Thursday, September 30, 2010

Maputo

Havana on the African continent?
Maputo certainly gave me that feeling on a recent visit there.
In order to have a look at the Maputo skyline from the opposite of the estuary I took the passenger ferry to Catembe…and what a skyline it is! The urban sprawl was in stark contrast to Catembe and the people who live there.
I found a delightful hotel managed by a Canadian, which doubles as a galley for some of the local artists. Even the table decorations were for sale and the ceramic sculpture I bought was really quirky.
Back to the mainland for lunch at the fish market where my choice was mud crab, prawns (again) and whole rock cod all of which were delicious.
Be prepared to be “hassled” by wandering traders while waiting for your meal, but they handled my rejection without becoming too insistent. I did buy a wood carving which was so reasonably priced that I did not even haggle.
During my early morning run I found many of the venues still open and music blaring from both inside and the cars in the parking lots. Like in many of the African countries I have visited, there seem to be roadside shebeens where people congregate and continue to party after the clubs close.
Maputo is well known for its architecture especially the astonishing work of Pancho Guedes can be accessed by undertaking a walking tour of the city. The style of some of the buildings in the downtown area of the city reminded me of Havana, Cuba.
The local railway station, known as the CFM (Caminhos de Ferro de Mocambique) was designed and built in Paris in 1910 by Gustave Eiffel and shipped to Maputo and rebuilt on its current site. (This building was also used as the “hotel” in the movie Hotel Rwanda). It has a great bar as well as a small art gallery, both of which are worth a visit.
On the roundabout in front of the station stands a monument dedicated to Mozambican soldiers who fought in World War One. The sculpture is of a woman who, according to legend, killed a cobra that had been terrorizing local people.
The Natural History Museum boasts a set of Elephant foetuses that offer a timeline of the entire gestation period (22 months) of this African pachyderm.
Just around the corner from the museum is the Maputo synagogue. This quirky structure built in the Portuguese Baroque-revival style was consecrated in 1926 and is still used on a regular basis by the small Jewish community.
There is also a beautiful mosque to be found opposite the market just off Av. de Setembro.
There is a South African connection with a memorial garden dedicated to Louis Trichardt, an early explorer who traveled to Maputo.
The newly established Tunduro festival that spanned three days included art, theatre and music from South Africa, Africa and Mozambique.
It was well attended and seems set to become a regular attraction on the local calendar.
Given the amount of rebuilding currently been undertaken and the imminent arrival of International 5 star hotels, Maputo seems to be pulling itself up by the proverbial bootstraps and will soon regain its rightful place as a foremost tourist destination on this continent we call “home”.
The trees along the coastline that tenuously cling to life despite the encroaching soil erosion seems to epitomize the spirit of Mozambique…it might be down, but it is fighting back…and winning.

With regular flights from Johannesburg, Mozambique is an International and affordable destination less than an hour away.

Contact details:
For all your Maputo inquiries contact Phil Baker at pronexus@tiscali.co.za
Take a guided architecture and art tour with the very passionate Jane Flood: jane.flood@gmail.com

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