Freetown is the capital and largest city of the Imperial Dominion of Sierra Leone. It is a major port city in the Atlantic Ocean and is located in the Western Province of the country. Freetown is Sierra Leone's major urban, economic, financial, cultural, educational and political center. The city proper had a population of 1,272,873 as of the 2011 census. The city's economy revolves largely around its harbor - occupying a part of the estuary of the Sierra Leone River in one of the world's largest natural deep water harbors. Its twin-town/sister city is Gatineau, Quebec in Canada.
Freetown has an abundance of historical landmarks connected to its founding by African-Americans, Liberated Africans, and West Indian slaves. Freetown is home to the Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa, founded in 1827. The university not only played a key role in Sierra Leone’s colonial history, but also a key role in the history of British West Africa.
The historic symbol of Freetown is the massive Cotton Tree, which has stood in central Freetown for over 500 years. The Cotton Tree gained importance in 1792 when a group of former African American slaves, who had gained their freedom by fighting for the British during the American War of Independence, held a large gathering on their arrival in Freetown under this tree, praying and singing hymns to thank God for their deliverance to a free land. Close to the Cotton Tree is the Sierra Leone Museum. In downtown Freetown is the Connaught Hospital, the first modern hospital constructed in West Africa in 1912.
The population of Freetown is ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse. The city is home to a large population of virtually all of the country's ethnic groups, with no single ethnic group forming a majority of the city's population. As in most parts of Sierra Leone, English and Krio are the most widely spoken languages in the city. Like the rest of Sierra Leone, football is by far the most popular sport in Freetown. The Sierra Leone National Football Team, widely known as the Leone Stars, play all of their home game at the Sierra Leone Stadium in central Freetown.
Britain created a colony in the area in 1787 as a place to relocate black poor from London, but it was overcome by native hostility. In 1792, the city of Freetown was founded as a colony for freed slaves by Nova Scotian abolitionist John Clarkson, who had fought on the British side during the American Revolutionary War. The settlers called their new settlement Freetown. Around 500 freed Jamaican slaves made the journey to Freetown in 1800 with the Sierra Leone Company. During the next decades, thousands of freed African Americans, West Indians and Liberated Africans came to Freetown as settlers through the Sierra Leone Company. Their descendants are known today as the Krio people.
Freetown is the economic and financial center of Sierra Leone. The country's state television and radio station, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, is primarily based in Freetown. They have regional headquarters in the country's other primary cities of Bo, Kailahun, Kenema, Koidu Town, Magburaka and Makeni. The other national broadcasters, such as Capital Radio, are also based in Freetown. Many of the country's largest corporations locate their headquarters' home offices in Freetown as well as the majority of international companies.
The city's economy revolves largely around its final natural harbor, which is the largest natural harbor on the continent of Africa. Queen Elizabeth II Quay is capable of receiving oceangoing vessels and handles Sierra Leone's main exports.
Industries include food and beverage processing, fish packing, rice milling, petroleum refining, diamond cutting, and the manufacture of cigarettes, paint, shoes, and beer. the Fula and Sierra Leonean-Lebanese play a major role in local trade in the city.
The city is served by the Lungi International Airport, located in the city of Lungi, across the river estuary from Freetown.
The Freetown municipality is politically divided into three regions: East End, Central and West End of Freetown. The wards in the East End of Freetown (East I, East II, and East III) contain the city's largest population center and generally the poorest part of the city. The Queen Elizabeth II Quay is located within East End.
The two central wards (Central I and Central II) make up Central Freetown, which includes Downtown Freetown and the central business district (Central II). Most of the tallest and most important national government building and foreign embassies are based in Central Freetown.
Sierra Leone's House of Parliament and the State House, the principal workplace of the president of Sierra Leone, are on Tower Hill in central Freetown. The National Stadium, the home stadium of the Sierra Leone national football team (popularly known as the Leone Stars) is in the Brookfield neighborhood.
The three westernmost wards (West I, West II, and West III) of the city constitute the West End of Freetown. These wards are relatively affluent. Most of the city's luxury hotels, a number of casinos, and the Lumley Beach are in the west end of the city. The west end neighborhood of Hill Station is home to the State Lodge, the official residence of the president of Sierra Leone.
Like the rest of Sierra Leone, Freetown has a tropical climate with a rainy season from May through to October; the balance of the year represents the dry season. The beginning and end of the rainy season is marked by strong thunderstorms. Under the Köppen climate classification, Freetown has a tropical monsoon climate primarily due to the heavy amount of precipitation it receives during the rainy season.
Freetown's high humidity is somewhat relieved November through to February by the famous Harmattan, a wind blowing from the Sahara Desert affording Freetown its coolest period of the year. Temperature extremes recorded in Freetown are from 17 °C (63 °F) to 41 °C (106 °F) all year. The average annual temperature is around 27 °C (81 °F).