Saturday October 6, 2007
Bom dia! (good morning!),” smiles Anastancia Guibunda
as she greets her guests at the entrance of the coffeehouse.
She’s the duty manager at Holiday Inn Maputo in Mozambique.
Portuguese is the official language in this former colony of
Portugal, but it is not impossible to find people, especially in
the hotel industry, who speak good English.
Even if you have not heard of Mozambique, you would have come
across the name of the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, who
was believed to have “discovered” Mozambique, or Dr David
Livingstone, the first British consul in this part of Africa.
Although its neighbouring countries, like South Africa on the
west and Madagascar (and the little island off Mauritius) in the
east, are better known to Malaysians, Mozambique, which is still
largely unexplored, is not without its charms. It boasts
unspoilt natural beauty.
Casa do Ferro a.k.a. Iron House.
In recent years, China has become one of its major investors
and you are likely to notice Chinese guests at breakfast. There
are, in fact, some 30,000 Chinese, formerly from mainland China,
who call Mozambique home.
Isobel Law is one of these Mozambican Chinese. She speaks
Cantonese but mainly converses in Portuguese and the local
Shagaan dialect with her fellow countrymen.
Much of Mozambique is still relatively undeveloped, and one
key attraction is its pristine sandy beaches that stretch along
the Indian Ocean. The wife of a British diplomat calls it the
It is hard to believe that the country was once devastated by
brutal civil wars between 1977 and 1992.
What to do while in Maputo
Try and catch a spectacular Mozambican sunrise if you ever
end up here, but that of course requires that you leave the
comfort of your bed as early as 6am.
The best time of the year to visit is from April to November,
during the winter season, before it starts to get too hot and
humid at the end of the year. You can stroll the beaches then,
even during noontime, since there is always a cool breeze
By 6pm, it gets dark and the tides are usually high and it is
dangerous to walk alone on the beach. It might be a good idea to
visit downtown Maputo, formerly known as Laurenco Marques, for a
meal of chicken peri-peri.
Express is one of the favourite restaurants in town, and the
expatriates love to hang out here till late at night. The place
is known for its “express” service, which is pretty fast by
local standards because service at most Mozambican restaurants
is, according to Globetrotter’s Travel Guide to Mozambique:
“painfully slow, almost comically so”.
“Your well-meaning waiter may consider two hours a reasonable
preparation time for your meal, and would feel mortally insulted
by complaints about the delay, or the cold food.”
Things are much improved these days, though, with most of the
The Bazar Artesanaton — STEPHEN NG
If you walk alone in Maputo, try not to carry expensive items
because petty crime is rampant and the peddlers are always
trying to sell you something. It may be best to visit Maputo in
the daytime if you are a lone traveller.
A visit to the Central Market, known to the locals as Bazar
da Baiza, can be quite an experience. We seemed to attract
stares from curious onlookers, who probably thought we were
Japanese. At an old colonial building, built in 1901, we bought
two packets of cashew nuts at 100 meticals (about RM13) per kg
and some fresh vegetables, besides picking up local handicraft.
A few streets away from the bazaar is the huge, white
Catholic cathedral, Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, whose white
spire, with tower clocks on all sides, is one of the most
prominent landmarks in town.
Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the world-renowned
Eiffel Tower in Paris, has one of his architectural designs here
in Mozambique, known as Casa do Ferro in Portuguese.
The grey mini-mansion was originally designed and built in
Europe, but was shipped to Mozambique in 1892 by the Portuguese
who wanted to appease their governor who had been complaining
about his accommodation. The building proved to be a veritable
oven in the tropics.
It came to be known as Iron House and has since become a
The Museum of Natural History, which houses stuffed animals,
is built in neo-Gothic style. It reminded us of Count Dracula’s
residence from the outside. This museum has one of the only
known collections of elephant foetuses.
A visit to the Gorongosa National Park in the nearby province
of Manica is a must. It is considered one of the prime game
parks in southern Africa. Driving around Maputo is like taking a
leisurely drive in Kuala Lumpur in the early 60s. It doesn’t
take long to notice that roads here are named after communist
leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, and Mao Tse Tung.
Mozambique was once under the influence of Marxist-Leninist
ideology, until the collapse of the Soviet Union over a decade
ago. Since then, Mozambique’s reconstruction in the capitalist
mould has progressed rapidly.