The coastal town Hambantota is the capital of the district of the same name. Before the 2004 Tsunami, it had been a one-horse hamlet. The government of former president Mahinfa Rajapakse, who is from Hambantota District, initiated several large-scale development projects with Chineses subventions, such as the construction of a new sea port and an international airport, to develop Hambantota into Sri Lanka’s second urban hub for international trade far away from Colombo.
The name “Hambantota” is derived from the word “Sampan” for boats from Indonesia and “thota” for anchorage. Indeed, Hambantota is the focal area of one of Sri Lanka’s Muslim minorities, namely the so-called “Malays”. Muslims from the Southasian islands were settled in Hambantota during the Dutch colonial period and from the Malay peninsula under British colonial rule.
Hambantota plays a role in Western literature about the island of Sri Lanka, since Leonard Woolf, later on husband of Virginia Woolf, was the British colonial administrator of the district 1908 and 1911.
Hambantota is still a workaday fishing town, and the long curved stretch of a sandy beach to the east of the old fishing harbour is still a perfect place for beach relaxation. Guests of the only hotel at the Hambantota Bay, the “Peacock Beach”, remain undisturbed by touristic hurly-burly. The wetlands of Bundala National Park are close-by. And also Sri Lanka’s most amazing national park, is within afternoon-safari-distance.
Just behind the beach are brackish lakes called Lewayas, where salt is produced by letting seawater into them and then allowing it to evaporate to leave white saltpans.
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