When Frank suggests a trip to
this southern African nation
my mind conjures visions
of white sand and swaying
palms. We soon discover
so many more unforgettable images, each
intrinsically linked to the world of Mozambique.
Mozambique has a wildness that defies the
orthodox constraints of tourism. It’s not a
country for the ‘Disney-style’ traveller who
likes to tick boxes and stick to schedules.
The fact that there are very few tourists here
adds to the exotic remoteness of this place.
We have spent time in a number of African
countries where the common language spoken
(after African languages) is English. Here the
second language is Portuguese, so we are
doubly foreign. Street signs, maps and
menus are a complete mystery.
Mozambique is actually quite a large country
stretching along the south-eastern coast of
Africa, bordering South Africa to the south and Tanzania to the north. We plan a thorough
exploration of the capital Maputo that starts
with a guided tour of the historical sites around
town. If it’s history you’re into, Maputo sits
deep in layers of ancient Arab trade, European
colonisation – including over four centuries
of Portuguese rule – and a civil war lasting
from 1977 until 1992.
The streets are busy with walking vendors
that spruik a fascinating combination of
imported Chinese goods and homemade
items. Man-powered trolleys overloaded with
fresh tropical fruit pull up beside utes packed
full of locals making the most of relaxed
transport rules. Traffic inches along without
a hint of road rage, and tuk tuks squeeze past
dangerously close to hot exhaust pipes.
The buildings that make up the capital city
range from the colonial European era to the
elegantly curved deco style of the 20s and
some modern high rises. One standout is a
home designed by Gustave Eiffel that is built
entirely from imported pressed metal (possibly
not the smartest material as Mozambique’s
average annual temperature is 28 degrees).
The city train station and marketplace, both
housed in gracious buildings over 100 years
old, are not just beautiful photo opportunities
for tourists; they are essential working facilities
crowded with busy Mozambicans.