Barrio Mafalala Mozambique

Barrio Mafalala Mural

Yesterday’s three-hour walking tour of Barrio Mafalala was a thought-provoking experience. I went with a new friend Kari, whom I met through a local tour group – Maputo a Pé. Kari is from Norway visiting Maputo and Mozambique for the next five months researching a university project. She specializes in Social Anthropology and arranged the Mafalala tour through Iverca, a tourism, culture, and environment guild.

Mural of Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

Iverca Association

Iverca Association is an “NGO guild led by young students and tourism professionals”. They promote and develop tourism, culture, and the environment in Mozambique. Ivan Laranjeira, Iverca Director, and his associate Anna guided our tour.


Today, 22,000 people live in Mafalala’s “labyrinth of wood and zinc houses with streets of earth and alleys marked by metallic plate walls”.


Segregation in Maputo

In the early 1970s, Lourenço Marques (Maputo) was a broken city – a Portuguese colony with whites and blacks forced to live separately. Whites lived in the ‘cement city’ on the banks of Maputo Bay. Blacks lived in the ‘caniço (cane or reed) city’ – a set of “peripheral neighborhoods in precarious condition where no consideration was given to infrastructure, water, sanitation, or community facilities”.

The Portuguese required “indigenous people to wear identification cards” and limited their access to the cement city, public transportation, and recreational areas. These restrictions ended when Mozambique won independence from Portugal.

Samora Machel First President of Mozambique


“Marrabenta is not just a musical style, it’s a way of life. It has to do with how we dress, talk, and behave. It’s our history.” Mozambican Singer Mingas.


José Craveirinha Activist, Poet, and Writer

Independence from Portugal

After Independence, the people renamed the capital city Maputo. The former border separating black and white regions, Caldas Xavier Avenue, became known as Marien Ngouabi Avenue, after the President of the People’s Republic of the Congo. Today, Marien Ngouabi Avenue is a busy road “in no way reminiscent of segregation”.

Mia Couto Mozambican Writer and Author of Terra Sonâmbula

Mafalala Resistance and Cultural Change

During the 40s and 50s Mafalala was the “nerve center of political agitation, and the place where a strong intellectual resistance movement began”. Poet Noémia de Sousa and writer José Craveirinha were key figures in the resistance movement and wrote Mozambique’s first “anti-colonialist manifesto”. At the same time, cultural events were changing in Mafalala, and the “Marrabenta became the barrio’s new music”.

Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

Festival Cultural da llha de Mozambique

Barrio Mafalala suffers from “drug abuse, high unemployment, crime, and an overall sense of malaise”. Water is a problem. Electricity is available, but many can’t afford it.


Mafalala is the historical home of Mozambican artists, intellectuals, and important cultural and political figures. It was home base for FRELIMO, the resistance movement that fought for independence.


Noémia de Sousa Activist, Poet, and Writer

As we walked the rough dirt streets and toured points of interest, Ivan provided narrative on history and life in Mafalala. Many of the intellectuals who played an important role in Mozambique’s history and culture lived in the barrio:

Joaquim Chissano Second President of Mozambique


To read Noémia de Sousa is to read Mozambique. Her father was a Luso-Afro-Goesa (Portuguese African) and her mother Afro-German, marking her deep experience of being Mestiço.


Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

“Born in Mozambique and educated in Brazil, Noémia de Sousa was a poet and newspaper editor. Jailed briefly in Mozambique for her political activism, she later lived in Lisbon and France. She edited the women’s pages of the newspaper O Brado Africano from 1949 to 1951. Her poems were circulated in the mimeographed collection Sangue Negro. One of the first African women poets to gain a wide literary audience, de Sousa often published under the pseudonym Vera Micaia.

Mafalala Children

Photographs are only permitted in a few areas of Mafalala. Some photos in this post are by our Iverca guide Ivan Laranjeira. Others are from the personal archives of Elarne and Fedo Cariano, and some from Alejando de los Santos Pérez’s book Mafalala, Cultural Guide of the Historic District of Maputo.


During the 40s and 50s Mafalala was the nerve center of political agitation in Mozambique…….


Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

Sights along the walking tour included the:

  • House-museums of José Craveirinha and Noémia de Sousa
  • Massjid Baraza (mosque) built by Muslims from the Comoros Islands
  • Murals, graffiti, and craft markets

Eusebio Mozambican Soccer Player

During the colonial period, the Portuguese only allowed Catholicism to be practiced openly. It was necessary to camouflage Mosques like the Massjid Baraza. The mosque has existed since 1928 but was only marked as a mosque after independence in 1975.

Graffiti Mafalala Festival

Tufo da Mafalala

We ended with a performance by Tufo da Mafalala. The unique dance group earns a living with their performances and has appeared throughout the world. Makua women originally from northern Mozambique formed the dance group. At the end of their performance, Kari and I joined them for a fun short dance!


José Craveirinha’s work represents an unequaled legacy for Mozambican literary, social, and political history.


Mozambican Singer Mingas

Festival da Mafalala

Iverca promotes a Mafalala Festival which lasts for a month each year. The 2017 Mafalala Festival “introduced an innovative program based on preserving the neighborhood’s traditional, historical, and cultural legacy”. The popular festival features Marrabenta shows and traditional singing and dancing.

Tufo da Mafalala Dancers

I found Mafalala a smaller version of Soweto, a South African township near Johannesburg which I visited several years ago. Soweto was “at the forefront of the fight against apartheid”. Like Soweto, Mafalala struggles with water, waste, sanitation, energy, transportation, and other infrastructure problems.

Maria Mutola, Mozambican Olympic Gold Medalist

The tour left me in a bit of a mental stupor but considerably more knowledgeable about Mozambique and its history and socio-economic environment. I’m still comprehending much about the complex and this fascinating country.



An interesting side note is that during the 1990s Maria Mutola, Mozambican Olympic gold medalist and 800m runner, attended high school in Springfield, Oregon USA. She lived and trained in the Eugene-Springfield area (known as “Track Town USA“). Mutola competed in six Olympic Games and was an Olympic gold medalist in 2000. I retired in Oregon in 2007 after living in San Francisco for almost 40 years.

