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Colombo (derived from Sinhalese name Kola-amba-thota which means "mango harbour"), estimated population 750,000 (1995), is the capital of Sri Lanka. Gem cutting is a regional speciality. Other industries include chemicals, textiles, glass, cement, leather goods, furniture, and jewelry. An oil refinery is located near the city.

Colombo was probably known to Roman, Arab, and Chinese traders more than 2,000 years ago. Muslims settled there in the 8th century and controlled much of the trade between Sinhalese kingdoms and the outside world. The Portuguese arrived in the 16th century and built a fort to protect their spice trade. The Dutch captured the city in the 17th century. The British made the city the capital of their crown colony of Ceylon in 1802.

The University of Sri Lanka, several colleges, an observatory, a national museum, and numerous churches, mosques, and Buddhist and Hindu temples are in Colombo; on the outskirts are two Buddhist universities. The city has some of the best modern infrastructure in South Asia including the biggest port of the subcontinent.

On January 31, 1996 an explosives-filled truck of the LTTE rammed into the gates of the Central Bank in Colombo killing at least 86 and injuring 1,400.

Images of Colombo