|Admin. division||Benguela Province|
|o Total||2,332 km2 (900 sq mi)|
|Elevation||39 m (128 ft)|
|o Density||240/km2 (620/sq mi)|
Benguela (Portuguese pronunciation: [b?'l?]; Umbundu: Luombaka) is a city in western Angola, capital of Benguela Province. Benguela is one of Angola's most populous cities with a population of 555,124 in the city and 561,775 in the municipality, at the 2014 census.
Benguela was founded in 1617 as São Felipe de Benguela by the Portuguese under Manuel Cerveira Pereira, 8th Governor of Angola (1604-1607). It was long the centre of an important trade, especially in slaves to Brazil and Cuba. Ships anchored about 1.6 kilometres (1 mi) off the shore, in depths of 7 to 11 metres (23 to 36 ft) and transferred loads to smaller boats which used five or six jetties in the town. However, the nearby deep-water sheltered harbour of Lobito was a much larger port.
Besides the churches of S. Felipe and S. António, the hospital, and the fortress, there were, as of 1911, only a few stone-built houses. A short way beyond Benguela is Baía Farta, where salt was manufactured and sulphur was extracted. Close to Baia Farta was the beach of Baia Azul. The city prospered and grew in the following decades.
The Benguela Railway was built in the early 20th century by Portugal to connect the city and Lobito to the interior, and it achieved great success when linked to the Copperbelt of Katanga, DR Congo and Zambia.
Starting in the early 20th century, Benguela attracted, developed, and retained quality businesses and professionals into its thriving and growing economy. Sisal and fishing industries expanded and the financial, construction and services market boomed until 1974.
Due to the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), which lasted more than 20 years after independence from Portugal, the important Benguela railway line closed, with only the short distance of 30 kilometres (19 mi) between Benguela and Lobito remaining operational. In 1983 Benguela had a population of 155,000. During the civil war the city of Benguela increased its population due to refugees from the countryside.
In the mid-2000s, with a more peaceful environment, restoration of the railway between Benguela and Huambo commenced.
While the colonial part of the city consists of relatively good-quality houses, as of 2011 most of the refugees live in slum areas.
Benguela was one of the centres of Portuguese trade to the African interior. The city remains an important commercial link between western and eastern Angola. Coffee, corn, sisal, sugarcane, and tobacco are grown in the interior regions of Angola and widely traded in Benguela.
Foreign trade is handled through the deep-water port of Lobito, which is located 29 kilometres (18 mi) north of Benguela. Lobito, once the busiest port in Angola, was severely disrupted during the Angolan Civil War. The port has since revived and supports trade in the Benguela region.
The Universidade Katyavala Bwila and Ruvandro Ferreira was founded in 2009.