City Guide, Malabo
Malabo is the capital city of the country known as the Republic of Equatorial
Guinea. The city lies on the northern coast of Bioko Island, which is formerly known
as Fernando Pó, after the Portuguese explorer who discovered the island, Fernão
do Pó. It is about 40 kilometers or 25 miles away from the Cameroon. The capital
city is located in the Bioko Norte Province of the country.
The city has a unique topography because it is built on the rim of a sunken volcano.
This gives the city of Malabo a zero elevation from the sea level. In 2005, about
156,000 people call the city their home. This makes it the second most populated
city in the country, next to the city of Bata in Rio Muni that is located in the
mainland of Africa.
The city of Malabo is small enough that it can be explored on foot. In fact,
walking is highly recommended so travelers could truly enjoy the scenic views and
interesting architecture of the city.
The colonial part of the city is one of the most charming aspects of Malabo.
The Malabo Cathedral is a beautiful cathedral in a Spanish Gothic style and is better
known as the Santa Isabel Cathedral. It is in the same area as the President’s
Palace in Plaza de España. The palace grounds are located in the eastern portion
of the city and are not open to visitors. The Malabo Government Building, built
in 1965, is where the president of the country lives. City Hall and the surrounding
gardens are also top tourist draws.
The Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial is the only university in the city.
The beautiful campus dates back to Spanish colonial times and is a wonderful display
of classic Spanish colonial architecture. The city’s harbor is a distinct
part of the landscape of Malabo. A walk here gives travelers a view of the waters
of Malabo Bay. You could also see some giant fruit bats living in the trees in the
The Bioko Biodiversity Protection Program in Moka is a top attraction for visitors
who want to learn about the wildlife in Bioko Island, as well as its indigenous
plants. Travelers who want to enjoy the waters for a swim has the option to go to
the nearby town of Luba. This is the second biggest town in Bioko Island and is
only a 90-minute drive away from the capital city. If you have a passion for trekking,
you could go to nearby Riaba. Keep in mind that Malabo and the neighboring towns
are also situated on what used to be a volcano, giving the whole island natural
diversity in the landscape as well as in its local flora and fauna. Bird watching
by the lake is another attractive option while you are in Malabo.
Culture and entertainment
The culture in Malabo is largely shaped by its history. The influence of the
European settlers could still be seen all over the capital city, from the Spanish
colonial structures, French influences to the African cuisine, and the use of Portuguese
as one of the recognized languages in the city.
At the same time, many of the street names and areas in the city have had their
names changed to reflect African nationalist sentiment or to follow an anti-colonial
theme. After all, the city was originally called Port Clarence, and later changed
to Malabo in the 1970s because of the country’s president to push for more
authentic African names. This is why the main streets in the city are called Patrice
Lumumba Road, Bird of Freedom or Independence Avenue.
In a bid to pay homage to the city’s colonial past, the First Hispanic-
African Cultural Congress was held in 1984 to explore the country’s Spanish
colonial past, having been under Spanish rule for 190 years. There are various cultural
centers in the city. Some of the activities in the city include photo exhibits at
the French Cultural Center of Malabo, featuring the country’s photographers
and an Eco-Carnival. The Spanish Cultural Center of Malabo hosts the World Theater
Day in Malabo and a food fair in March and the Reggae Cultural Festival in June.
Food and drink
The food in the city reflects the city’s French and Spanish influences.
There are many good French restaurants in the city. Various meats are available
and used in several dishes, a reflection of the wealth of the country. Fish, chicken,
game and bush-meat are widely available, cooked in dishes seasoned with chilies
and various spices. An interesting drink to try is Malamba, which is a brew made
from sugar cane. Tea lovers will enjoy Osang, which is an African tea.
Shopping in Malabo is characterized by a number of items which primarily includes
fruits, vegetables, meat and fishes. Shopping in Malabo also includes clothes and
local craft items.
There are a number of local markets to enjoy Shopping in Malabo. The markets
sell local produce such as beans, rice, fruit, vegetables, oil and bush meat as
well as fabric and clothing in traditional African prints. Hardware and local crafts
are also sold in the markets.
At the local market, one can find a wide variety of meat. Most of this can not
be found anywhere else in the world. These include meat of antelope, deer and wild
boar. Exotic meats as porcupine and sea tortoise which are considered delicacies
are also found in plenty. These animals are not found in Europe and on other continents.