Colombo (derived from Sinhalese name Kola-amba-thota
which means "mango harbour", altered by
the Portuguese to honour Christopher Columbus), population
737,396 (Colombo metropolitan area: 2,234,289) (2001),
is the largest city and commercial center of Sri
A vast majority of Sri Lankan
corporations have their head offices located in Colombo.
Some of the 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 Colombo, 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.
The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation , formerly
known as Radio Ceylon, - is situated in Colombo. The
SLBC is the oldest radio station in South Asia.