Sin: හම්බන්තොට hambantoṭa – Tam: அம்பாந்தோட்டை ampāntōṭṭai
‘Sampan Harbour’ SP, Sri Lanka
From Malay: sampan, ‘a traditional Asian flat-bottomed boat with oars and masts’.
Travellers and traders from the Far East (Malaysia, Indonesia, China) during the Ruhuna Kingdom (up to the 11thC) used the natural harbour here to moor their boats.
There has also been a long tradition of Malay settlement in the region.
The new international port, a Rajapaksa initiative, continues the eastern and far eastern connection: it is Sri Lanka’s second largest and its cost and financing have been the subject of some controversy [Article: The Secret History of Hambantota]. The port was built with Chinese financial assistance (and debt) as part of China’s transnational Belts and Road project.
Up until recently Hambantota was primarily known for its salt, fishing, rice and beaches.
For related place names see Sri Lanka Place names.