Central Maputo Moçambique

President Samora Moises Machel Independence Square

After a few days in Maputo, I wondered if a month would be too much time in Mozambique. I’ve felt like that about other places in my travels, only to shed a tear when it was time to leave. Maputo isn’t an easy city. There are challenges – sketchy public transportation and infrastructure, poor signage, a significant language barrier, and humid tropical weather. Adjusting is difficult, but Mozambique is worth the effort.

Our Lady of Conception Cathedral

It’s exciting to get out of your comfort zone and see life from another perspective. Still, it takes several days to acclimate and find your way around a new city. In a month, there’s time to get comfortable with the environment and dig deeper. Each day brings a better understanding of a new culture but getting around has been challenging. Most taxi drivers don’t speak English and communication is difficult. They can misunderstand your destination unless it’s a well-known place or you have a card with the printed address. Buses packed like sardines are potentially dangerous, not to mention learning the pickup and drop-off points.

Vista Portuguese Fort

Maputo Tour Groups and Guides

For the past few days, I’ve explored the city concentrating on major attractions in central Maputo. Different guides have taught me about local culture and history. Some have picked my brain about difficulties experienced as a tourist in Maputo.

Hair for Sale Central Market

One local group – Maputo a Pé – is knowledgeable and well-connected with local clubs and expat organizations like the French and American cultural centers and the Club of Mozambique. Their office is in the information center near the entrance to Tunduru Botanical Gardens. I’ve appreciated their help and plan to go on an “art safari” and barrio walks to learn more about Mozambique.

Relief of Portuguese Soldiers and King Ngungunhane

Walking on concrete pavement for extended periods of time takes its toll. To make it worse, Maputo’s pavement is a mass of cracked cement and people park their cars on the sidewalks. This forces pedestrians to walk in the street until they can divert to a safe, unobstructed walkway. I’m getting accustomed to this, but it’s dangerous. Reckless drivers have the right-of-way and often disregard vulnerable pedestrians. The police don’t do much about the parking or bad driving…………………but I’m digressing…

Central Market

Central Market

One of my guides – Hendy Mario of Maputo Free Walking Tour – specializes in Maputo’s historical sites. Hendy is Mozambican. His wife is from Georgia USA. Hendy grew up on the Island of Mozambique, a remote fishing village on a “crescent-shaped coral island” in northern Mozambique. The island is noted for its mixture of European, Arabic, and Indian cultures. For centuries it was a Portuguese trading post on the route to India and considered the “capital and trading centre of Portuguese East Africa“.

Hendy Mozambique Free Walking Tour


“The entire Ilha de Mocambique is barely two miles long and a few hundred yards wide. It’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.”


Hendy’s tour was set up like those I enjoyed in Prague. You aren’t obliged to pay a set fee. Instead, you pay the guide what the tour was worth to you. I learned much from Hendy and thought my time was well spent.

Walkway Maputo Train Station

We walked the central area where he pointed out notable buildings and talked about their history. Many of them are described in Phillip Schauer’s book Maputo Architectural and Tourist Guidea valuable reference when the dull brain fails.

Portuguese Monument to the Great War

Hendy’s tours concentrate on major historical attractions, some I’d visited previously on my own. His narrative provided more insight and taught me about African ethnic culture in Mozambique – the subject of a separate blog post to follow soon. Despite ethnic and linguistic differences, “there is little conflict among the various groups”.

There are twelve major ethnic groups in Mozambique:

  1. Makua – largest ethnic group
  2. Sena
  3. Shona
  4. Tsonga / Shangaan
  5. Makonde
  6. Yao
  7. Swahili
  8. Tonga
  9. Chopi
  10. Ngoni
  11. Ndau
  12. European, South Asian, Chinese, Mestiço (mixed races)


“The greatest cultural disparities are those dividing the north from the south. Because they’re far from the capital and other urban centers, northern groups show less influence from the Portuguese.”


Central Maputo Attractions

Hendy and I met at Hotel Pestana Rovuma’s café near Independence Square, and our first stop was Nossa Senhorha da Conceicao (Our Lady of Conception). The beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral is a well-known landmark in Maputo with a tall single spire and stained-glass interior. Portuguese architect Marcial Simões de Freitas e Costa built the cathedral in 1944.

French Cultural Center

There was a large funeral gathering at the cathedral with government cars parked outside. I didn’t think it appropriate to walk inside but will return later to see the interior artwork and stained glass.

Across the street from the cathedral we visited City Hall, a French “Beau-Arts” building. The architects were Carlos Cesar do Santos, Franz Keindl, and Arnaldo Pacheco Pereira Leite. Completed in 1947, the words of the former President of the Portuguese Republic Americo Tomas – “Aqui e Portugal” (This is Portugal) – were inscribed on the building but removed after Mozambique’s independence.

Joaquim Augusto Mouzinho de Albuquerque

An imposing Statue of Samora Machel – 30 ft. tall weighing 4.8 tons – dominates Independence Square. Machel was a follower of Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, the assassinated leader and founder of The Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO). During the 1960s, he spent time with Mondlane in Tanzania where FRELIMO was founded. Machel was Mozambique’s first President from 1975 to 1986. He died in an air crash in South Africa under suspicious circumstances. His statue was “designed and constructed in North Korea by the Mansudae Overseas Projects, an arm of the Mansudae Art Studio“.

Wooden Coffin of King Ngungunhane

King Ngungunhane

His widow, Graça Machel, later married South African President Nelson Mandela. She’s an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights. In 1997 she became a British dame for her humanitarian work and now lives in Maputo.


Graça Machel is the only woman in history to have been first lady of two separate republics, serving as the First Lady of Mozambique from 1975 to 1986 and the First Lady of South Africa from 1998 to 1999.


