Galle gäl [key], city (1995 est. pop. 87,000), capital of Southern prov., extreme S Sri Lanka, on the Indian Ocean. An agricultural market center, it exports tea, rubber, coconut oil, cloves, and other products of the surrounding region. The city has a cement factory as well. Famous as a trade center for Chinese and Arabs by 100 BC, Galle rose to prominence under Portuguese rule (1507–1640), when it became Sri Lanka's chief port. It was the capital of Sri Lanka under the Dutch (1640–56), whose original fort, built to guard the harbor, still stands. The city passed to the British in 1796. Its commercial importance continued until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the construction (1885) by the British of a modern harbor at Colombo. Since the 1960s congestion and labor problems at the port of Colombo have diverted some shipping to Galle. In Dec., 2004, Galle was devastated by a tsunami caused by an earthquake off N Sumatra.
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