12.10.2009 - 13.10.2009
I am not sure what i expected of Lourenco Marques, now Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, and so I don't think that what I saw was it.
But i quite liked it anyway.
It is a mix of cultures and ideas – African, Portuguese, Colonial and Communist. The Portuguese language holds together a disparate mix of local languages and tribes with surprisingly little friction and resentment compared to colonial languages in much of Africa, and the architecture has obviously been dictated by communist support (after the very messy civil war led to independence from Portugal in 1975) with interspersed colonial gems, such as the art-deco railway station designed by Gustav Eiffel, of Parisian metal tower fame.
It also looked and felt like a real city – even on the outskirts and many suburbs that we saw - as opposed to a typical African one, which surprised me a bit. Portuguese touches like a cafe culture were something I really enjoyed, and were a welcome addition after the South African impersonal Mall experience. Cafe culture and people watching is something I have really missed in much of Africa.
Maputo also has its fair share of beggars, pickpockets, prostitutes (We had been in the city barely 10minutes when I had to have a discussion with 2 prostitutes over the contents of my pockets, which I felt, not unreasonably I think, should stay in my pockets but they disagreed) and street sellers, and with not many tourists around that mean't haggling and decent prices could be got for those with time and patience to play the game.
The city is also home to a chain of Italian-style restaurants, called Mimmos, which Maaret reliably informs me make the best chocolate brownie in the world: which bearing in mind all the brownies in the world, is some claim. Two months later (as it is now, obviously, because I have been such a lazy b*stard in not updating this for a long time), she still talks about that brownie.
To be fair, there isn't really all that much to see or do in Maputo in terms of tourist style sights (although the nightlife is semi-legendary), but there are many worse places to spend a few days. It is the sort of city that I think I could happily live for a few months, or perhaps a year, during which I would always be discovering new things and would rarely get bored. But at this moment in time, sadly, i don't have a few months, and so that side of the city will stay hidden to me, at least for now. Instead, it is time to move up country.