Built by the Portuguese, after Mozambique gained independence in 1975, the square’s name changed to Praça da Independência. Samora Machel’s statue replaced Portuguese cavalry officer Joaquim Augusto Mouzinho de Albuquerque. Albuquerque’s statue was moved to the old fort with other remnants from the era of Portuguese rule.

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

Mozambican Artists and Master Wood Carvers

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

Wood Carving Portuguese Fort

We passed the Iron House near the botanical gardens and designed by an associate of Gustave Eiffel in the late 19th century. Intended to be the governor’s residence, the house’s metal-plated exterior was unsuitable for tropical weather. Inside there was a display of interesting pieces by local artists – all made from bullets and remnants of Mozambique’s civil war.

Avenida Buildings

I’ve visited Tunduru Botanical Gardens a few times to escape the heat and busy city streets. Trees and plants in the park are a magnificent haven. Hendy pointed out a colony of fruit bats that made the park their home. You can see them literally hanging in the trees.

On the way to the fort we passed interesting architecture including the Avenida Buildings which burnt down in 1990 and were never restored.  In a prime central location, they were constructed in the 1900s for Gerard Pott, a South African and Honorary Consul of Transvaal.

Graça Machel

Another interesting building that has seen better days is the TAP (Portuguese National Airline) or Montepio (Portuguese Savings Bank) building. There’s a colorful abstract mosaic painted on the façade. It’s had many uses and now is an apartment building.


We continued to restored Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora da Conceicaothe Portuguese fort built it in the mid-19th century and surrounded by fragrant frangipani trees. The fort’s museum houses “remnants from the era of early Portuguese forays to the area”. The sealed, carved wooden coffin of King Ngungunhane – “final ruler of the famed kingdom of Gaza” – is on display in one of the side rooms.

Montepio Building

In another area of the museum, local Mozambican artists and master wood carvers crafted beautiful detailed wooden carvings. They depict scenes from Vasco da Gama’s arrival in 1498 and the Portuguese take over up until Mozambique’s independence in 1975. The hard-fought battle for independence was fierce and brutal. Africans fought on foot using primitive weapons, while the Portuguese had horses and guns!

Inside Maputo Train Station

We ended the tour at CFM Railway Station. The beautiful Victorian building was designed in 1920 by an associate of Gustave Eiffel. It has a wrought iron roof dome and marble pillars and is considered one the most beautiful train stations in the world.

Local Art from Civil War Remnants

Local Art from Civil War Remnants

Local Art from Civil War Remnants

Local Art from Civil War Remnants

A Monument to the Great War stands in front of the CFM station. It represents the “efforts of the Portuguese and Mozambicans in the World War I”. The statue is considered a Portuguese memorial “representing Portuguese sacrifices repelling the German invasion of northern Mozambique”. Portugal “conscripted thousands of Mozambican men to fight for the Allies”.  “More than 130,000 Mozambicans died in the war,” resulting in an uprising in 1917.

After Mozambique gained independence in 1975, the Minister of Transportation wanted to destroy the Monument, but the “multi-ton hunk of steel-reinforced concrete made that difficult”. Today it remains as a somewhat neglected monument to Mozambique’s “territorial integrity”.

Old Engine Central Train Station

“Legend states that the female figure in the Monument to the Great War honours a courageous woman who rid the area of a deadly cobra (rising up from her feet), which killed many people. The notorious creature met its match when plunging to its death into a boiling cauldron of porridge balanced on her head.”

Iron House

After visiting the station, I thought about taking the train from Maputo to Cape Town in March. When talking with several locals, I realized it would be a long, uncomfortable trip. With frequent stops, it could take up to 7+ days. I’ll fly instead.

Cine África

This central tour merely scratched the surface of the many interesting buildings in Maputo – each with its own unique story. Another favorite is Cine África on Avenida 24 de Julho. The beautiful Art Deco building was once a theatre that “disseminated films produced in Africa,” but it’s now closed.

Portuguese Fort Vista


“Inhaca Island reefs are among the most southerly in the world. Since 1976 parts of the island and surrounding waters are a marine reserve with over 300 different species of birds.”


Maputo Beach

Nature Reserves, Inhaca, Ponta do Ouro

Some of Mozambique’s nature reserves are closed from November through March for the rainy season. I’m planning a snorkeling trip to Inhaca island in Maputo Bay and perhaps Ponta do Ouro. Inhaca is a marine research center known for remarkable coral reefs. Ponta do Ouro is a popular area near the South African border. Getting to both locations can be complicated and involves ferries and booking in advance.

Heroes, Guedes, Maputo Police

Crafts Fair – Feira de Artesanato, Flôres e Gastronomia (FEIMA)

My guided tour is delayed until Monday, so yesterday I explored Maputo by foot again. It was overcast, ideal for walking. I learned that not much happens in Maputo on Saturday morning, especially when it’s a public holiday – February 3rd is National Heroes Day.

Pancho Guedes


“Heroes Day commemorates the lives of fallen soldiers who fought for the country’s independence, specifically Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane the assassinated leader of the Mozambican independence movement political party, “


Portuguese Colonial Residence

Saturday street traffic was light compared to during the week, and people were moving slowly. It’s my first Saturday in Maputo, and I’m still learning how things work. Just as I’d grown accustomed to hearing good morning in Afrikaans – goeiemore, Zulu – sawubona, or Xhosa – mholo, now it’s bon dia, a Portuguese expression everyone recognizes!

Pancho Guedes Buildings with Concrete Relief

Pancho Guedes and Tropical Modern Architecture

I walked around Maputo’s crafts fair Feira de Artesanato, Flôres e Gastronomia (FEIMA), and then headed to an area known for its tropical modern architecture. Pancho Guedes was among Portuguese artists, architects, and intellectuals stifled by dictator Salazar during the 1920s. He left Lisbon and emigrated to Maputo where the atmosphere was more creative and liberal.

Most Mozambicans are friendly and helpful – sometimes teenage vendors are obnoxious. Their customs are rooted in local culture and passed down by generations. Song and dance play an important part in local activities and ceremonies.

