Although Maputo never featured on our must-see list, we were determined to make the most of the two hours we had when the boat’s bus unceremoniously dumped us in the middle of town. While driving through the derelict streets of the capital of Mozambique, many other passengers decided not to get off the bus, but rather to go straight back to the boat. However, armed with a camera and a can-do attitude, Gareth and I set out to explore the few highlights the city has to offer.
Finger pointing threateningly, the new statue of Samora Machel, the first president of Mozambique, loomed over Independence Square in the middle of a busy interchange. We didn’t know much more about the man other than that he had been the husband of Graça Machel, late president Nelson Mandela‘s third wife.
We dodged traffic across the circle to the dramatically white church (the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) on the other side, only to find that a wedding was taking place and we couldn’t go in.
So we headed over to the Municipal Council, a particularly pretty neoclassical building, which was also closed to the public. We posed on its steps, taking pictures of the beautiful patterned sidewalk and the acacia trees lining the city’s avenues.
After a quick drink at the French Cultural Centre, we walked down the Avenida Samora Machel where we happened upon the Iron House, a building constructed entirely of steel and designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel (famous for Paris’ Eiffel Tower and New York’s Statue of Liberty).
As our luck would have it, the Tunduro Botanical Gardens were also closed for the day, so we proceeded further along the road into town. Maputo is not a pretty city. The streets are dirty and the buildings are dilapidated and covered in grime. An unpleasant odour permeates the air, the combination of the smells wafting from open sewage drains and overripe bananas peddled by street vendors.
We made our way through the traditional crafts market with surprisingly little harassment from the stall owners trying to sell the usual array of carvings, jewellery, batik cloths and paintings. Then it was time to turn back and return to the bus stop, where we had to fend off insistent street hawkers trying their best to make a quick sale before the tourists returned to their boat.
Later, from the deck of the ship, we watched as Maputo faded in the distance. We’ve been to other African cities before and had a good idea what to expect before we set foot off the boat. But in my opinion, two hours in Maputo is about as much time as one should spend in Maputo.
For more posts in the Anniversary Cruise 2014 trip, click here.