Negombo

Negombo is a major city in Sri Lanka, situated on the west coast and at the mouth of the Negombo Lagoon, in Western Province. Negombo is the fourth largest city in Sri Lanka and it is also the administrative capital centre of Negombo Division. Negombo is one of the major commercial hubs in Sri Lanka and it is a very important economic centre in the country with about 144,551 inhabitants within city limits.

It is approximately 35 km (22 mi) north of Colombo. Negombo is known for its centuries old fishing industry, with busy fish markets and long, sandy beaches. Negombo is a westernised, vibrant city and it is one of the major tourist destinations in the country. The main international airport (Bandaranayake International Airport) of Sri Lanka is in Negombo Metropolis.

The wild cinnamon that grew in the region around Negombo was said to be "the very best in the universe as well as the most abundant" and for centuries attracted a succession of foreign traders and colonial powers. The shallow waters of the Negombo Lagoon provided safe shelter for seafaring vessels and became one of the key ports along with Kalpitiya, Puttalam, Salavata, Kammala, Colombo, Kalutara, Beruwala and Galle from which the Singhalese kingdoms conducted external trade.

The first Muslim Arabs (the Moors) arrived in Ceylon in the seventh and eighth centuries and eventually dominated the east-west trade routes. Many chose to settle in the coastal areas, and their legacy can be seen today; their descendants the Sri Lankan Moorsremain the largest minority group in Negombo.

The Moors' long-held monopoly over the cinnamon trade, and the circuitous and largely overland route by which it was transported to Europe and the Mediterranean, added greatly to its cost. It encouraged a Portuguese takeover in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century.

Following the British takeover of the Kingdom of Kandy in 1815, Negombo lost its strategic value as an outpost of Colombo. However it continued to develop in commercial influence. The Negombo fishery was at the heart of the seafood trade in Ceylon, and many migrant fisherman arrived annually with the profits of their ventures going into the small, prosperous town. In 1907 Negombo was connected to the massive railway project that was linking the island together under British control and encouraging the growth of plantations in coconuts, tea and coffee.

Negombo is about 2 meters above sea level, and Negombo's geography is a mix of land and water. The Dutch canal flows in the heart of the city. The lagoon is one of the most scenic landmarks of Negombo. There are over 190 species of wildlife and plenty of birds in its mangroves. The northern border of the city is formed by the Ma Oya river which meets the Indian Ocean.

Negombo Lagoon is large semi-enclosed coastal water body with plenty of natural resources. The lagoon is fed by number of small rivers and the Dutch canal. It is linked to the Indian Ocean by a narrow channel to the north, near Negombo city. The lagoon and the marsh land area also support local agriculture and forestry. It has extensive mangrove swamps and attracts a wide variety of water birds. The lagoon supports so many distinct species of flora, fauna and as well as another species of birds and variety of animals. Negombo Lagoon is a major local and tourist attraction primarily for sightseeing and boating tours.

The fishermen who are based at the Negombo lagoon live in abject poverty in shanty thatch palm villages along the water's edge. They rely mainly on their traditional knowledge of the seasons for their livelihood, using outrigger canoes carved out of tree trunks and nylon nets to bring in modest catches from September through April.

Negombo offers one of the best sandy beaches and hotels and resorts on the west coast of Sri Lanka. It draws tourists who stop over for a day on their way to or from the airport. Some quiet stretches of the beach are maintained by the tourist hotels, while others are always busy with fishermen and their equipment. Water-sports and diving are popular among visitors, with a few well-preserved coral reefs and a 50-year-old shipwreck that can be seen in the distance also known as Kudapaduwa that serves as an artificial reef for many varieties of fish. Mora Wala and Beach Park are very interesting places.

There are local handicrafts, batiks and jewellery boutiques on the beaches and the shops.

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