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There is also Sofala, New South Wales
Sofala in 1683 AD, sketch by Mallet

Sofala, at present known as Nova Sofala, used to be the chief seaport of the Monomotapa Kingdom, whose capital was at Mount Fura. It is located on the Sofala Bank in Sofala Province of Mozambique.

The site of the oldest harbour documented in Southern Africa, medieval Sofala took its name from the Sofala River which enters the Indian Ocean nearby. Vasco da Gama's companion Tomé Lopes left a narrative which identifies Sofala with the Biblical Ophir and its ancient rulers with the dynasty of the queen of Sheba. Although the notion was mentioned by Milton in Paradise Lost, among many other works of literature and science, it has since been discarded.

Sofala thrived from about the year 700 AD. The Arabs had frequented the coast since 915, followed by traders from Persia. They conquered Sofala in the 1100s and strengthened its trading capacity by having, among other things, river-going dhows ply the Sofala and Sabe to ferry the gold extracted in the hinterland (mainly Zimbabwe) to the coast. In the 14th and 15th centuries Sofira was controlled by the Sultan of Kilwa, whose capital was in present-day Tanzania.

A Portuguese Jew, Pêro da Covilhã, was the first European known to have visited Sofala, in the hope of discovering goldmines, in 1489. The Portuguese conquest of the town followed in 1505, when Pêro de Anaia assumed the title of Captain-General of Sofala and made it the first Portuguese colony in the region. He constructed a factory and Fort São Caetano from stone imported from Europe (it was subsequently reused for construction of Beira's cathedral). There are very few ruins to suggest the town's former grandeur and wealth.

Sofala lost its commercial preeminence once Beira was established 20 miles to the north in 1890. The harbour was once reputed to be capable of holding a hundred vessels, but has silted up due to deforestation of the banks of the river and deposition of topsoil in the harbour.


Coordinates: 20°09′S 34°43′E / 20.15°S 34.717°E / -20.15; 34.717


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SOFALA, a Portuguese seaport on the east coast of Africa, at the mouth of a river of the same name, in 20° 12' S. Pop. (1900), about 1000. The town possesses scarcely a trace of its former importance, and what trade it had was nearly all taken away by the establishment of Beira a little to the north in 1890. Sofala Harbour, once capable of holding a hundred large vessels, is silting up and is obstructed by a bar. Ruins exist of the strong fort built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Previous to its conquest by the Portuguese in 1505 Sofala was the chief town of a wealthy Mahommedan state, Arabs having established themselves there in the 12th century or earlier. At one time it formed part of the sultanate of Kilwa. Sofala was visited by the Portuguese Jew, Pero de Covilhao, in 1489, who was attracted thither by the reports of gold-mines of which Sofala was the port. The conquest of the town followed, the first governors of the Portuguese East African possessions being entitled Captains-General of Sofala. (See Portuguese East Africa.) Thome Lopes, who accompanied Vasco da Gama to India in 1502 and left a narrative of the voyage (first printed in Ramusio, Viaggi e Navegationi), identifies Sofala. with Solomon's Ophir and states that it was the home of the Queen of Sheba. This identification of Sofala with Ophir, to which Milton alludes (Par. Lost, xi. 399-401) is untenable.

The small island of Chiloane, with a good harbour, 40 m. S. of Sofala, has been colonized from Sof ala (the township being named Chingune) as has also the island Santa Carolina, in the Bazaruto archipelago.

See Bull. Geogr. Soc. Mozambique (1882) for an account of the Sofala mines; and,. generally, Idrisi, Climate, i. § 8, O. Dapper, Description de l'Afrique (Amsterdam, 1686); T. Baines, The Gold Regions of South Africa (1877); G. McC. Theal's Records of South Eastern Africa (1898-1903); Sir R. Burton's notes to his edition of Camoens.

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