Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, grew from a colonial settlement in the 16th century after the arrival of Portuguese explorer Lourenço Marques. The land proved largely inhospitable to Europeans – marshy, muggy, and malarial, yet still of mercantile value. Sea ports seem often to have those qualities.
The city is sometimes called City of Acacias, for the many acacia trees lining its avenues, and sometimes the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
In present-day Maputo, an eccentric expat named Jane Flood has organised an independent walking tour of the city, which we took on our last morning in town. The history of Mozambique, but especially of Maputo, is a fascinating tangle and one I wish I had known more about prior to visiting.
Under Portuguese rule, the art and architecture of Maputo grew rapidly, mimicking the styles of its European overlords. Evidence of this era remains all throughout the city and continues to influence the modern art community. Community parks and luxury hotels sprang up around town
Famed revolutionary and politician Samora Machel led Mozambique to independence in 1975, when he became the first president of the Républica Popular de Moçambique. Honouring his ties to the Soviet bloc, Machel quickly reclaimed all Maputo’s streets by renaming them after prominent socialist and communist figures. Needless to say, the West was unnerved by this leftist leader in the Cold War era. The politics of Mozambique must wait for another post, however.
Both my stay in Maputo and the tour prompted me to read books set in Mozambique, and for a curious novel about the city’s Red Light district, I refer you to A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankel. Not exactly the height of fiction, and not entirely about Mozambique, but a diverting read all the same.
For another perspective, watch this video tour of Maputo featuring Europeans.