Luanda, Angola

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On the west coast of southern Africa, Luanda, the capital of Angola, has seen its share of strife, but today it is a rising economic powerhouse. Founded by the Portuguese in 1576, the city struggled through decades of conflict—a war of independence followed by a civil war—before embarking on a renaissance fueled by oil and diamonds. Today, there’s a jolting divide between the haves and the have-nots, with ostentatious displays of wealth among pockets of poverty. Your first encounter with the city will likely take place on the Marginal, a commercial promenade with a jumble of modern high-rises, Soviet-style blocks and colonial houses, which runs along the bay.  Highlights of Luanda include the 16th-century Fortress of São Miguel, which houses the Museum of the Armed Forces and has panoramic views. Nearby, the pink National Bank of Angola is a beautiful example of Portuguese colonial architecture, and the Agostinho Neto Mausoleum, whose 120-meter (393-foot) height dominates the skyline, contains the remains of the first president of Angola. Have lunch at one of the chic restaurants on the Ilha de Luanda—preferably under a palm tree. This sandy spot just across the bay from Luanda attracts the city’s newly wealthy crowds and caters to their expensive tastes.