Huambo, known during Portuguese colonial times as “Nova Lisboa,” is close to the dead center of Angola. During the country’s war for independence (1961-1974) and civil war (1975-2002), it was very nearly obliterated as battle lines swept back and forth. Planners dreamt it would one day become Angola’s capital and after three decades of destruction, rough outlines of wide roads, parks and modern buildings could still be seen.
For a glimpse of the city as it was, take a look at this slide show of old photographs and postcards some nostalgic soul posted on You Tube:
In 2004, the streets of Huambo were just re-awakening. A few people walked with carrier bags, a group of kids chased hoops, and a handful of shops sold steeply priced bottled water and cigarettes to the development workers making their way into town. What had once been wide-tree lined boulevards (and the route of a famous racing circuit in the 1960s) were almost impassable. Nearly every building was pock-marked with signs of war or completely obliterated.
Half moonscape, half time capsule from the mid-20th century, one felt very acutely how fragile lives, places and times can be.
See here for a speed-read of the rough details of the conflict in Angola. For a great (if dated) in-depth read, pick up Karl Maier’s 1995 book, “Angola: Promises and Lies.” Available here (UK) and here (US).
Huambo today is apparently much re-built and re-populated.