M’banza Congo

Follow in the footsteps of Portugeuse missionaries at M’banza Congo, home to Central Africa’s first Catholic Church.

The small town of M’banza Congo sits high in the hills in the middle of nowhere, a tiny place that can be walked across in a mere ten minutes. It’s steeped in the history of both central Africa and the Congo, and has played an important role in the region for centuries, as Portuguese missionaries and officials maintained economic ties with the Kongo kingdom during the Middle Ages. The town is one of the best places in Angola to visit just as a ‘tourist’. The town could easily be mistaken for any in the Congo – some streetside bars even sell Primus beer, a staple of the two Congos immediately north of Angola. Ethnically the people of Zaire province and the DRC are one and the same, and French is widely spoken. Even the Portuguese spoken here has a distinctive sound as the letter X is pronounced as an S rather than a ‘shish’. Given the importance of oil in the region it’s ironic that the town often suffers from petrol shortages. Its three pumps for a population of over 100,000 are simply not up to the job.

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