Always a pleasant, laid back little capital, Dili has sprung to life over the last three years. Although most of the city was destroyed during the militia attacks of 1999, many of the homes and businesses have been rebuilt

Dili still sports a few Portuguese accents like the villa-lined beach roads, the former colonial garrison built in 1627 and the church built on the waterfront. But new shops, restaurants and bars are opening all the time, bringing a new energy and style to this once sleepy city.

The waterfront at sunsetThe waterfront remains a center of activity from dawn till late at night. A park separates the beach from the road, with banyan trees and benches offering an excellent place to cool down in the shade with a coconut to drink! Fishermen unload all kinds of fish, squid and lobsters on the beach, making this one of the best places to find the freshest seafood in Dili. In the afternoon, join the boys in their daily games of football – an excellent way to meet the local people. Peddlers sell cold drinks, snacks and satay all day and into the evening.>/p>

Soccer at sunsetLovers of art and culture should definitely pay a visit to the Arte Moris (in Tetun, literally Living Art) Art and Cultural Centre near the airport. It is the first fine art school established in the country and is one of the country’s main cultural attractions. Its primary aim is to use are as a building block in psychological and social healing, with a particular emphasis on engaging youth. Collaboration with the popular theatre group ‘Bibi Bulak” has seen the centre grow into a true cultural hub. In 2003 Arte Moris was awarded the UN Human Rights Prize for its promotion of Freedom of Expression.

Tony, one of the many talented young artists at Arte MorisA tais (traditional Timorese hand-woven cloths) is an essential souvenir of your time in Dili, and a unique memento that truly represents Timorese cultural identity. Traditionally tais is made of home-grown, hand-spun cotton, dyed with natural dyes and decorated with mythological symbols. Cotton is woven on simple wooden looms made from bamboo and wood. The art of tais has been passed down through generations, with unique patterns and colours specific to the village or community of the weaver. To weave a tais requires immense patience and skill. You can find tais from all over the country at the Tais Market, the Alola Foundation, several gift shops and street vendors.

A Timorese woman weaving a traditional tais

Strongly Roman Catholic, Dili features many beautiful churches and cathedrals, the stunning white Motael church is one of the oldest churches in Timor-Leste. The newly renovated Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (aka the Dili Cathedral) is claimed to be the largest in Southeast Asia. It was opened in 1988 by the then President Soeharto and blessed by Pope John Paul II on his visit to Dili in October 1989.

Motael Church, one of the oldest in Timor-LesteA massive statue of Christ on the nearby headland at Cape Fatucama is reminiscent of Rio de Janeiro. The statue was a gift from President Soeharto to the people of Timor-Leste. Towering at 27 metres, it is visible from almost every point on Dili Bay.