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Slave Island

Lying just 2 kilometres further inland from the hustle and bustle of the Colombo Fort, the suburb of Slave Island is steeped in a colourful and vibrant past, spanning from the early colonial period of the 16th century. Presently, a major hotspot in Colombo for many a traveller to escape the cosmopolitan culture of Colombo Fort, this suburb of Colombo Fort serves to be a prime example of Sri Lanka’s mutli-cultural society that coexists together. Thus making it an intiguing location for the culture enthusiast.

Top Reason to Visit

Sometimes called ‘Kompannya Veediya’, literally translated to ‘Company Street’, the little suburb of Slave Island, tucked away just behind cosmopolitan Colombo Fort, is a treasure trove for both the history buff and the traveller.

The suburb overflows with a rich history that is reflected in the unique lifestyles of the communities that dwell therein. Further accentuating Slave Island’s ambience is the vast Beira Lake, a perfect place for meditation, within the serene confines of the Seema Malakaya Temple. Thus the 2 top reasons to visit here.

While You’re There

Colonial heritage preserved:

Possessing a history that harks back to the days of the Portuguese in the 16th Century, Slave Island has over time undergone quite a transformation. As a result of the increasing demands of the 21st Century, the Government of Sri Lanka has initiated a comprehensive Urban Development Programme that will modernise the suburb into a cosmopolitan hub, similar to that of the Colombo Fort.

Although the process of modernization will take its course, Slave Island will still possesses colonial traces of its heritage, as seen in the form of the Hotel Nippon, the colonial storefronts along Glennie Street, Malay Street and Justice Akbar Mawatha. Jaunting around these streets certainly does allow you to reimagine that old colonial grandeur it once possessed.

Cultural melting pot and place of meditation:

The colonial period of the Dutch and the British, during the 18th Century up until the country’s independence in 1948, saw Slave Island develop a unique Malay society. The suburb was mainly inhabited by Malay soldiers and their families, who served the colonial masters. As a result, Slave Island is known to the Malays as ‘Kampong Kertel’ and sometimes called ‘Malay Kampong’ (translated to Malay Village). What makes this suburb so special is the peaceful coexistence of the Malays with the other ethnic communities that reside in the area. Proof of this coexistence can be seen in the form of the many places of worship that are located in close proximity to one another, especially at the Kew Road junction where a Mosque, Church, Temple and Kovil stand together. More of this harmonious blend can be found in the form of the Seema Malakaya Temple gently sitting amidst the calm waters of the Beira Lake and the many century old Wekanda Jummah Mosque located on the Wekanda Jummah Masjid Road. Strolling along the streets and passing these places of worship, truly does make one experience the unity in diversity here.

Fancy a game of football or cricket?:

Slave Island may be known for being an escape from the commercial hubbub of Colombo Fort, however, the suburb also proves to be a sportsman’s play area too. Boasting a number of cricket clubs, such as the Ceylon Moors Club and the Colombo Malay Cricket Club, you could try your hand at a game of cricket yourself. Not a cricketing enthusiast? Then partake in some exhilarating football action at the City League Football Grounds at Kew Point Road.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about Slave Island is very simple and straightforward, as there are ample modes of transportation, including buses and tuk-tuks. However, due to the close proximity of the major sites, it is highly advised just walk.

Weather: The suburb of Colombo Fort, generally experiences relatively stable weather throughout the year, save for the heavy monsoons that are generally experienced during the latter part of the year. Slave Island typically averages around 30°C with a humidity of around 78 percent.

Money: Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in many of the shops here. However, it is still imperative that you have cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s to make small transactions all the more convenient.

Clothing: Apart from the places of worship, light and comfortable clothing is the best option to go with, in order to beat the heat.

Safety: Slave Island is a safe place, however, it can get quite crowded in certain places, especially during the evening rush hour. Therefore, it would not hurt to be mindful of your personal belongings.

Meals and refreshments: There are quite a number of local food options in and around the suburb. However, there are international fast food joints in the suburb too, should you opt for a more international flavor.

Looking for a place of meditation? Or are you looking for historical vestiges of Sri Lanka’s colonial masters? Well, Slave Island certainly fits the bill. Coupled with a unique and diverse society that has lived harmoniously throughout the centuries, the little suburb of Colombo Fort is truly one-of-a-kind.

Title image by: KNOWSL
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