Manaus is the capital city of Amazonas. It grew into a major metropolis under the guidance of Eduardo Ribeiro with the help of the rubber boom.
With the collapse of the rubber market, the city lost some of its splendour, but the Opera House and some large, old, attractive houses can still be seen as testament to the boom time.
Manaus is now a Free Trade Zone, which draws in businesses and money and people.
At the heart of Manaus is the Opera House/Teatro Amazonas. A beautiful building of cream and pink, with a green, blue and yellow dome. Around this building is a large Parisian style square, full of mature trees, restaurants, Internet cafes and small, characterful, old houses. In front of the opera house is a large square, paved in a wavy design symbolising the ‘meetings of the waters’, with a fountain at its centre.
People of all ages gather in the area day and night. There are often open-air shows, with dancing, singing as well as religious conventions. The atmosphere is relaxed and happy.
I have spent many a day and night enjoying what the area has to offer, either alone or with friends.
Behind the Opera house is a busy, noisy high street full of shops of various sizes. They sell everything you could possibly want, clothes and shoes, cosmetics and medicines, electrical goods and souvenirs, food and drink.
The street opens out to the docks. A busy area with boats and ships of all sizes. Restaurants and bars provide food and entertainment. It will probably be from here that most tourists will catch a boat, or a taxi across the new bridge towards the rainforest.
Sadly once away from the Opera House, the houses, roads and pavements deteriorate.
There are favelas in Manaus, best visited with a guide. I visited a family in one. Sister-in-laws of a friend. I received a friendly welcome and felt quite at home, but I noticed the taxi driver wouldn’t leave his cab and looked nervous.
Some homes built by the river look Dickensian. Built of wood and placed higgledy-piggledy beside a river of unpleasant smelling water, I had to wonder how they didn’t fall down. House legs were mostly bent or broken. A flood a few years ago took with it many of these flimsy houses built by the river. The authorities have since built solid, brick homes to house the dwellers of the ramshackle wooden houses that were washed away.
The ‘meeting of the waters’ is where the coffee-coloured Rio Solimoes meets the black Rio Negro to eventually blend into the great River Amazon. For some distance the two rivers move alongside each other and are clearly defined by their colours.
The weather in Manaus is hot and humid. The heaviest rains are in the wet season starting from late November until June. The dry season is during mid-year, July to October. Humidity is rarely below 80%.
It takes several days, at least, to acclimatise to the heat and humidity.