How to spend 24 hours in Manaus, Brazil
Amazonas is the largest state in Brazil, and its capital Manaus – on the banks of the Negro River in north-western Brazil – is of huge importance to the region. Its port is at the centre of everything commercial; it is a Free Trade Zone with electronic manufacturing at its heart, so components are constantly being brought in and the finished products shipped out. The city is also a major departure point for the surrounding Amazon Rainforest. We tell you what to do if you have got 24 hours here:
Starting any day at the enormous food market is a way to see Manaus at its most vibrant and real. A population of 1.4 million sees most of its fish, fruit and vegetables landed at the docks next to the market, and the variety and quantity of produce for sale is astounding. Huge river fish are expertly prepared in the main market and served grilled on open coals to workers and buyers alike, strange jungle fruits and vegetables are set out in bountiful displays and sold in every different way – whole, chopped, frozen, diced, shredded or juiced.
Away from the mayhem of the main market and the adjacent docks, the original market, the Mercado Adolpho Lisboa, is a relative sanctuary where you can have a leisurely breakfast and admire the wrought ironwork of this miniature copy of Les Halles in Paris, said to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel himself.
The historic centre is being restored, but even in its run-down state, it is an elegant testament to the short-lived rubber boom at the end of the 19th century when tenor Enrico Caruso sang and ballerina Anna Pavlova danced in the Italianate opera house, which serves as a backdrop to the main square.
In the shadow of the Teatro Amazonas, and overlooking the Praça de São Sebãstiao, there are some charming little restaurants serving grilled fish in unpretentious terraced areas outside.
The Amazon rainforest – and its humidity – is ever present in Manaus, even most apparently in the staining of the painted buildings and the heavy downpours that hit the cobbled streets and squares, so an afternoon understanding its power and discovering some of its secrets is a great way to start to explore.
We, at cazenove+loyd, have teamed up with a retired army officer who will take you into the jungle and teach you the survival skills that he and his team picked up while living with indigenous peoples on the border with Venezuela, such as how to search for food, trap mammals, catch fish, make fire or build shelter in the jungle. The more intrepid can decide to stay in the Amazon for the night or more. You will learn respect for the jungle and its treasures, and for the communities who have made their lives there and have their customs and habitat threatened by the outside world.
We can organise tickets for a performance at the Teatro Amazonas – which, even if not of a world-class level, allows you to enjoy a theatrical space as perfect in acoustics and unchanged by time as any opera house in Europe.
After half an hour to an hour in the opera house (or more if the performance appeals), it is a short stroll across the street to the spacious first-floor restaurant, Caxiri Manaus, which will serve up some of the most interesting ingredients that you will have seen in the market in the morning and even foraged in the afternoon. We will arrange for the theatrical maître d’ to take you through every dish, explaining how it has been sourced and prepared. It is a delicious education.
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