Tropical modern architecture was popular in Mozambique and Angola during the 1950s and 60s. In those days, there was no air conditioning, so houses were built to “adapt” to hot tropical conditions by using ledges, galleries, and pierced concrete screens”.  Elements of the style that “cool” include shaded stairways, covered walkways, and perforated walls.


I claim for architects the rights and liberties that painters and poets have held for so long. Pancho Guedes


Helen Lieros Frescoe

Frescoe Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Inside Greek Orthodox Cathedral

Ceiling Greek Orthodox Cathedral

I went inside the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gabriel. Zimbabwean artist Helen Lieros painted the colorful frescoes free of charge.

Hotel Polana Maputo

Police at the Presidential Complex

The walking tours in Phillip Schaueer’s book Maputo Architectural and Tourist Guide are well narrated, and I walked the route with it in hand. After an hour or so, I turned the corner and entered an area of government buildings along Avenida Julius Nyerere. At that point, the scene abruptly changed.

A man dressed in plain clothes approached me and ordered, “Hand over your phone and come with me.” Startled, I said “NO, I don’t know you!” Then, things got tense. Suddenly a machine-gunned guard from the President’s Complex came across the street and started asking if I had taken any pictures. Again, I said no, and explained that I was a tourist photographing buildings along a nearby walking route and showed him a map of the route in Schauer’s book.

Still unconvinced and full of military machismo, the man asked to see my camera which I handed over while continuing to explain that I was a tourist on a walking tour. He said “someone” along the route had reported me taking photos of the President’s Complex! That was creepy, as the streets were mostly vacant, and I had only seen a few guards in residential areas, none near the government complex.

The machine gun-toting guard spoke and understood English. I told him his gun was scaring me! He looked through the photos on my camera, finally seemed convinced of no foul, and said I could go. Flabbergasted, I walked away! As I continued, another official looking man eyed me as he passed walking in the opposite direction. I kept my head down and ignored him.

I remember reading that it wasn’t wise to photograph government buildings and didn’t do that. Nowhere did it say if you walked by the President’s Complex – albeit on the other side of the street – you might be approached by a guard carrying a machine gun!!! YIKES…. I also read that you must always carry your passport. If the police ask to see it and you don’t have it, you could be headed to jail. It’s puzzling that the guard who approached me never asked for identification or the address of where I was staying.

Maputo Waterfront

I usually don’t carry my passport on outings and didn’t have it with me. When walking around in a foreign country, I prefer leaving my passport locked in the hotel safe but carry a copy of the photo page. If you lose your passport, you’re in big trouble.

Suppose I could have been handcuffed and carted off to jail. Hopefully, they would have released me eventually, because there are no photos of the Presidential Complex on my camera! It was a scary experience. Maybe they thought I was a member of the  Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) – will never know…. On the other hand, maybe the guard just wanted me to pay him money – didn’t think of that.

With just cause (?), the Mozambican government seems to keep a very close eye on everything happening in Maputo!

Exploring Maputo

Avenida Armando Tivane Maputo

The travel day from Amanzimtoti to Maputo wasn’t quite bad enough to label “from hell,” but it was close. The small commuter flight was unremarkable, and I passed through Mozambique Immigration easily, but getting from Amanzimtoti to Durban’s King Shaka Airport was full of hiccups.

King Shaka Airport

Travel Day Disasters

Havoc on the N2 – During the drive to the airport, traffic on the N2 was slow and congested. A truck jackknife blocked northbound traffic, bringing everything to a standstill. Thought the delay would result in missing the flight to Maputo, but somehow, I squeaked by and made it on time.

Maputo Skyline

Excess Baggage AGAIN – There was a misunderstanding about the “checked” baggage allowance, ha – a misunderstanding explained as clearly my mistake ; ( – not the airline’s! An efficient agent helped sort it. The commuter airline – SA Airlink Ltd. – is privately owned, not the same as South African Airways (SAA), and doesn’t share their baggage allowance limits. However, SAA handles their bookings, billing, and check-in. There has been much happening with SAA in recent months – almost as bad as Air Zimbabwe! SAA is on and off being on the brink of bankruptcy. They were recently, bailed out by the South African Government.

Reluctantly I paid $50 for a second bag, and that always angers me. Having flown on so many airlines this trip, I’ve become weary of being penalized for having two bags – reasonable for a long trip through multiple climates and countries. Booking a restrictive round-trip ticket hampers my free spirit and isn’t for me. I like to leave things open and maintain options like changing the itinerary anytime and on the fly.

Fruit Vendor

Many European and African airlines heavily exploit baggage allowances. If you’ve followed my blog posts, it’s a recurring theme. This $50 fee didn’t seem worth a fuss, but in the past, I’ve thrown a fit when asked to pay as much as $500+ in excess baggage fees for a second bag – shameless robbery!

Maputo Bay

Credit Card Problems – After receiving an email alert about an unknown charge, I notified the credit card company – they freaked and immediately cancelled my card. The issuing company credited the erroneous charge within the hour, but the cancelled card was traumatic for me. Thankfully, I had a backup to use until the replacement arrived. It was another card that doesn’t charge foreign currency conversion and other travel fees, or I’d be paying some hefty transaction charges.


Maputo Katembe Bridge

Food Crisis – There was no time for breakfast. I was super hungry and stopped for a quick wrap to take along. It was packaged poorly and fell apart in my bag – lettuce, tomato, avocado everywhere….

Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gabriel

More Credit Card Mayhem – The credit card didn’t recognize Maputo, even though I filed an updated travel plan that included Mozambique. The bank’s system must have flagged it as shady and flat-out rejected payment. After a few raised eyebrows at the hotel and an email, I resolved the problem. I like the hotel. It’s well-located, reasonably priced, and comfortable with a helpful concierge!

