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Mozambique: Colonial Maputo

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Colonial Maputo | Mozambique | Africa

[Visited: October 2015]

When we arrive in Maputo from the north, we have been travelling in Mozambique from north to south, and have reached our final stop. After the small towns, the beautiful coastal landscapes, the picturesque islands and the former capital Ilha de Moçambique, we are ready to see a totally different face of the country: its capital city. We quickly discover the motorised ricksha, or tuk-tuk, or txopela as they are called locally, as the best way to cover larger distances in the city, and take one to the railway station first. This is one of the most prominent buildings in Maputo, sometimes mistakenly attributed to Gustave Eiffel. It turns out to be under repair, but the remarkable upper part is still visible, with a huge dome crowning the building. Inside, we find old wooden ticket booths, waiting rooms, some of which have been turned into art galleries. At the far end of the platform, we find a railway museum, but the sun sets early in Maputo, and we prefer to explore the station itself. We climb through a carriage to have a better view. The more we walk, the more details we see, like old logo's on the windows, and intricate metal works to embellish the building.

Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): The colonial railway station of Maputo

Just outside the station: the Monument to the Great War, a tribute to the Portuguese victims of World War I, but while the pompous statue still stands firm, its base is used for graffiti and as a hangout for the local youth. From here, we roam the narrow streets of this oldest part of Maputo. Close to the harbour, this is where the city initially developed in the mid-19th century. Some of the buildings are ruins, others are new, but at the same time, you can find examples of colonial buildings with iron wrought decorations, with tiled facades. At the other side of the 25 June square, stands the fortress of Maputo, one of the oldest buildings in the city. From here, we walk towards the north, coming across Bauhaus and Art Déco buildings from pre-independence times. It is the mix of styles which makes Maputo a unique city; even though it definitely has an African feel with the bustle of life, and the plethora of markets around, the old colonial buildings give the capital that special touch.

Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): The Prédio Rubi building in Maputo once was the tallest building in town

There are ruins of big buildings, and you need your fantasy and imagination to try to get a picture of what those buildings looked like once upon a time. But there does not seem a lot of effort going in restoring these places; instead, cranes are lifting up shiny materials to build flashy buildings and define a new skyline for Maputo. There is the curious Casa de Ferro, or Iron Building, shipped from Belgium and still used by the government. We walk past the Radio Moçambique building on our way to the Museum of Natural History, which would be perfectly in place in Lisbon. Inside, we find the only example of elephant foetuses in the world. Walking through parks and streets lined with trees (Maputo is a green city), we arrive at the Vila Algarve in the east of town. Situated at the corner of two streets, it is easy to see that this once was a finely decorated house, with blue-and-white tiles (very typical for Portugal) on all sides, but currently occupied by squatters. We have read warnings about safety here: people who tried to go in, have been robbed, and admire the building from the outside - puzzled that the authorities let this remarkable building be vandalized and slowly break down.

Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Flashy modern architecture behind the ruins of a colonial building
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Train on a track at the impressive railway station of Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora de Conçeicao that once defended Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Afternoon sun on a remarkable colonial building in the old part of Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): The railway station is one of the remarkable colonial buildings of Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): This colonial building houses the Museum of Natural History
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Building in the old part of Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Stairs leading up to Vila Algarve, a neglected but still beautiful building in Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Peculiar Casa de Ferro in downtown Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Radio Moçambique building in Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): The slender Cathedral of Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Detail of remarkable building in downtown Maputo
Picture of Colonial Maputo (Mozambique): Monument to the Great War, on the square in front of the railway station

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