The capital of the state of Amazonas, which has around two million inhabitants, already appears misplaced from the air: Situated on a broad black-brown river course, surrounded by endless greenery, Manaus can basicly only be reached by water or by air.

The fact that the small Portuguese fortification built in 1669 near the confluence of the Río Negro and Río Solimões rivers became a flourishing city in the late 19th century, literally overnight, and was soon considered to be the richest in the world, can be attributed to the “tree that weeps”. Rubber (cao ‘tree’ and ochu ‘tear’) was already known in Europe from the time Cortés introduced an Aztec pelota team playing with a rubber ball to a ‘guest appearance’ at the court of Charles V. But it took centuries before Charles Goodyear’s discovery of vulcanization in 1839 led to a breakthrough in the industrial use of rubber.
Manaus owes its pompous opera like the luxurous mansions found today in the historic center to the riches of the rubber barons. Today, both look equally out of place as the whole city from above amidst the vast Amazon. The rubber barons built stone monuments of their incredible wealth for themselves and the public, and Manaus came to his Amazon Opera and other buildings that today seem as out of place as the city from a bird’s eye view. Besides the theatre, among these are the market halls of the Mercado Municipal Adolpho Lisboa at the harbour, built according to the Parisian model and inaugurated in 1883, the former customs building at the harbour, known as Alfândega, which was assembled in 1906 from prefabricated components in England, and finally the Palácio Rio Negro, built in 1910 as the residence of the German rubber dealer Waldemar Scholz.
Manaus’ rubber boom only lasted a few decades, until Henry Wickham succeeded in smuggling rubber seeds from Brazil to Ceylon in an act of early biopiracy. In 1910, half of the world’s rubber production still came from Brazil. But eight years later, the Asian plantations covered eighty percent of the world market. Today, more than ninety percent of all rubber comes from Asia.

Among the city’ s sights are the floating docks of the passenger and container harbours, whose construction allows to compensate seasonal water level fluctuations of up to 14 metres.
While all these attractions are located in the historical city centre and can easily be combined to a walking tour of a few kilometres, a visit to the Encontro das Aguas (Meeting of Waters) requires either a boat tour or the booking of one of the expensive overflights in a small propeller plane.
The striking water border between Río Solimões and Río Negro at the Encontro das Aguas provided the graphic model for the famous promenade pavement at Rio de Janeiros Copacabana.
Among Manaus’ museums, a visit to the Centro Cultural dos Povos da Amazonas is recommended, which houses a highly interesting ethnographic and natural history collection, but is located quite far outside the centre in an industrial area. The Museu Amazônico is also worth seeing and centrally located. The Amazon Opera often hosts free concerts of the Seria Guaraná, so that it is worth taking a look at the programme on site.