Thursday, September 30, 2010

Maputo again

“This is LM radio”…those words used to come whispering out of my old valve radio way back in the early ‘70’s.
Now, 40 years later, I find myself ensconced in a hotel room in Maputo watching rugby on the TV.
Mozambique has been through a lot during those intervening years, but what is clear is that the people and the country are working towards rebuilding it as the “must visit” destination it was just a few decades ago!
I suppose that the most impressive change is the re-opening of the “Grande Dame” of Maputo, The Polana Hotel.
This magnificent structure has undergone a two year refit and although it has been technologically updated, the charm of the original has been retained and improved upon.
New gardens, outdoor restaurant and a wellness centre complete its transformation.
I was taken on a pre-opening walking tour of the various public spaces as well as the stunning Presidential Suite…I really would like to start my own country just so I can stay there!
However, what will certainly get me back is the food…prawns, prawns and more prawns are on the menu at every restaurant I tried. If I had found a major fast-food chain, I am certain that prawns would be on their menu too. A visit to the Pancho Guedes inspired Zambi restaurant is a must. The fish market also serves great seafood, but it is not for the faint-hearted.
At the Waterfront Restaurante I finally got to try goat meat and had I not been told what is was, I would have thought that it was lamb.
The locals utilize the beach for a variety of activities, from drumming circles to baptisms and weddings were in progress close to my hotel.
I found multiple wedding parties on the beach or in the water while their entourages shouted encouragement from the surf line.
I was told that the locals have two wedding ceremonies. The first is the “official” civil wedding which is then followed by the more relaxed and more religious beach ceremony.
The thriving craft market in the city centre is only open only on a Saturday morning. Goods here are reasonably priced and the local crafters make outstanding items that they cover in material. Wonderful trinket boxes, sandals and bracelets were some of the items that caught my eye. T-shirts and a variety of other clothing items can also be bought on the roadside from informal traders.
Aside from the craft market, the Central Market is worth a visit. I found a veritable smorgasbord of stalls selling prawns, fish, cashew nuts (which seem to be on sale everywhere), vegetables and crafts.
I bought a wooden skeleton which I was told to hang from my rear-view mirror… “If it rattles, it means that you are driving too fast and the sound reminds you of your mortality” said the stall holder.
Is that true? I don’t know, but it is a good tale!
Despite the hawkers, I never felt anxious or intimidated; in fact the opposite seemed to be true as I was greeted by all and sundry. Even while walking through the “red- light” district (Rua do Bagamoyo) I did not feel threatened.
However, like any other modern city there are “no go” areas that should be avoided.
Maputo reminds me of New York, the city never seems to sleep and the Mediterranean coastline where evenings only begin with dinner after nine and the clubs seem to do their best business at midnight.
Contact details:
 SAA and L.A.M all fly into Maputo
Phil Baker of Pro-Nexus ( will be able to answer all your travel queries.
For Maputo tours I can recommend Dana Tours.

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