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The City in the Amazon Jungle



Carved out of the very heart of the Amazonian wilderness, at the confluence of the Negro and Solimões rivers, located on the left banks of the Rio Negro, is Manaus – a city of distinct contrasts, attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world who enjoy and experience the adventure of exploring the tropical rain forest. In its isolation, Manaus has remained almost untouched, surrounded by rich fauna, lush vegetation – penetrable only by canoe or small boats, where cranes and more than 1,800 species of birds make their habitat. The rivers seem endless, almost proud as they junction, refusing to blend their waters, running side by side until they fuse into one wide Amazon river. Over a hundred kinds of fruits produce juices of exotic flavor, such as guaraná. Fish stews are seasoned with sensuous Indian spices and served in floating hotels or on river boats that cruise the waterways in endless movement.
In the early years of the twentieth century Manaus became very wealthy and the most important cultural centre in the Northern Region of Brazil. The old rubber barons dreamed of transforming it into a European style city and called it "the Paris of the Tropics". The architecture of the great mansions was a testimony to the luxury and ostentation in which their inhabitants lived.
A reflection of this period of opulence is to be found in the monuments of Manaus, such as the Amazonas Theatre, opened in 1896. Built with the aid of materials and artists brought from Europe, its central area, in the shape of a harp, can seat 640 people in the stalls. In 1965 it was declared part of the Brazilian national heritage and was reopened in 1996 after complete restoration. Other city landmarks include the Palace of Justice, with traces of the French architectural style, the Municipal Market, influenced by the art nouveau style and the Palácio Rio Negro, former seat of the state government.
Manaus is also an important center for ecological tourism. Highlights include the Ponta Negra beach, where, when the river is low, the white sands are exposed right down to the river bed, forming a beautiful contrast with the dark waters of the river itself; the forested area of the Amazonian National Research Institute (INPA), a complex made up of the Botanical Gardens, rich in plant species from the Amazon region, and the Zoological Gardens, which contain various animal species of the region – including some on the verge of extinction; the Indian Museum, with its large collection of objects from the indigenous peoples of the upper Negro river; the Amazonian Natural Science Museum, where a large variety of embalmed animals and insects can be seen; the Museum of Northern Man, which has a collection of objects illustrating the way of life, customs and culture of the local people; and the Port Museum, with a collection of historical items, documents, plans and instruments belonging to the English who constructed the port zone in 1904, with its unique floating docks.

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