items like fruits, vegetables and notably fishes are found in generous amounts and in weird and wonderful types that you have probably not seen before.
The largest urban forest in the world located within the Federal University of Amazonas, the oldest federal University in Brazil also promises to be an interesting place. There are also large parks which contain indigenous forest species as well as several malls and shopping centers most of which contain movie theaters.