Maputo Natural History Museum

Laptop Revolt – After what seemed like “running the gauntlet“, I took a few minutes to sit quietly in my room and take a deep breath. THEN, the laptop decided it was not changing wireless networks any more. It went berserk listing WiFi connections “automatically” connected to in past countries as “unavailable” and sending confusing messages. Don’t understand how the laptop remembered all those old WiFi networks – there have been so many! Eventually, the computer came to its senses and calmed down. It’s fine now, except everything initially appears in Portuguese and is then translated (sometimes) to English!

Cafe along Avenida Julius Nyerere

Easy Peezee Mozambican Visa – The only “pleasant” surprise of the day was that Mozambique Immigration was easy and a no-nonsense, non-intimidating process. They asked for a passport with sufficient blank pages and a completed visa form and quickly stamped a visa – yeah! The charge was $50 which thankfully you could pay with a credit card – some African countries require cash in $USD. Two Scottish tourists held their USDs in hand ready to pay. Immigration officials took fingerprints and a photo, which appear with the visa stamp. If you stay beyond the visa dates, you pay a hefty fee when leaving the country.

Avenida Julius Nyerere

Maputo Transportation

I decided not to rent a car, since research indicates hectic traffic and that driving in Maputo is dangerous. After South Africa, I needed a driving break. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to get around, other than by foot of course. Everyone says Maputo is best seen on foot, but hitting the pavement all day every day eventually gets tiring, especially in the 90+ degree heat.

Artisan Market

Maputo Artisan Market

Public transportation in Maputo is non-existent and problematic. The government long ago scrapped a past project for building a much-needed tram system – primarily because of the high cost. They need to do something, as not all tourists can afford to hire a limo.

Avenida Julius Nyerere Maputo

The concierge advised that crowded local buses are dangerous and suggested avoiding them, especially the minibus local taxis called “chapas“. Public transportation is a sore subject in Maputo, especially for commuters – something I missed while doing research.

Typical Street Cart Maputo

After their civil war, Maputo had a “public transport crisis”. A state-owned company, Transporte de Moçambique (TPM), tried to fix the problem by acquiring several hundred buses which are now old, but still operating.

Mozambican Wood Carving

Electric Trams

In the early 1900s, Maputo was home to “one of the first electric tramways in Africa”. The tram system lost popularity and caused “protests from the public, because certain classes had limited access to its use”. They haven’t been used since 1936 – maybe they should rethink this?

Modern Buildings Avenida Julius Nyerere


Maputo also has three-wheeled tuk-tuks like those used in Cambodia and India. They pose a competitive threat to the taxis and are called “tchopelas“. The ones I’ve ridden are pretty funky.

View from My Accommodation

First Day Exploring Maputo

I spent my first full day walking and exploring the busy area near my hotel. Avenida Julius Nyerere and Avenida Armando Tivane both have interesting architecture and shops, cafés, and restaurants. Julius Nyerere was an anti-colonial activist and politician and the first president of Tanzania. Armando Tivane was a political commissar during Mozambique’s national liberation struggle. He excelled at boosting the morale of the guerrillas and helped them gain the strength to defeat the Portuguese and gain freedom.

Portuguese Pastries Taverna Doce Avenida Julius Nyerere

The cafés on Avenida Julius Nyerere are cozy and serve great pastries, espresso, and tea! The street pavement throughout most of Maputo is a mess – cracks and crumbling concrete on the sidewalks. I’m not sure if it’s damage from the civil war but it’s potentially dangerous for anyone with a disability.

Mozambique economics – after gaining independence from Portugal in 1975 – is obvious from some of Maputo’s street names. Mao, Lenin, Marx, Engels, Ho Chi Minh, and even former North Korean President Kim Il Sung all have streets named after them.

Modern Building

There are guards posted everywhere – some with machine guns – but I saw no evidence of violence or crime. Every bank ATM has an armed guard. Very little English is spoken – so I’m learning survival Portuguese, which has similarities with Spanish.

Greek Orthodox Cathedral

It’s nice to be in a city again. Maputo is reminiscent of some other cities visited – of course Lisbon, and maybe Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. The outside cafés and exotic tree-lined streets are beautiful, and food is fantastic with good service. It’s a late-night city with active nightlife – quite a switch from Durban, Amanzimtoti, and isolated Seychelles. I went out for dinner last night and enjoyed the evening.


Tropical Modernism

Bought an interesting book – Maputo Architecture and Tourist Guide by Philipp Schauer.  Schauer is the German Ambassador to Mozambique. His book has maps and descriptions of interesting city walking tours. It “focuses on Maputo’s architecture” but tells great “stories of its inhabitants and gives ideas and in-depth history of the city”.  Maputo has unusual but fascinating art and architecture, and every day I learn new terms like Tropical Modernism – huh….

Tropical Modernism

Tomorrow, I’m taking an all-day guided tour of major points of interest. The hotel concierge helped arrange it and found a reasonably priced guide. Haven’t taken many photos yet. Walking around with a camera in hand is a bit dangerous – as I was reminded by a group of 5 or 6 menacing young guys hanging out on the street! Looking into nature reserves to see if I can find an affordable one for later in the month.


Mozambican Capulanas

Can’t believe it’s already February! More when possible….

Maputo Mozambique

Skyline Maputo Capital of Mozambique

During 2017-2018 travels, I’ve made a point of experiencing new places, trying not to only frequent favorite, familiar haunts like Cape Town. After a much needed seaside respite in Amanzimtoti near Durban, I leave South Africa next week for a month exploring Mozambique, beginning with Maputo. Mozambique has long fascinated me. I passed through the country on safari a few years ago, but didn’t spend meaningful time there. It’s my first visit to Maputo.

Maputo Railway Station

I’ve read mixed reviews of the city – good, bad, and downright scary. One solo woman blogger labeled it as her “least favorite city in the world”. I try to keep an open mind when reading negative articles and don’t let them deter my travels. Mozambique is a popular destination for South Africans, and everyone I’ve talked to praises it as a vibrant, exciting city.

