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Notes on the Geography of Mozambique: Maputo

The handy-dandy Yearbook and Guide to East Africa reports (p. 213) that Lourenço Marques is "one of the best health and pleasure resorts for Transvaal and Rhodesian visitors." Then came the Portuguese departure, a brutal war, and reconstruction.

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Mozambique: Maputo picture 1

The city is bedevilled topographically. It started on a narrow coastal flat but by the 1930s had spread uphill to the broad terrace where most of the city today stands. Roads can climb hills, of course, but there aren't enough roads, and traffic jams are serious. Here: the view downslope from the terrace.

Mozambique: Maputo picture 2

The city got a huge boost in 1894 with the opening of a railway that provided Johannesburg with a shortcut to the sea. Four years later the Portuguese moved the capital of Portuguese East Africa here from Ihla de Mozambique, 900 miles north. It took a while for a railway station to open, but a palatial one did, finally, in 1910.

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It's 280 airline miles to Johannesburg.

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Just outside the station: a World War I memorial.

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This detail recalls Portugal's campaign to recover from Germany the Quionga Triangle, a coastal tract at the border between Mozambique and what was then German East Africa, now Tanzania.

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Nearby, at the toe of the slope up to the terrace, there's this very late Catedral Metropolitana de Nossa Senhora de Conceição, opened in 1944.

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The entrance.

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Concrete allows curves that the old builders would never have attempted.

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The city hall bespeaks ambition.

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The city market, its name updated to Maputo. The change occurred in 1976, a year after the departure of the Portuguese.

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Behind the grand entrance.

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The Hindu diaspora wasn't just a story of migration within the British Empire.

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There's a waterside commercial district with a substantial number of solid two-story buildings.

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The same, in context.

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There's a lot more like this.

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Verandas were obligatory in the days before air conditioning.

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A lineup.

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A tattered street on the slope between the terrace and waterside.

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Up top, there are plenty of homes in good condition.

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Big ones, too.

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The occasional Victorian.

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There are buildings from the stylishly modern 1930s.

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The railway club.

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An apartment building.

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Another.

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Dynamo house.

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A newer version.

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Atop the terrace, there's also a business district from the 1960s. It has a highrise lineup along Eduardo Mondlane Avenue, named for the assassinated head of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo).

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Low rise survivors are spotted between the towers.

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Residential highrises.

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A new beachfront condo.

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A new, single-family palace.

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Who needs Esperanto?

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Can't resist the old airport office building. We're not here for the building itself but for the map over the entrance.

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It's never been updated.

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Maputo here is still Lourenço Marques, and the Rhodesias are still Rhodesias. One of the these days, somebody will come along and cover it all up.


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