Praia meaning "beach", in both Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole, is the capital and largest city of Cape Verde, an island nation in the Atlantic Ocean west of Senegal.
It lies on the southern coast of Santiago island in the Sotavento Islands group. It is the island's ferry port and is home to one of the nation’s four international airports. The city centre is known as Platô due to its location on a small plateau.
Praia is Cabo Verde's largest city, a commercial centre, and a port that ships coffee, sugar cane, and tropical fruits. Praia also has a fishing industry and there are resort beaches nearby. It is the seat of the Praia municipality.
|POPULATION :||City: 130,271|
|TIME ZONE :|
|LANGUAGE :||Portuguese, Crioulo (a blend of Portuguese and West African words)|
|RELIGION :||Roman Catholic (infused with indigenous beliefs), Protestant (mostly Church of the Nazarene)|
|AREA :||102.6 km2 (39.6 sq mi)|
|COORDINATES :||14.918°N 23.509°W|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.80%|
• Female: 50.20%
|ETHNIC :||Creole (mulatto) 71%, African 28%, European 1%|
|AREA CODE :|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+238|
Cape Verdeans like to party, and there are many events throughout the year. The largest of them is the carnival, taking place in the beginning of the year as elsewhere in the Catholic world. With its procession and dances it is not too dissimilar to the Brazilian version, but here the processions aren't strictly arranged by samba schools but rather a spontaneous and informal event where everyone can partake.
Other religious festivals (for example honoring a saint) are also reminiscent of the carnival, starting with a mass and continuing as a street festival.
Praia is a good destination for surfing and water skiing. If you are a beginner, hotels often have courses in these activities. If you want to relax instead, head to some of the beaches in and around Praia. Praia de Quebra Canela is probably the most popular among locals and visitors alike. Other beaches are Praia de Prainha, Praia da Gamboa (not suitable for swimming) and Praia Negra.
A large part of the sights are located at the plateau. The old city wall complete with the old cannons protected it from attackers arriving by sea. The governmental district is in the southern part of town.
Praia town hall (Antiga Câmara Municipal). Built in neoclassicist style with a square central tower, the town hall is one of the finest examples of colonial architecture around. It's still in use. When the doors are open, make sure to have a look inside. There's even some information on the building's history available for visitors.
Praia Cathedral (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Graça). The city's cathedral was constructed in 1902 in classicist style.
Supreme Court (Palácio da Justiça). The supreme court is a pretty building at the Praça Alexandre Albuquerque. It may be possible to visit it on the inside too.
Museu Etnográfico. Located in a historic building in the old town, this museum presents the history of the Cape Verdean people through objects of everyday life.
Fundação Amílcar Cabral. Cultural centre dedicated to the revolutionary leader Amílcar Cabral (1924-73). Notable for its murals.
Estado da Varzea. The city's football stadium seating 10,000 persons.
The town of Praia de Santa Maria appeared in 1615 when it took the place of the previous settlement on the plateau, which was originally favored because the nearby port (Santa Maria beach) offered good conditions for ships. Initially used as a clandestine harbor (in order to avoid customs fees at the then capital Ribeira Grande), the settlement gradually acquired the characteristics of a town after much of the population from Ribeira Grande fled there during its decline in the midst of frequent pirate attacks. The official transfer of capital status from Ribeira Grande to Praia took place in 1770.
During the Portuguese administration, only the central plateau was considered to be the city proper and thus the principal zone of urbanization and concentration of municipal services. It was only after independence (July 1975) that the surrounding neighborhoods generally became accepted as part of the city proper.
After independence, the Praia underwent a demographic boom. After 33 years its population had quadrupled, receiving migrating movements from all the islands. As a result, half of the entire population of Cabo Verde currently resides in Santiago; a fourth in the Municipality of Praia; and a fifth in the City of Praia alone.
Praia features a mild desert climate with a short wet season and a lengthy, very pronounced dry season. In fact, outside of the months of August, September and October, little precipitation falls on Praia.
Since the coldest month is far above 18 °C (64 °F) its temperature patterns resembles a tropical climate, but lacks enough precipitation to be classified as such.
Despite the fact that it has an arid climate, Praia seldom gets very hot or very cold, due to its oceanside location on Santiago Island. Temperatures are warm and constant with an average high temperature of 27 °C (81 °F) and an average low temperature of 23 °C (73 °F).
Climate data for Praia
|Record high °C (°F)||32.2|
|Average high °C (°F)||25|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||22.5|
|Average low °C (°F)||20|
|Record low °C (°F)||17.2|
|Source #1: Sistema de Clasificación Bioclimática Mundial|
Geographically, Praia may be described as a set of plateaus and their surrounding valleys. These plateaus generally have the name achada (Achada de Santo António, Achada de São Filipe, Achada Eugénio Lima, Achada Grande, Achadinha, etc. — achada being a Portuguese word to designate a volcanic plateau), but the central one is colloquially called Plateau (in Portuguese itself). The urban settlement is made mostly on top of these plateaus and along the valleys. The islet of Santa Maria is in front of the beach bearing the same name (today more known as Gamboa).
For a long time, only the Plateau was considered to be the city, being the other neighborhoods relegated to the condition of peripheral suburbs. Only after independence did the Plateau merge with the other neighborhoods to constitute what is now considered the City of Praia.
The economy of Praia is dependent above all on the services sector, with some industry as well.
Some industries exist, located on the coast (fishing) or in outlying neighborhoods (rendering of agricultural products, materials for civil construction, etc.)
The principal economic activities of Praia belong to the tertiary sector. Beyond activities related to administration and governance (local and national), there are extensive commerce, services (health care, education, tourism, restaurants and hotels, public functions, etc.), and other activities of a liberal character.