Geography and History

Maputo is known as the City of Acacias and the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”. Population in the city proper is a little over one million. There are appealing written descriptions of Maputo portraying its streets lined with the “yellow, red, and purple canopies of Acacia, Flame, and Jacaranda trees”.

Mozambican Flame Tree


“Founded as a port town by the Portuguese, the influence of travelers and traders from Africa, Asia, and Europe made Maputo a diverse and lively metropolis.”


Dhow Maputo Bay

Maputo is 50 miles from South Africa’s border, with the Maputo River separating the two countries. Mozambique’s southern border is on the northern bank of the Esturio do Esprito Santo leading to Maputo Bay. Maputo is on one end of the Bay with rustic and laid back Catembe on the opposite edge. Maputo Bay is 56 miles long and 20 miles wide. In the 1500s, it was called Catembe Bay – “an exchange place for Arab and African merchants”. In an economy based on the Ivory trade, sadly elephant tusks were the primary product.

Mozambican Panorama Estevão Mucavele

The new Maputo-Catembe Bridge replaces the current ferry and road systems between Maputo and Catembe. The two-mile bridge cuts transport time to South Africa significantly and will boost trade and tourism. When completed, it will become Africa’s longest suspension bridge.

Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach Mozambique. Da Gama landed in the Muslim island town of Moçambique in 1498. Portuguese explorer Antonio de Campos followed Da Gama and discovered Maputo Bay. He was followed in the late 1500s by navigator Lourenço Marques. Maputo Bay was once known as Delagoa Bay and the city of Maputo as Lourenço Marques.

In 1876, the Portuguese government sent a commission to develop the area and build a hospital and church. Maputo became a city in 1887 and the capital of Mozambique in 1898. With a busy port and railroad serving South Africa’s gold fields, the city continued to grow.

Independence and Civil War

Mozambique’s independence from Portugal in 1975 was followed by years of intense civil conflict that concluded in 1992. The civil war was violent with transformation into a socialist one-party-state, crackdown on dissidents, and widespread nationalization of Portuguese-owned enterprises. White Portuguese Mozambicans fled the country “creating economic collapse and chaos”.

Maputo River Basin


Civil war left Mozambique in disrepair with visible “signs of the violent 16-year conflict, like bullet holes on the walls of many buildings”.


In 1962, the nationalist independence movement – Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) – became a prominent political force in Mozambique. The party has ruled the country since its independence in 1975. Frelimo struggled through civil war against an anti-Communist faction known as Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO).

Niassa Reserve Northern Mozambique

RENAMO insurgents “received support from the then white-minority governments of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa”. In 1990, Frelimo approved a new constitution and established a multi-party system. The RENAMO opposition party “never fully integrated into Mozambican politics”. Since democratic elections began in 1994, Frelimo continues to be the solid elected majority party in parliament.

Statue of Samora Machel Maputo Independence Square

Economy and Culture
Mozambique is one of the least developed countries in the world. The country’s abundant assets and potential are promising, including a 2,000-mile coastline, three major shipping ports – MaputoBeira, and Nacala – and rich mineral, coal, natural gas, and offshore oil resources. Healthcare, education, poverty reduction, food security, and job creation are Mozambique’s priorities.

Mozambican Peri-Peri Prawns

Maputo’s economy centers around its busy port, a gateway to South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Chief exports include cotton, sugar, chromite, sisal, copra, and hardwood. In addition to trade, there are robust manufacturing and service sectors. Maputo has several universities, including the oldest in the country – Eduardo Mondlane University.”

In 2016, Mozambique’s economy “entered into a crisis after the discovery of $2 billion in questionable government-backed loans to three state-owned companies. Donors responded by freezing over $250 million in direct budget support,” and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cancelled Mozambique’s financial program. Since then, the Government has tried to restore donor and investor confidence – unsuccessfully.

Maputo Central Market

Maputo is a melting pot of ethnic cultures dominated by the Bantu and Portuguese, but also influenced by Arab, Indian, and Chinese immigrants from cities like Goa and Macao.

Architecture, Food, and Clothing

Maputo is known for its “distinct, eclectic architecture”. Portuguese colonial, Neoclassical, and Manueline buildings stand alongside Art Deco, Bauhaus, and less-appealing Brutalist construction. Some of the more modern buildings were designed by Portuguese architect Pancho Guedes.

Maputo Bay

Mozambican cuisine is “deeply influenced” by the Portuguese, who “introduced new crops, flavorings, and cooking methods”. Mozambicans serve food with sauces made from vegetables, meat, beans, or fish. Typical ingredients include cashew nuts, onions, bay leaves, garlic, coriander, paprika, red pepper, millet, sorghum, and potatoes.

Batalha Monastery – Portuguese Manueline Architecture


Maputo is famous for its Mozambican prawns in peri-peri sauce, a spicy concoction made from an especially hot African chili pepper.


Cathedral of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao

Mozambique is a city of striking, bright colors. Women proudly wear capulanas with contrasting patterns. They’re sarongs “primarily worn in Mozambique but also in other areas of south-eastern and western Africa”. Capulanas are “rectangular cloths featuring African motifs, forms, zoomorphic or anthropomorphic abstract and geometric patterns, and figurative variables that illustrate culture, traditions, rituals, ideas, emotions, revolts, and passion”.

Provinces and Districts

There are ten provinces in Mozambique and one capital city with provincial status. The provinces have a total of 128 districts.

  1. Cabo Delgado
  2. Gaza
  3. Inhambane
  4. Manica
  5. Maputo City
  6. Maputo
  7. Nampula
  8. Niassa
  9. Sofala
  10. Tete
  11. Zambezia

Samora Machel Mozambique’s First President 1975 – 1986

Mozambique and Maputo Attractions

After its long civil war, Maputo is slowly recapturing its former glory as a tourist destination. Maputo is a lively city and there are many attractions there and throughout Mozambique, including stunning beaches and nature reserves.

Maputo National Museum of Art – houses works by Mozambican artists like poet and painter Malangatana Ngwenya and sculptor Alberto Chissano.

