Maputo (Portuguese pronunciation: [mɐˈputu]), known as Lourenço Marques before independence, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. It is known as the City of Acacias, in reference to acacia trees commonly found along its avenues, and the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Today, it is a port city, with its economy centered on the harbor. According to the 2007 census, the population is 1,766,184. Cotton, sugar, chromite, sisal, copra, and hardwood are the chief exports.
The city manufactures cement, pottery, furniture, shoes, and rubber. The city is surrounded by Maputo Province, but is administered as its own province.
History of Maputo Mozambique
On the northern bank of Espírito Santo Estuary of Delagoa Bay, an inlet of the Indian Ocean, Lourenço Marques was named after the Portuguese navigator who, with António Caldeira, was sent in 1544 by the governor of Mozambique on a voyage of exploration.
They explored the lower courses of the rivers emptying their waters into Delagoa Bay, notably the Espírito Santo. The forts and trading stations that the Portuguese established, abandoned and reoccupied on the north bank of the river, were all called Lourenço Marques.
The existing town dates from about 1850, the previous settlement having been entirely destroyed by the natives. The town developed around a Portuguese fortress completed in 1787.
In 1871, the town was described as a poor place, with narrow streets, fairly good flat-roofed houses, grass huts, decayed forts, and a rusty cannon, enclosed by a recently erected wall 1.8 metres (6 ft) high and protected by bastions at intervals.
The growing importance of the Transvaal led, however, to greater interest being taken back in Portugal in the development of a port. A commission was sent by the Portuguese government in 1876 to drain the marshy land near the settlement, to plant the blue gum tree, and to build a hospital and a church.
A city since 1887, it superseded the Island of Mozambique as the capital of Mozambique in 1898. In 1895, construction of a railroad to Pretoria, South Africa, caused the city's population to grow.
The Witwatersrand Gold Rush, which began in 1886, further increased the economic development of the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as Lourenço Marques served as the closest seaport for the export of gold from South Africa.
The Monument to the Great War, erected as a memorial to the Portuguese that died during World War I.
In the early 20th century, with a well equipped seaport, with piers, quays, landing sheds and electric cranes, enabling large vessels to discharge cargoes direct into the railway trucks, Lourenço Marques developed under Portuguese rule and achieved great importance as a lively cosmopolitan city.
It was served by British, Portuguese, and German liners, and the majority of its imported goods were shipped at Southampton, Lisbon, and Hamburg.
With the continuous growth of the city's population and its expanding economy centered on the seaport, from the 1940s, Portugal's administration built a network of primary and secondary schools, industrial and commercial schools as well as the first university in the region.
They include, the University of Lourenço Marques, opened in 1962. Portuguese, Islamic, Indian (including from Portuguese India) and Chinese (including Macanese) communities managed to achieve great prosperity — but not the unskilled African majority — by developing the industrial and commercial sectors of the city.
Urban areas of Mozambique grew quickly in this period due to the lack of restriction on the internal migration of indigenous Mozambicans, a situation that differed to the apartheid policies of neighboring South Africa.
Before Mozambique's independence in 1975, thousands of tourists from South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) frequented the city and its scenic beaches, high-quality hotels, restaurants, casinos, and brothels.
The Mozambique Liberation Front, or FRELIMO, formed in Tanzania in 1962 and led by Eduardo Mondlane, fought for independence from Portuguese rule.
The Mozambican War of Independence lasted over 10 years, ending only in 1974 when the Estado Novo regime was overthrown in Lisbon by a leftist military coup — the Carnation Revolution. The new government of Portugal granted independence to all Portuguese overseas territories.
What to do in Maputo
Maputo Central Train Station
Completed in 1910, the main building is charming and attractive in its own right. There is an accessible bar/restaurant just off the platform. An ice-cold Laurentina beer can be bought here for a good price.
The platform is open to tourists and one can even climb up the broken steps of one of the local trains to have a peep inside the carriage.
Although the current building is not all that old, the site has a lot of history attached to it. The big tree that stands close to the entrance is talked about enthusiastically by the tour guides, mostly because it has a somewhat macabre story to tell.
The prison governor of the time was captured and hanged from it in 1883, a story which gets some elaboration that is quite entertaining when one is on a guided tour there.
The Central Market
This is a must-see and you can see all the above and the market in a day tour, owing to the compact layout of the city centre.
The smell of fish drying in the sun on a hot day can be fairly overpowering. And there are a lot of hot days in this warm African tropical climate.
Fish, fresh fruit, spices, cashew nuts and souvenirs can be bought here. We suggest that you buy only what you can consume on the day because of the risk of spoilage.
Cashews are cheap and abundant but they are largely grown by small-scale farmers who do not have access to suitable insecticides. As a result there is a good chance that the cashews you buy may be infested by grain-borer insects.
Any cashews remaining when you reach your home country will likely be confiscated and destroyed! Rightly so – before about 1970 there were no grain-borers in Africa. They were inadvertently imported from South America into Tanzania and have since spread to nearly every southern African land.
Wooden items may be infested with wood-borer and we don’t recommend buying any wood products as souvenirs. If you do, be sure to have it treated for borer on return to your home country and keep it in an air tight bag until you are able to have that done.
It is probable that you will not be permitted to bring such curios through your local customs, so be sure to check this beforehand.
Natural History Museum
Scenes of animals that are native to Mozambique are shown in their natural habitat here. These exhibits are well done and worth seeing, though the scale and presentation are of a rather provincial standard.
There is also a collection of cultural relics and photos of by-gone days in Maputo. Some of the descriptions, though, have not been translated into English.
The building does not boast air-conditioning and in summer, temperatures inside and out can be oppressive, which led in our case, to several tourists lying on the grass outside and cooling off instead of seeing what was on offer inside.
If you are in a tour group and you have a good tolerance for heat then you should probably go into the museum even if it is not the sort of thing that usually attracts you, just out of self-defense. Should you opt to remain outside you will be besieged by hawkers selling cheap tee-shirts, locally-made African jeweler and of course, cashew nuts.
A Cautionary Note Though
The Mozambican countryside is largely unsafe, with landmines and AK47s left over from the civil war, and police roadblocks renowned for taking a bribe from anyone they perceive to be wealthy or a tourist.
In the city things are safe during the day but you may be stopped on inadequate grounds at night and it could be suggested that “you sort out things” on the spot with the policemen rather than going back to the police station.
Independent travel in Mozambique is only for the adventurous and we would recommend that ladies especially should join up with a tour group to do your sightseeing.
While the hawkers and beggars are not a menace, they are certainly a nuisance and they do not take “no” for an answer. We suggest that you do not stray from your group into unfamiliar territory, and if the group goes to one of the local markets, be sure to have a designated meeting point.
|Currency used||Mozambican Metical (MZN)|