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The African culture has had a huge influence here and where the original religious ceremonies brought over by the slaves are still practised, they are done so without Catholic dilution. We went to a dance and music performance demonstrating some of the celebrations and prayers made to 5 of the gods worshipped in this culture and it was an hour of incredible singing, drumming and crazy dance moves that were tiring just to watch
I don't know if it's the African influence or something else but Salvador is a HUGE party town. In the 5 nights we were there the cobbled streets lined with brightly painted buildings were filled day and night with Capoeira (the Brazilian martial art that looks like a beautiful gymnastic dance), samba shows, drum shows, jazz nights by the harbour, parades, and extravagant costumes! Brazil has a reputation as a party place and if you go to Salvador you will not be disappointed. Try as we might, we failed to capture the incredible atmosphere here in our photos - it is so vibrant and colourful (and noisy!) no photos could do it justice.
Salvador does have it's darker side though. Lonely Planet warned us that if we are going to get mugged anywhere in Brazil it will be in Salvador (luckily we didn't!) and in the main tourist centre there is a heavy presence of tourist police. This makes you feel safe whilst in the centre but very wary (possibly unnecessarily so) as soon as you leave it. We were also warned about the young kids that beg for money to pay for their crack habit. We were told not even to buy them food because they will sell it and not eat it, which is really hard to do when you see the kids. We met a French lady whilst we were there who had lived in Salvador 10 years ago and was returning to see how it had changed. She said there were less favellas now and a lot less children in the streets than before, which hopefully seems positive for the area, and from what we've heard it seems a lot safer in recent years. Let's just hope it's not an artificial facade to encourage the tourists to visit.
There are a number of beautiful islands that are easily accessible from Salvador which provide the perfect get away from the hectic city but still have the lovely beaches and diverse food. These islands are apparently where Brazilians go on holiday and so we couldn't resist hopping across to one......