history of Negombo began with spices , especially cinnamon,
which grew wild in the nearby jungle. It was the Moors
who set up a trading system by cutting and transporting
the cinnamon to Negombo. Towards the end of the 16th
century, the Portuguese ousted the Moors, built a fort,
and took over the trade. The Dutch captured the town
from the Portuguese in 1640, but it was recaptured the
same year, only to fall finally in 1644. Then the Dutch
set about improving the fort and developing the cinnamon
trade internationally. In 1796 the British Raj took
over Negombo, by which time the cinnamon trade had declined.
During all this European activity, the Karavas, the
brave warrior clan who were migrants from India, took
up fishing, so that Negombo became the island’s
major fishing port.
The town has a quaint atmosphere, with bustling little
streets and some interesting architecture here and there.
So successful was the conversion of the inhabitants
to Catholicism by the Portuguese that the town is known
as ‘little Rome’. As a result, churches
are plentiful, most of which are highly ornate.