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    The Ilha's main traditional habour

    Don't make mistakes, the sea colour isn't always sky blue around the Island, but incredibly turquoise or brightly green according to the tides or mostly a mix of all these colours. The harbour's also a mix ... of people coming or going, including tourists going snorkelling to nearby small islands.

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    Aloe Arborescens DBL

    Cape chairs and local travel boxes join modern comfort... so we hope! In the back the bath area wall and the island typical window seats. You rest there and listen unseen to the walking people chats. Read More

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    Ancient building traditions

    Buildings can be 200 or 300 year old ... or more, made of coral stones and coral lime, and huge beams and joists made of now rare Iron Wood. Many rooms proud themselves of totally original construction. Woods polished back to original splendour are amazing to see after years and years of neglect.

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    Aloe Vera Bathroom Wall

    Behind the round shape is the inbuilt bathroom. The many tricks of humidity. The spider-web design is a natural change of the original plain yellow colour. The Island is able to impose its own taste on walls and colours!
    Read More

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    Each room is unique

    High beds, traditional furniture and antique pieces, recovered from oblivion by the patience of Judy are colourfully joined for accompanying your relax. Every room and angle is a small discovery and a search for changing beauty.

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    Our breakfast

    Food and presentation help each other and some etiquette improves both. What we offer is a choice of homemade goodies. Guests eat at our table with us. A good morning and quiet chat help appreciating all the above. Furthermore Bruno likes history and telling stories of his past... some are even interesting!

Jardim dos Aloes Main Page


Since the year 1000 the Ilha was a major outpost of the Swahili trade route which was taking gold and ivory from Zimbabwe and other areas to Persia and the Arabic Peninsula. Not visible signs of those times seem to exist, except for the remaining of a mosque and some wells, but the local tongue is strongly influenced by the Swahili language and Muslim religion is the main local religion as in other parts of Mozambique touched by the trade routes.

After the first encounter with the Island in 1498, Vasco da Gama continued north and found his way to India. Thus the Muslim domination of the spice trade routes came to an end and Portugal enriched out of this trade for over 200 years. During the second voyage Vasco da Gama made the Ilha a permanent scale for the new route, forcing the Swahili out. Only the name of the last sultan stayed on as “Moçambique” resulting from “Mussa bin Bike” or “Ali Musa Mbiki” or “Musa Al Big” according to the different sources.

The decision was highly strategic because the Ilha is the most southern place in the Indian Ocean from where sail ships could navigate directly to Goa, where the Portuguese established their main base. Thus the route was never under threat, even if the mainland costs and Zanzibar were in unfriendly hands. Mozambique Island became the pivot of the whole eastern commercial empire of the Portuguese and could not be lost. To defend this position, the biggest fortress of Sub-Saharan Africa was built and it sheltered successfully the island inhabitants from Dutch, French and British attacks. Being the hub of the new spice route to Europe and later a major slave trade station, the town flourished and filled with historical buildings and huge premises, all strictly built in coral stones and lime. For 400 years she was the “de facto” and then legal capital of Mozambique to which finally gave the name. Today, notwithstanding the recent lack of maintenance, the Ilha maintains its powerful atmosphere of the past glories and is recovering a cultural and economic role.


First to see is the Fortress of St Sebastian, built according the criteria of Italian military architecture over 50 years since 1558 on the most northern point of the Island. It withstood heavy attacks of the Dutch in 1607 and 1608 and later of other European powers, thanks to its conception, size and the fact of having a rain water reservoir of enormous proportions and fascinating design.

Of course the over 400 hundred cannons did the main job, some being very destructive because set at see level. Three thousand people could be harbored there for over three months. Another small fort exists on a rock at the other end of the Island with a natural water spring next to it. A third remaining fortification is now overbuilt by the Church of St Antony, dominating a small fisherman harbour.

The Chapel of Our Lady of Baluarte is situated below the Fortress. Built in 1522 by the soldiers of D. Pedro de Castro, the chapel is considered to be the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere and one of the finest examples of Manueline vaulted architecture in Mozambique, notwithstanding some building mistakes due to the inexperience of builders. When the Fortress was built no cannons were placed that would overfly the chapel, for respect to this sacred place.

The third must is the Museum. The powerful Jesuits had built it as a college since the Ilha was an important passage point on the way to evangelize the East. St Francis of Xavier spent eight months here waiting for the right monsoons to turn and allow sailing to Goa. In the XVIII century, when the Jesuits were banned all over Europe, the college was changed into the Palace of the Capitães-Generais and later of the Governor. The first President of independent Mozambique was the first to sleep in the century old but never used Royal Bedroom during his historic journey from Ruvuma to Maputo.

There are three sections to be visited, the Palace Museum with 18th century original furniture, the Maritime Museum with the seabed archeological vestiges of galleons and their loads, the Museum of Sacred Art housed in the annexed Church of Mercy with ornaments, painting and carvings including a remarkable Makonde Crucifix. In the Maritime Museum is remembered that in the 16th Century the phenomenon of compass magnetic deviation was discovered right in the Ilha bay.
A last major Church is the one of Good Health, situated next to the majestic 19th century neo-classical Hospital, the biggest ever built south of the equator (still working but very run down).
Several are the Mosques, one with pre-da Gama remaining and the main one built in the first part of the 20th century with the consent of the then Portuguese Governor who was in love with a local lady. Muslims in the island belong to the Sunni tradition.

Although no Hindu worshipers exist anymore in the island, there is a very small but important Hindu Temple, vestige of the importance of the Indian heritage of the Island, especially in the 18th century. The temple is cared by a Father sent from India and years past there has been a large gathering of hundreds of believers who came from all over Mozambique but mostly from India itself for the worshipping.
There are plenty of architectonic relevant colonial administrative offices of which the Municipality Building is the best, while the technical offices premises and the Harbour authority premises hide authentically fascinating pieces of industrial archeology. Absolutely delightful is the Court Building with a very well balanced staircase conducting to the offices and an incredibly minute and unique Judge Court, all in wood. Within the same premises, at ground level, stands a porch of real beauty.

Equally admirable is the Bank with the interior as well all in wood and still fully functional. To be seen are also the Muslim, Christian and Hindu Cemeteries, several squares with Liberty gazebos, gardens and last but not least the monument reminding that another famous visitor of old ages was the 16th Century Portuguese poet Camoes, who stayed for some time in the Ilha on his way to the East.

If these are the best known monuments in the Island, in reality many closed and poorly looking doors hide unexpected surprises that a curious tourist can discover and enjoy ... entering with the due manners.