Jardim Tunduru Botanical Gardens

Maputo Central Market – fragrant, colorful open market housed in a beautiful Victorian building. Vendors offer fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, handicrafts, basketware, carvings, and more.

Mozambican Acacia Tree

Cathedral Nossa Senhora da Conceicao (Our Lady of Conception) – well-known landmark in Praça da Independencia (Independence Square). The cathedral has a tall single spire.


In Mozambique, “Capulanas are the female voice of silence.”

Iglesia de San Antonio de la Polana (Saint Antonio Catholic Church) – built in the shape of an inverted flower.

Statue of Samora Machel – Samora Machel was Mozambique’s first President from 1975 to 1986. Machel died in an air crash in South Africa under suspicious circumstances. His statue is a prominent feature in Praça da Independência.

Dugong Quirimbas Islands

Louis Trichardt Memorial – created in memory of Voortrekker Louis Trichardt’s trek to find a route to the sea through Mozambique. Many in his expedition died of malaria.

Malangatana Ngwenya Painter and Poet

Jardim Tunduru Botanical Gardens – designed in 1885 by British gardener Thomas Honney who created landscapes for the Sultan of Turkey and King of Greece.

Museu da Moeda (Money Museum) – also known as Casa Amarela or Yellow House is the oldest standing building still in use in Maputo. Damaged during the civil war, the “simple structure was beautifully restored with old street lamps above the doors”.

Area Map

Praca dos Trabalhadores (Workers Square) – a statue commemorating Mozambican soldiers who fell in World War I.

Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (CFM) – Maputo Railway Station is a popular major landmark in a beautiful Victorian building.

National Money Museum

The Maputo Special Reserve – 60 miles southeast of Maputo, the Reserve has marshes and rivers and includes elephants, birds, zebra, antelope, crocodiles, hippo, small bucks, bushpigs, baboons, fish, and unique plant life.

Gorongosa National Park –  considered “Africa’s greatest wildlife restoration story” Gorongosa is home to lions, elephants, buffalo, zebras, bucks, hippos, crocodiles, and over 400 species of birds. Tourist dollars support the Park’s conservation programs to help farmers and provide educational programs and health care for local communities.

Mozambique Textiles

Mozambique Textile – African Motifs


Niassa Reserve is a large protected area of spectacular untouched natural scenery. It’s twice the size of South Africa’s Kruger Park. Poachers have reduced the Reserve’s elephant population by an alarming 70 percent.


Vamizi Island Quirimbas Archipelago Mozambique

Niassa Reservehome to the endangered African wild dog, elephant, sable antelope, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, and many exotic birds.

Mecula Mountain – in isolated northern Mozambique, Mount Mecula is part of Niassa Reserve, threatened bird species inhabit this little-known montane forest ecosystem.

Jacaranda Trees Maputo

Lugenda Wildlife Reserve – an untouched 16,000 square mile expanse of wilderness in northern Niassa province. Lugenda Wilderness Camp on the banks of the Lugenda River in the Ngalongue Mountains is part of the Reserve.

Bairro Mafalala Walking Tour – two-hour tour through the Mafalala bairro, Maputo’s oldest township, including the late Samora Machel’s house, a visit with a local curandeiro (healer), and a traditional dance performance.

Fortaleza – a restored Portuguese fort with major historical significance at the fishing port and one of Maputo’s oldest buildings.

Iglesia de San Antonio de la Polana

Fere de Populare Neighborhoodinfamous area of bars and discos where Mozambicans dance to “seductive Latino beats”.

Inhaca Island – popular tourist spot accessed by ferry from Maputo’s fishing harbour. Visitors enjoy the island’s restaurants, hotels, maritime museum, and historic lighthouse.

Diver Inhaca Island

Maputo Elephant Reserve – a 190 sq-mile “mosaic of lakes, floodplains, mangrove swamps, woodlands, and forested dunes sweeping down to unspoilt beaches” north of Ponta Malongane. Once a sanctuary for elephants, white rhino, and other game, poaching during the civil war severely reduced animal numbers.

Quirimbas Archipelago – off Mozambique’s northern coast, the archipelago’s islands are part of Quirimbas National Park. They’re popular for diving and known for coral reefs and waters inhabited by dolphins, whales, and endangered dugongs (sea cows).

There is so much to see in Mozambique! It will be hot, and unfortunately malaria medication is required before, during, and after a visit. A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required at entry. Despite of all this, I don’t think the environment will be more challenging than Seychelles.

The sites explored will depend on budget and stamina – extreme heat (high 90s) zaps my energy. I would love to visit Lugenda Wilderness Camp, but it’s pricey – rightly so, as it’s important to restrict the number of tourists allowed to visit endangered areas.

Dhow Quirimbas Islands

The first hurdle will be obtaining a visa, and I’m hoping there are no snags. Last year Mozambique began issuing tourist visas upon arrival at the airport – or at least the embassy said they would do this. Before that, visitors from the US were required to go through red tape to get tourist visas PRIOR to entering the county or be turned away. I didn’t get an advance visa – no embassy nearby. I tried contacting the Mozambican Embassy online and also by calling and emailing, but never got through.

Port Cidade de Nacala Mozambique

My nightmare is arriving and being rejected. Hope that doesn’t happen, but in Africa one never knows, and complacency is dangerous. I’ve gathered documentation to prove a limited, 30-day stay and am trying not to over think it. When you’re traveling solo it’s especially important to be prepared. Haven’t booked a departure flight yet, because I want to leave options open until I’ve experienced Maputo. Border crossings and immigration entry points have never been my favorite part of traveling.

Looking forward to a great experience in Mozambique! More later….

Paradise Valley Nature Reserve

Paradise Valley Nature Reserve is a hidden KwaZulu-Natal gem tucked away between Pinetown and Pietermaritzburg. The coastal forest and grasslands have local history, including “mysterious burial mounds” and remains of The Umbilo Waterworks built in 1887 and now a national monument.


