SOFALA, a Portuguese seaport on the east coast of Africa, at the mouth of a river of the same name, in 20 12' S. Pop, (1900), about 1000. The town possesses scarcely a trace of its former importance, and what trade it had was nearly all taken away by the establishment of Beira (q.v.) a little to the north in 1890. Sofala Harbour, once capable of holding a hundred large vessels, is silting up and is obstructed by a bar. Ruins exist of the strong fort built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Previous to its conquest by the Portuguese in 1505 Sofala was the chief town of a wealthy Mahommedan state, Arabs having established themselves there in the 12th century or earlier. At one time it formed part of the sultanate of Kilwa (q.v.). Sofala was visited by the Portuguese Jew, Pero de Covilhao, in 1489, who was attracted thither by the reports of gold-mines of which Sofala was the port. The conquest of the town followed, the first governors of the Portuguese East African possessions being entitled Captains-General of Sofala. (See PORTUGUESE EAST AFRICA.) Thome Lopes, who accompanied Vasco da Gama to India in 1 502 and left a narrative of the voyage (first printed in Ramusio, Viaggi e Navegationi), identifies Sofala with Solomon's Ophir and states that it was the home of the Queen of Sheba. This identification of Sofala with Ophir, to which Milton alludes (Par. Lost, xi. 399-401) is untenable.
The small island of Chiloane, with a good harbour, 40 m. S. of Sofala, has been colonized from Sofala (the township being named Chingune) as has also the island Santa Carolina, in the Bazaruto archipelago.
See Bull. Geogr. Soc. Mozambique (1882) for an account of the Sofala mines; and, generally, Idrisi, Climate, i. 8, O. Dapper, Description de I'Afrique (Amsterdam, 1686) ; T. Baines, The gold Regions of South Africa (1877); G. McC. Theal's Records of South Eastern Africa (1898-1903); Sir R. Burton's notes to his edition of Camoens.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)