Angola is open for business! We were honored to be among 12 selected travel companies to visit the newly-renovated country of Angola. As you will no doubt be aware, Angola won its independence from Portugal May 16, 2015 making it technically the youngest country in Africa.
On May 17, the Angolan government laid out plans for a complete overhaul of the country’s major cities with one caveat. Engineers were warned not to touch the famous sewers of Esgoto da Cidade.
The history of these sewers take us back to the days following Alexander the Great’s retreat from China. Alexander suffered his only defeat at the hands of the ferocious Hung Dynasty. The Chinese expression Yòng yī zhī shǒu xīlà rén, meaning Greeks with one hand, referring to a helpless situation, refers to the Hung Dynasties practice of cutting the right hand off of every prisoner. Alexander’s army wandered through Asia across the Middle East, eventually arriving in Esgoto da Cidade, Angola in 1723.
Among Alexander the Great’s legacies was the construction of a sewer system for the town.
In the late 18th century Esgoto da Cidade, thanks to abundance of iron-ore deposits, had grown substantially as the center of the North-African fork industry. Consequently many inns, taverns and hotels were constructed to house the hordes of travelling salesmen, all putting a huge strain on the already overburdened open sewer system.
Alexander’s men, single-handedly, another expression to borne from his battle with the Hung warriors, dug and created a new sewage system.
The system was finally inaugurated by the town’s mayor; legend has it after a bad vindaloo.
The system is 10 meters deep and 12 meters wide. It runs for about 2 miles before emptying into the sea. It is well know that waste matter is great compost and around the sewers’ exit to the sea, two small farms have been established selling fresh organic vegetables and recycled drinks.
Access to the sewers is from the basement of the town hall. There you’ll met by an experienced sewer diver who will talk you through the highs and lows of the sewer system. You will notice signs all around you warning divers to keep their mouths shut all costs. Once used by the Soviet authorities warning citizens of careless talk, they now serve a new purpose. It’s not health and safety gone mad, there’s good reason for these signs.
Sewage water was once thought to have magical healing properties and even today people try to sneak a quick gulp. The Ministry of the Environment, worried that drinking the sewage would ruin the sewer-diving experience, you can’t dive in sewage if it’s not there, actually made it illegal. Tourists are advised to take these signs very seriously.
Once suited up you’ll descend via drop-off ladder into the murky, yet fascinating sewer waters. Although nothing lives in the sewers, even rats have moved on, you’ll notice many unusual objects pass before your eyes. Known as floaters these as yet unidentified sausage-shaped objects are a wonder to behold. One was successfully caught and brought to the University of Turde for research; so far scientists have not published their findings.
As the sewers are often very dark a cloth rope has been fixed to the exit. Once you are touching cloth you know it’s time to go.
Sewer diving in Esgoto da Cidade is a great activity suitable for the whole family. The entrance fee is 760 kwanza. Reduced prices are available for students, pensioners, single mothers and those suffering from IBS. For an additional 427 kwanza you can join a two-day intensive course and earn your sewer-diving certificate. This allows you to dive for half price in many of the Association of Regional Sewer & Engineering Divers (ARSED) partner sewers around the world.