“In the late 19th Century, Durbanites caught a train to Pinetown Bridge and walked down to The Waterworks for picnicking, boating, fishing, and hiking. In 1905, a destructive flood quickly put an end to Umbilo Dam.”

Waterworks Ruin

Waterworks Ruin


“In 15 devastating hours 16 inches of rain fell, and logs, bamboo, and debris blocked the river at Pinetown Bridge.”


Waterworks Ruin Spillway

The bridge gave way, and the ensuing tidal wave killed hundreds of people and destroyed countless homes on the lower Umbilo riverbanks. Durban discovered alternative water supplies, so Umbilo Dam was never rebuilt.”

Strelitzia Nicolai – Wild Banana Tree

Hiking Trails

There are four hiking trails in the nature reserve – Duiker, Bushbuck, Waterfall, and Dormouse. They begin at the Interpretive Centre on a path leading down to the picnic area. The start of the Waterfall Trail is a 30-minute walk over old wooden bridges on the other side of the Umbilo River. The trail continues following beautiful flat river rock and thick jungle-like terrain with massive strelitzias – wild banana trees.


The Waterfall Trail passes sprawling yellowwood trees, ponds, and a historical waterworks slipway. Near the bottom of the falls beyond the turnoff to Duiker Trail, there’s a natural viewing platform. In the summer heat, a large pool below the falls is tempting, but water quality is poor, and swimming isn’t recommended.

Paradise Valley Wooden Bridge

I’ve been a bit under the weather with a stubborn virus and haven’t done much strenuous activity for a week or so. The gentle Waterfall Trail was perfect. I met several couples enjoying the romantic falls and heard but did not see animals. Fragrances in the light, humid air and the sweet sounds of birds singing were magnificent!

Bushbuck Cardo Kleberg

Dormouse Pinterest

Stainbank Reserve, Toti Beaches

Yellowwood Tree

Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve is an extraordinary mass of vivid green with gorgeous grasslands and thick coastal forests, including yellowwood. Yellowwood, present in the country for more than 100 million years, is South Africa’s national tree. The reserve provides an ideal habitat for indigenous plants and animals. Even insects like centipedes, millipedes, grasshoppers, dragonflies, damselfies, and caterpillars thrive there.

Masked Weaver Nests

Southern Masked Weaver by John Caddick

The reserve is near my accommodation in Amanzimtoti, aka Toti. I spent the afternoon hiking in the 600-acre park sighting zebra, red duiker, bushbuck, vervet monkey, mongoose, and birds, including a majestic African Fish Eagle. Cute Southern Masked Weavers are a favorite, and hundreds of them had built their nests dangling from trees near the dam.

Hiking Trail

Hiking and Coedmore Castle

The park has hiking paths, a cycling trail, picnic areas, creeks, a dam, and the remains of Coedmore Castle. Kenneth Stainbank’s Scottish father built the Baronial style castle in 1885 with the help of stonemasons using stones from the Umhlauzana River.

Dawn Amanzimtoti

Same Amanzimtoti Sky 8 Hours Later


“When Stainbank built Coedmore Castle, he wanted to create a little piece of Europe on grounds filled with African antelope and monkeys.”



You can arrange a tour of the castle’s interior. Descriptions of the steel-pressed ceilings, wooden paneling, and an iron staircase into the tower sound impressive. The castle’s exterior is wrapped in peaceful gardens.

Coedmore Castle

Coedmore Castle Durban

Scottish Stainbank married Ethel Lyne, a South African from Pietermaritzburg. They had seven children, and their eldest daughter, Mary, was an artist. Rooms throughout the castle contain sculptings she produced from her garden studio. Stainbank’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Keith, and her family still live on the property.

Doonside Beach

Surfer Baggies Beach

Mary Stainbank introduced the modern school of sculpture to South Africa. Her work is displayed in the Mary Stainbank Memorial Gallery which also hosts other artists’ exhibitions. The Coedmore gallery houses the largest, intact collective body of work by any one sculptor in South Africa.”



Grazing Zebras

Red Duiker

The weather was warm but overcast with a slight breeze – a good hiking day. I took the “red path” which encircles the reserve and involves creek crossings. It’s a gentle hike with a few mildly challenging areas. I met several people along the path. It’s school break, when South African families spend time together.

Mary Stainbank Sculpting

Mary Stainbank

Mary Stainbank Sculpting

Mary Stainbank Sculpting

Doonside and Warner (Baggies) Beach

Heavy storms from October 2017 damaged the coastline and beach below my accommodation. Repairs are in process. It’s possible to walk on the beach, but until they finish rebuilding parts of the hillside, getting up and down is dangerous and tricky. I’ve spent most beach time at Doonside and Warner – two busy, entertaining beaches!

Water Lily

First visit at Doonside was windy, and my beach umbrella kept blowing away. A local watched as I chased it down the beach and showed me how to anchor it by burying part of the umbrella canopy in sand. Amazingly, it held for hours despite heavy wind!

Buried Beach Umbrella

Southern Masked Weaver

Even after applying what seemed ample SPF sunscreen protection, I still got sunburned while swimming, snorkeling, and walking on the beach. Later, I purchased a surf tee with UV protection. The stinging wind-blown sand against my sunburned skin eventually forced a retreat – but not before I enjoyed hours of therapeutic beach time!

Creek Crossing

Indigenous Grasses

Durban beaches are not as pristine as Seychelles, but the long sandy stretches are pleasant and usually filled with happy people having fun. Surfers frequent areas of Warner Beach (also known as Baggies Beach) that have powerful waves.

Baggies Surf Photo Frank Horn

Baggies Surf Photo Frank Horn

The beach is a surfing hotspot in KwaZulu-Natal. Baggies Beach “hosts the Baggies Surf Pro, and welcomes international legends who crave the exciting waves”. It’s also a favorite spot for nimble kite surfers – love watching their moves as they seem to fly from wave to wave!

Dancing Jewel Damselflie



Stainbank Reserve Dam

Lone Grassland Tree