The most expensive of cities…

For the second year in a row, The Mercer Group has confirmed that the world’s most expensive city to live in is Luanda in Angola. What the report didn’t make clear was that the city was also one of the most savagely segregated cities in terms of wealth: a tiny native elite and foreign nationals working in oil, sitting atop a mountain of desperate poverty.

I’ve worked in Angola a couple of times and was always shocked at the disparity.  I had, until I looked back at these images, forgotten spending an hour watching Dasilio and his mate fruitlessly begging rich Luandans for small change. I had forgotten the smell inside the tent of Bule’s eye, hanging by a thread, rotten and useless in his head. I had forgotten Engracia sitting in the ruins of her home, destroyed illegally by property developers. I had forgotten the harsh light and the long shadows. Shame on me for forgetting.

My few good memories come, as they often do, by listening to the music on the streets. A decade ago I discovered the delightfully named Bonga via a very talkative taxi driver in the city. That led me in search of saudade – a very difficult Portuguese word that translates roughly as a longing for something lost: a melancholy. You can hear it in the husky Morna of Cesária Évora and you can certainly hear it in the Fado of Carlos do Carmo. You can hear it on the breaking Atlantic waves whispering along the shore of the Marginal where both the rich and poor promenade – but for different reasons…

Here are some images.


Angola - Luanda - A street boy stands in front of a poster of Agostinho Neto, a hero of the Angolan revolution


Angola - Luanda - Two friends, Bule Manuel (r) from Uige and Joachim from Huambo live together in a tented camp for Internally displaced persons (IDP's) just outside of Luanda, in Viana. Both have lost their sight due to the war and Bule's eye is rotten in it's socket. The two men care for each other as best they can


Angola - Luanda - Engracia Lourenco in the ruins of her home in a middle-class suburb known as Golfe 2. In December 2002, men, presumably from the government forcibly demolished privately owned homes on this land. The land titles legally held by the occupants were ignored.


Angola - Luanda - A man walks through a shaft of sunlight on a Luandan street

Angola - Luanda - A woman works herself to a religious frenzy during an evangelical service in the Prenda slum



Angola - Luanda - Dasilio and his friend, both injured during the Civil War, beg from wealthy Luandans


Angola - Luanda - Wealthy Luandans dance the night away at Xavaroti's nightclub in the Vila Alice area of Luanda.