Salvador da Bahia: The Black Rome16/08/2013
By Adrien Gallo
Salvador de Bahia, often called simply Bahia by the locals, once capital of Portugal’s Brazilian colony, has an energy and beauty few cities can match.
It’s Afro-Brazilian heritage is ever present. The city centre, dating from the 17th and 18th century, is a real living museum characterised by its fidelity to the 16th century city planning. In addition to the major churches and convents such as St Francis, St Dominic, Carmel and St Anthony, there are also many streets which are characteristic to the colonial city.
Called Pelo by residents, this district is the older part of upper city, or Cidatel Alta. It stretches several blocks around the Largo, and it is the location for nightlife. Pelourinho means whipping post in Portuguese, and this was the slave auction location in the days of slavery, outlawed in 1835. Through the years the district fell into disrepair although it became home to artists and musicians. A major restoration effort was undertaken in the 1990’s making the district a desirable tourist attraction now listed World Cultural Center by UNESCO.
Recognised as the nexus for a most vibrant arts movement, Bahia offers an incredible mix of cultural diversity. There is no other place in the world where descendants of African slaves have preserved their heritage as well as in Salvador, from music and religion to food and religion. Impromptu festivals happen frequently, with drum corps drumming powerful rhythms against the backdrop of colonial buildings. At night residents gather on plazas while the scent of acaraje, bean and shrimp fritters, and other African foods fill the evening air. In other parts of town, a different spirit flows through the crowd as religious followers celebrate and reconnect with African gods at mystical Candombe ceremonies.
Music is everywhere in Salvador. It hosts one of the largest and most recognised Carnivals in Brazil working two millions revelers to a frenzy. The music here is axe, an Afro-Bahian musical genre that mixes samba-reggae, forro, calypso and frevo. Unique to the Carnaval of Salvador are the Afoxes, groups of revelers marching and dancing to the sound of the bands.
Salvador is also the gateway to many wonderful excursions, all within easy reach such as Praia do Forte, a fishing village turned resort located some 60 kms north of Salvador host the country largest endangered sea turtle preservation Tamar project.
Coconut Highway, the beachside strip at Praia do Forte passé soft white sand beaches.
Morro de Sao Paulo.Very frequented island by tourists and locals, plenty of restaurants, hostels and bars.It has four beaches with translucent water.
Tucked in a hidden bay in southern Bahia sits the colonial seaport of Ilhéus. This charming harbour town has been made famous by the acclaimed author Jorge Amado – it’s the setting for the novelist’s well-read story Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon. Fall under the spell of the city’s history, beauty and intrigue on paper and in person. And while there is so much to love about Ilhéus, you’ll probably agree its miles of nearly secluded sandy beaches and coconut groves are the ultimate allure. So pack your sunscreen!