Welcome to Maicao, a vibrant city located in the northern Republic of Colombia. Founded in 1927, Maicao is a commercial hub and the second largest urban center near the border with Venezuela. The city is situated in the Guajira Peninsula, the northernmost part of South America and within the Guajira desert. Maicao covers a total area of 1,782 km² and at an altitude over sea level of 52 m. The name of Maicao comes from the Wayunaiki: mai-ka-u which means Land of the Maize.

Maicao has a rich history, having been inhabited by the Wayuu people prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The Wayuu gave strong resistance to the Spanish conquest, remaining rebellious until the early 20th century. One of the first families to settle in the area were those of José Domingo Boscán and Manuel Palacio López, who settled near the Venezuelan border between the road that connects Riohacha and Maraicaibo, in addition to the fact that this area had relatively fertile land. In 1927, several wells and windmills were built in the area by a German firm. In 1929, the township (Spanish: Corregimiento) of Maicao was created, following population growth. By 1940, Maicao had 500 inhabitants.

During the 1970s Maicao became a commercial hub due to an oil boom in Venezuela and the flow of contraband present in the Guajira peninsula. The commercial boom attracted Arab and other Middle Eastern immigrants most of whom established in Maicao as merchants, establishing another culture in the area. Due to Maicao’s proximity to the Venezuelan border, it attracted a number of immigrants to the municipality, in addition to its free port characteristics, and in the 1970s it attracted a number of Arab immigrants from the Levant. In 1989, the Colombo-Arab College Dar el Arkam was created. The migrants settled in the center of Maicao, where one of them, José Abuchaibe of Palestinian origin, built the largest building in the municipality, which is the Hotel Don Juan. In 1997 Middle Eastern immigrants built the Mosque of Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, one of the largest mosques in South America.

Maicao has several tourist sites such as the Monumento a la Identidad, a sculpture made by Cartagena artist Alfredo Tatis Benzo, this monument is also known as El Abuelo de las Barbas del Maíz (lit. The Grandfather of the Corn Beards) in reference to how Maicao received its name. In addition there is the Plaza Bolivar of Maicao, it had a statue of Simon Bolivar that was collapsed in 2021 by strong breezes, this statue had remained for more than 34 years in the square. In May 2022, a new statue was put up again, this time by the artist of the municipality, Vespaciano Ruiz Pichón. Another religious site in the municipality is the San José Church, which is the patron saint of the municipality.

Maicao’s economy depends mainly on commerce, with 90% of its economy relying on this sector. The rest is mainly in the service sector, in addition to a small percentage in the manufacturing industry. According to statistics from the Chamber of Commerce of the Municipality it is estimated that there are 1300 registered commercial stores. In 1992, the Special Customs Regime Zone of Maicao, Uribia and Manaureo was established in 1992 to regulate trade in the area. One of the products grown in Maicao is Ahuyama, better known as Cucurbita moschata, this vegetable is processed into flour from this municipality and marketed in European countries.

Maicao is served by Jorge Isaacs Airport, which is located 40 kilometres (25 mi) in the southwest. It is also still a major transportation hub between Venezuela and Colombia. Land transportation is served by a two-lane single-road highway, crossing the municipality of Maicao from Rio Hacha towards Venezuela and another from the town of Maicao south towards Valledupar. While much of the trade is legitimate, there is also a great deal of smuggling and contraband.

Maicao has a unique culture, with a large Lebanese Muslim migrant population who funded and built the Mosque of Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, one of the largest mosques in South America. Although Colombia is predominantly a Roman Catholic country, the region around Maicao has a large Lebanese Muslim migrant population. Maicao along the municipality of Albania have the Montes de Oca Natural Reserve, the reserve is specifically located in the township of Carraipía, south of Maicao. This protected area has at least 14400 hectares, in addition to being the source of water for part of the population of Maicao. According to the Autonomous Regional Corporation of La Guajira (Spanish: Corporación Autónoma Regional de La Guajira) there are approximately 200 types of plants and 177 species of birds, Montes de Oca contain endangered forest species such as Guayacán.

Come and experience the unique blend of cultures, history, and natural beauty that Maicao has to offer. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s rich history, indulging in its mouthwatering local cuisine, or simply taking in the breathtaking landscapes, Maicao is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.

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