Fishermen from Fujian and farmers from Guangdong were the first known settlers in Macau, when it was known as Ou Mun, or "trading gate", because of its location at the mouth of the Pearl River downstream from Guangzhou (Canton). During ancient times this port was part of the Silk Road with ships heading with silk for Rome.
The city prospered by seaborne business with the countries of Southeast Asia, so the local entrepreneurs welcomed the arrival of Portuguese merchant-explorers. They followed in the wake of Jorge Alvares, who landed in southern China in 1513, and set about finding suitable trading posts.
In the early 1550s the Portuguese reached the so called A Ma Gao, "place of A Ma", in honour of the Goddess of Seafarers, whose temple stood at the entrance to the sheltered Inner Harbour. The Portuguese adopted the name, which gradually changes into the name Macau, and with the permission of Guangdong's mandarins, established a city that within a short time had become a major entrepot for trade between China, Japan, India and Europe.
It became a perfect crossroad for the meeting of East and West. The Roman Catholic church sent some of its greatest missionaries to continue the work of St Francis Xavier, (who died nearby). A Christian college was built where students such as Matteo Ricci prepared for their work as Christian scholars at the Imperial Court in Beijing. Other buildings, as well the fortresses gave the city an historical European appearance that distinguishes it to this day.
Following the Opium War in 1841, Hong Kong was established by Britain and most of the foreign merchants left Macau, which became a quaint, quiet backwater. Nevertheless it has continued to enjoy a leisurely multicultural existence and became a favourite stopover for international travellers, writers and artists.
In modern times Macau has developed industries such as textiles, electronics and toys, as well as building up an a world class tourist industry with a wide choice of hotels, resorts, sports facilities, restaurants and foremost a kind of Las Vegas of the east with lots of casinos.
Some pictures of Macao are in my new portfolio: Macao scenery.