From The Hippo’s Ears: Angola

Facts you may not have know about Angola:

Angola, officially the Republic of Angola, is a west-coast country of south-central Africa. It is the seventh-largest country in Africa, bordered by Namibia to the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Zambia to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

Angola has a population of approximately 25 million, is a Unitary, dominant party, constitutional republic, and gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

The most common greeting in Angola is the handshake. Friends and relatives may embrace with hugs or cheek kisses. As in many African countries, greetings should never be rushed. It is important to take time to inquire about the person’s family and other matters of general interest during the greeting process. Basic verbal greetings in Portuguese include “Olá” (hello) and “Como estás?” (How are you?)

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

Angola has one official language – Portuguese. Other widely-spoken indigenous languages include Umbundu, Kimbundu, and Kikongo, in that order. A 2014 census, carried out by the Instituto Nacional de Estatística, mentioned that around 70% of Angolans use Portuguese as either a first or second language.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road.

5. How important is punctuality?

Time is flexible in Angola. People don’t always arrive on time for meetings, as part of the culture.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

Belonging to the same family as Brazilian Samba but distinct from that genre, Semba is the predecessor to a variety of music styles originating in Africa. The subject matter of Semba is often a cautionary tale or story regarding day-to-day life and social events and activities, usually sung in a witty rhetoric. Barceló de Carvalho, the Angolan singer popularly known as Bonga, is arguably the most successful Angolan artist to popularize semba music internationally.

For some time, a new, more electronic music movement, called kuduro, has blossomed in Angola. It combines traditional Angolan Kilapanga, Semba and Soca with Western house and techno. The main proponent of Kuduro is the international group Buraka Som Sistema although there are a number of artistes working on the national scene and a growing number of bedroom producers.

For a taste of Zimbabwean music, listen to Buraka Som Sistema’s Sound of Kuduro, and Bonga’s Kambua.

Miradouro da Lua (Viewpoint of the moon), Belas, Luanda, Angola.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Kizomba is a partnered social dance, that is quickly gaining worldwide attention, especially in Europe and North America. The kizomba rhythm and movement is derived from an up-beat semba, meaning “a touch of the bellies,” which is a characteristic posture of the dance. Kizomba supports a fairly large number of artists singing in both English and Portuguese. The biggest producer in the Kizomba field is Nelo Paim.

Watch an example of Kizomba here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Lubango Festival
Based on the feast of Our Lady of the Hill, Lubango Festival is a 30-day celebration held in Lubango City in Angola’s Huila Province. Beginning in August, it features music performances, fashion parades, a sports tournament, motorbike racing, and the prestigious Miss Huila beauty pageant. The festival also kicks off the Expo-Huila trade show, along with some workshops and a cattle auction.

Sumbe Music Festival
Also known as Festi-Sumbe, this three-day September celebration is an international festival mainly taking place in Sumbe City in the Kwanza Sul province. Marked by performances, bands, singers and dancers from a wide variety of musical genres, it’s quite the show.

Angola Carnival

Angola Carnival is one of the most colorful and widely celebrated festivals in the country. Beginning on the last Thursday of the Lenten season, it goes until the day before Ash Wednesday and features shows, performances, parades, and dances.

9. What are the seasons like?

Like the rest of tropical Africa, Angola experiences distinct, alternating rainy and dry seasons. It is semiarid in the South and along the coast to Luanda. There is a short rainy season lasting from February to April. Summers are hot and dry, while winters are mild. The north has a cool, dry season. The far north has the highest annual rainfall.

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President João Lourenço has served as Angola’s President since September 2017. Previously, he was Minister of Defence from 2014 to 2017. In September 2018 he became the Chairman of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the ruling party. He was the party’s Secretary-General from 1998 to 2003. Born in Lobito, Angola, the President grew up in a family of ten children. He is married to Ana Afonso Dias Lourenço, a Member of Parliament of the MPLA and former Minister of Planning.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

Angola’s main industries include petroleum; mining (diamonds, gold, iron ore); food processing; tobacco; and textiles. A large majority of the country’s workforce is employed in the agricultural sector. Angola joined the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2007. The construction industry is taking advantage of the growing economy, with various housing projects stimulated by government initiatives.

12. How do people spend their free time?

Eating out is a big pastime and in Luanda, there’s a vibrant restaurant scene, with many Angolan-owned restaurants in downtown. Angola has 1600km of coastline, rainforests in the north, the world’s oldest desert in the south, and hundreds of miles of savannah in between. The coastal cities of Benguela and Lobito have art deco architecture and miles of deserted beaches. There’s surfing in Caba Ledo. In Namibe province, you can sleep under the desert stars. There is much to do outdoors. Going out dancing is also a popular activity.

Ilha do Mussulo Beach, Angola.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Luandans love their beer. Cuca is the main brand in town (and in the country), but the newer Tigra, developed together with Germany’s Doemens Institute, is taking a bite out of its market. Angola imports more bottled Portuguese wine than the U.S., U.K. or France, and even backyard restaurants (quintais) sell it.

14. What is a popular local dish?

Several of Angola’s most popular dishes are stew-based, such as moamba de galinha (chicken cooked in a red palm oil sauce called moamba de dendem) and calulu (similar to moamba but cooked with dried and fresh fish). Staple ingredients include flour, beans and rice, fish, pork and chicken, various sauces, and vegetables such as sweet potato, tomatoes, onions, and okra. Spices such as garlic are also frequently seen. Farofa – rice and beans with toasted manioc flour on top – is a dish of Brazilian origin common in Angola.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. AOA 314)

The Angolan currency is the kwanza (AOA).

3 Course meal: AOA 11,000
Domestic beer (500ml): AOA 1,300
Cup of coffee: AOA 1,300
Coca cola (330ml): AOA 760
Milk (1l): AOA 650
Loaf of white bread: AOA 1,100
Apples (1 kg): AOA 1,500
Water (1.5l): AOA 300

16. Any general safety tips?

There is a high level of crime in Luanda. Muggings, particularly to steal mobile phones and other valuables, and armed robberies can occur in any area at any time of the day or night. Areas popular with foreigners are particular targets. Assault is known to be frequent at night, and it is not advisable to travel alone after dark. Avoid wearing jewelry or watches in public places. Don’t change or withdraw large sums of money in busy public areas. When driving, be very wary if another car signals you to pull over. Deposit valuables and cash in a hotel safe where practical. Keep copies of important documents, including your passport, in a separate place from the documents themselves.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Bonga (José Adelino Barceló de Carvalho), a popular folk and semba singer and songwriter. In 2016, he published his 31st album, Recados da Fora.
  • Holden Roberto, the founder and leader of the National Liberation Front of Angola.
  • Akwá (Fabrice Alcebiades Maieco), an Angolan former football player who played as a forward for the Angolan national team, representing the country a total of 80 times.
  • Viriato da Cruz, an Angolan poet and politician, considered one of the most important Angolan poets of his time. He wrote poems in Portuguese and Angolan languages.


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Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]. Image sources: Jorge Sá Pinheiro [1], Creative Lunatics [2], Lass O’Luanda [3].