Written by Oscar Scafidi
There are a number of colonial gems hidden in the side streets of Malabo, many now overshadowed by the high rises springing up in the town centre. They are easy to miss and are not always marked, so follow this route to be sure to take them all in. The walk should take between one and two hours.
This walking tour starts on the southern outskirts of the town centre, and we will work our way in. The first stop is the Seminario de Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Banapá, a Catholic boarding school and church built in 1884. It is now on the site of the Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial (UNGE), at the intersection of Avenida de Hassán II and Calle Del Rey Malabo. From here if you walk the width of town eastwards along Calle Del Rey Malabo, you will approach the hotel Yoly y Hnos. One hundred metres south of here on Avenida del 3 de Agosto you will see the National Radio Headquarters, which is another impressive late colonial-era building, soon due to be replaced by a Chinese-built modern facility. If you then head north up the side street, Calle del Botuku Lubá, towards the coast you will pass the bright-yellow Casa Teodolita. This is one of the oldest residential buildings in Malabo, and dates back to 1902. It is now also the site of one of the tastiest ribs restaurants in the city! The building is marked with a plaque commemorating the date of construction.
Continue northwards for one block and look to your right down Calle de Acacio Mañé and you will see the National Library (BNGE), which is a former Spanish private residence completed in 1916 and refurbished in 2009. It is also the former residence of famous Equatoguinean sculptor Leandro Mbomio Nsue. Be careful taking photos here as you are very close to the presidential palace.
Your next stop is in the very northeastern tip of the city. Continue walking north until you hit Calle de Kenia. Tucked into the junction with Avenida del 3 de Agosto, to your left you can see the most celebrated of all Malabo’s historic buildings – Casa Verde. An early 19th-century colonial structure, it was prefabricated in Belgium and once served as the Portuguese consulate. Renovated in 2014, it is now greener than ever, making it diffi cult to miss in the Malabo skyline, and upon completion the interior will house a museum of the city. Once you have had a look at the outside (it is still not open to visitors), continue eastwards on Calle de Kenia past the Ceiba Intercontinental Airlines ticket offi ce. Opening out to your left you will see a quaint square and fountain. You are now in the centre of the old town, and at the steps of Santa Isabel Cathedral which was begun in 1897, with input from Antonio Gaudí. The structure was completed in 1916, and in 2014 it underwent a major renovation which included adding a 24-hour clock face to the spire. It is still very much a functional space for worship and visitors are welcome for Sunday services or those on special occasions.
If you walk to the coastal wall on Avenida de la Independencia, you get an excellent view over Malabo Bay. To your left is the Calle de Argelia peninsula, home to expensive bars, restaurants and (soon) a new hotel. To your right is Punta Unidade Africana, hidden behind the presidential complex, which includes the infamous Black Beach prison (page 28). Down the cliff face is the new port facility, with its expansive stretches of tarmac and queue of international ships waiting to unload. Head west down the road and beside the Candy Club on Avenida de la Independencia, you will find a monument to the Cuban deportees brought to Malabo by boat in 1869 [111 E1]. These 250 unfortunate souls joined a long list of Spanish political troublemakers who were banished to the island in the 1860s.
One hundred metres further along, on the other side of the road you will see the Equatoguinean Cultural Centre, which was built in the 1950s as a Spanish religious archive, library and museum. A brief stop here does not do it justice – you could spend a good few hours exploring everything this place has to offer. The penultimate stop on the tour, slightly to the west is
the Chamber of People’s Representatives. The building which today houses the Cámara de los Representantes del Pueblo was used by the Spanish from 1906 onwards as the colonial Agricultural Chamber. Be careful taking pictures here as it is still a functioning government building.
The final stop on the walking tour is a monument to the commander of the frigate Nervión, who arrived in Malabo in 1843. Captain Juan José de Lerena Barry, representative of the Spanish crown, officially took control of the island after the British relinquished it on 27 February of that same year.
Although a little out of your way, the Cine Marfil over by Plaza de San Fernando in the east of the city is worth visiting. It has been the site of a cinema in various guises since 1904, and also served as the location for numerous public trials, such as that of former president Macías in 1979.