Tag Archives: Philippe Gagnaux

An Introduction to Mozambique

Maputo is the capital of and largest city in Mozambique. We docked a short distance from the center of town. It is located on the Indian Ocean and its economy is centered on the harbor

In the past Portuguese, Islamic, Indian, and Chinese communities achieved great prosperity in Mozambique, but their largely unskilled African majority did not. Trade and commerce was brisk and their capital city, Maputo, was also a popular tourist destination with its scenic beaches, good hotels, a variety of cuisine, and casinos. In 1962, a movement for independence from Portugal began and was achieved in 1975.

However, with the country’s newly founded independence, 250,000 people of Portuguese ancestry left the country virtually overnight. Left without any skilled and educated citizens and people knowledgeable in governmental affairs, the country suffered for twenty years mired in civil war and chaos. The country floundered and the economy plummeted.

The governing party turned to the Communist Soviet Union, China, and Cuba for help. Since the end of the civil war in 1992, growth and stability have slowly returned with the aid of Russia and China. On our tour today we saw several ongoing Chinese projects that are adding significant buildings (including low income housing) and facilities to the city. Industry, commerce and tourism are now increasing, but severe housing shortages and infrastructure improvement are still needed.

Under the Portuguese, native Africans were only allowed to go to school through the fifth grade. Now free public education is offered for primary, secondary and college students during the daytime. Evening college students must pay for their own education. However, with a severe shortage of facilities, students have to attend school in shifts, each being about 3 ½ hours long. We saw lots of school children dressed in many different uniforms.

Small stands and markets selling all sorts of merchandise are located through out the city. Public transportation is inadequate and only the main streets are paved. People live in unbelievable, primitive structures and conditions without electricity, inside plumbing, and running water. Yet there are thousands of used cars from Japan clogging the roads.

Our first stop was a handicraft market within the city. The quality of the crafts was excellent and we were given only 20 minutes to shop so it was hard to photograph items and shop too. The variety of items offered was amazing.

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We were scheduled to have lunch in the bush at Restaurante Mbala Madoda that is located in the Mucapana Sanctuary Reserve. The bus ride was long – two hours out and two hours back, and half of it on roads that were uneven and constructed of deep sand. The Reserve was developed by Philippe Gagnaux who converted a former eucalyptus plantation to natural bush vegetation, built a lodge and restaurant, and fenced in an area to confine a few wild animals (ostrich, monkeys, cape buffalo, peacocks, guinea hens) and birds he has acquired.

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One of the chefs who prepared our delicious meal.

We had a very unusual lunch with many items cooked in coconut milk (chicken, pumpkin leaves, beef, rice, hominy, beans) tomato salad, bread, various desserts and wine or water. After lunch and a chance to stretch our legs a bit, we enjoyed a program of traditional drumming and dancing put on by a troupe of young people. They were very talented and professional. How they could move as they did and perform the music they played is amazing.

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Outside the city proper in the rural areas the government owns all the land and farming activities are done on a communal basis. If someone wants to grow something or build a building, permission must be received from the government and I am sure that something is paid for this privilege. We did not see one tractor or any evidence of any equipment or farming tools other than hand tools. WE did see large quantities of fruits and vegetables offered by sale on the streets, but where they are grown is not known.

It was a memorable day and one neither of us will forget for some time.