Walking Tour of Maputo
Maputo is the capitol of Mozambique and it's largest city. It's a port town on the Indian Ocean and most of its commerce centers around the port. We were visiting friends that live in an upscale neighborhood on the edge of town. Though nice, its hard to a the pulse of the city from behind those walls.
We took a walking tour of downtown Maputo on our first full day in town, April 13th, 2017. Our guide, Sheldon, is from the area and uses the tours to earn money and practice English. He's very knowledgable about the history of the city and the country. He's also proud of his heritage which is always great to see in young people.
We met Sheldon at the JARDIM TUNDURU BOTANICAL GARDENS in downtown Maputo. The gardens were designed by British gardener Thomas Honney in 1885, Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception had just let out as we passed through the crowds to tour the Cathedral.
The Maputo City Hall is next door to the Cathdral. The structure is a blend of classic architecture and has an imposing view of the city. The mayor was about the leave the building as we approached. His security detail commanded me to lower my camera as I tried to snap an image of the Mayor. The rules regarding politicians and cameras are different here. A more that two story tall statue of Samora Moisés Machel, the first president of Mozambique after its independence from Portugal stands in the circle of front of City Hall standing watch over the city's downtown and harbor. Machel, (September 29, 1933 – October 19, 1986) died in office when his plane crashed near the Mozambique/South African boarder.
We walked through the bustling downtown and visited the market, the Bureau of Tourism and the train station. Beautifully fresh fish and produce and textiles are for sale at the market. The Bureau of Tourism is housed in a historic building made entirely of iron plates. Some colonial governor saw another metal structure somewhere and decided the he'd prove how innovative he was by bringing this new technology to near tropical Mozambique. Due to the heat, the building changed hands often over the years. It's now air conditioned and comfortable, I am happy to report.
There is a wonderful cultural center that boasts galleries, an open air theater/amphitheater, an a cafe. Several art pieces created from rifles, guns, ammunition and supporting stuff collected and repurposed following the civil war were on display. This is another example of how the arts support community. The train station is still in service but also serves as a museum. The museum trains are in original condition so you can easily see that those cars carried many, many people on thousands of trips across Mozambique - you can almost feel their spirits. Two luxury trains depart the station on a limited schedule. These are vintage trains that emphasize fine furnishings, food and libations over speed and economy. The green-domed mosque adds to the charm, diversity and vitality of the area.
We took one of the packed ferries across the harbor to Katembe for lunch. The ferries are the fastest way to get across the harbor and many people use them daily. These folks were used to just piling in and not too concerned about overloading the boat (unlike me and Mike!). Once safely across the bay, we walked down the beach for the better part of a mile. We ate on the deck of a small beach restaurant with a postcard perfect view of the beach and the Maputo skyline. You could also see the the new towers being constructed by the Chinese to support a suspension bridge that will span the harbor. The restaurant showed us the fresh fish before cooking it. I had a grilled fish and calamari combo that looked and smelled so good that I broke protocol and dove in with knife and fork before taking the picture - sorry!
We also visited the old Portuguese fort in Maputo which is near the harbor. It was built in the mid-19th century and today is home to a small museum that maintains records of the Portuguese activities in the area. One of the most significant items is the intricately carved, sealed wooden coffin of Ngungunyane, the final ruler of the famous kingdom of Gaza which was in what is now southern Mozambique. Known at the Lion of Gaza, Ngungunyane reigned from around 1884 to 28 December 1895. He rebelled against the Portuguese but was captured. He as exiled rather than executed by the Portuguese because he was well known. He died in exile. We were told that his remains are actually in the coffin, which I find disrespectful.
We finished off our first full day in Mozambique in true Washingtonian style with an Embassy Party at the Residence of the US Ambassador to Mozambique, H. Dean Pittman. The Ambassador is a gracious host and also a Ward 4 resident in the District of Columbia when he's not serving our country abroad. Thanks Mr. Ambassador.