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This is the first in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated
picture book, Alexander the Salamander .This post is about Manaus, the largest city in
the Brazilian Amazon. Upcoming articles will focus on the Amazon River Basin, therainforest, indigenous groups and wildlife in the Amazon, and the Amazon Ecopark, aneco-
resort. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from the world’s largest
My family and I visited the Amazon region in July2008. We spent the day in Manaus,the capital of
the Brazilian state of Amazonas, before embarking
on a trip to the rainforest.The city lies at theconfluence of the rivers Rio Negro and Rio
Solimões,the two major tributaries that form themighty Amazon River flowing east to the AtlanticOcean. Surrounded by a dense sea of green forestthat blankets the region, Manaus is a gritty, industrial city of approximately 1.85 million
inhabitants carved out of the jungle. It’s a four
-hour flight from São Paulo, the primaryairline hub for most international flights entering Brazil.
The name “Manaus” is derived from the Manaós indigenous group that
lived in the area
until the city’s establishment by the Portuguese in 1669. Manaus has been called the“Heart of the Amazon” and “City of the Forest,” although a more appropriate name is the“Industrial Pool of Manaus,” reflecting the city’s status as an
industrial center. A rubberboom in the late 1800s fueled urban growth for half a century. Since the establishment of the Free Economic Zone of Manaus (ZFM) in 1957, a bevy of industries fromshipbuilding and petrochemicals to manufacturing and agribusiness have developedthanks to tax incentives offered by the ZFM.
Although the city’s footprint is one of the largest in Brazil, its histori
c center between the
river port and the main square is an easy walk. Visiting Manaus’ highlights is a day tour
on foot from any number of hotels clustered in the center. Heading north on AvenidaEduardo Ribeiro takes you to the Renaissance-style Amazon Theater (Teatro Amazonas),
an opera house that opened in 1896 and is home to the Amazonas Philharmonic.The
easily recognizable dome features a large mural of the Brazilian flag.