Salvador and the state of Bahia are the European birthplace of Brazil, and also the region where Brazil’s links to Africa are most prominent. Today Salvador is the fifth largest metropolitan area in Brazil, with a population of over 4.8 million, and the ninth most populous city in Latin America. Bahia, by itself, is the size of France.
Bahia is located in Brazil’s tropical playground, in an area known as the northeast that encompasses nine states that between them cover an area larger than the UK, Germany, France and Italy combined.
In 1549 the city of Salvador was founded by the Portuguese around a triangular peninsula that separates the Bay of All Saints (Baia de Todos os Santos) from the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first colonial capital of Brazil, and is one of the oldest cities in the New World. It retained its position as the capital until 1763 when the title was transferred to Rio de Janeiro.
For many years Salvador was the most important seaport in the southern hemisphere and a major centre for the sugar industry and the slave trade. It is the slave trade that has given Bahia and Salvador its African flavour. Over 80% of the current population of the city is estimated to be able trace its ancestry back to Africa. No surprise, therefore, that those African influences can be found in the region’s cuisine, music, dance, dress, arts and crafts, and even religion. Sadly none of the African teams playing at the 2014 World Cup have been drawn at the group stage to play in Salvador.
The historical centre of Salvador contains an abundance of buildings and churches that date from the 17th to the 19th century. At its heart is the Pelourinho where colonial mansions and churches have been restored to their former glory. The entire area is considered to be a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Away from Salvador popular tourist destinations along the coast to the south include Porto Seguro, Arraial d’Ajuda, Trancoso, Itacaré, Itaparica and Morro de São Paulo. To the north is Praia do Forte and Costa do Sauípe, where the draw for the World Cup was held, to name just a few.
For an introduction to the spirit of Bahia you can do no better than read any of the novels written by Bahia’s own Jorge Amado. They include “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”, “Captains of the Sand”, “Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon” and “Tieta”.
Salvador will host six matches during the World Cup, including a quarter-final. The games will be played at the 49,000 seater Arena Fonte Nova that has been totally rebuilt for the tournament. Despite being rebuilt, the new stadium keeps the large opening behind one of the goals that looks out on to a lake. After the World Cup the stadium will be home to both Bahia and Vitoria football clubs.
Fonte Nova – Schedule:
Saturday, 14 June, 16.00 (Spain x Netherlands)
Monday, 16 June, 13.00 (Germany x Portugal)
Friday, 20 June, 16.00 (Switzerland x France)
Wednesday, 25 June, 13.00 (Bosnia-Herzegovina x Iran)
Tuesday, 1 July, 17.00 (round of 16)
Saturday, 5 July, 17.00 (quarter-final)