I’ve driven through Maputo before, at the fastest speed the traffic would allow mind you, to Guinjata Bay in Inhambane, and it really left me with a yearning to go back and explore. I was invited to spend a weekend in April with Serena Hotels discovering the historic Polana Serena Hotel, and venturing out onto the streets too!
While there’s much more about Maputo to know, these were the 8 things that I absolutely had no idea of, and now that I know them, I need to share them with you!
1. Maputo is a pretty safe city
My impression of Maputo, and I have no idea where this came from exactly, was that of a broken, dirty city that was neither safe nor a place to seek out entertainment. I’m ashamed to admit this now, because it means I generalised a city (which I hate people doing) and that I’ve also totally missed out on how awesome the city is.
Although like any city, you have to be on the lookout for sneaky, opportunistic petty criminals, it’s actually quite safe to walk around. Plus it’s clean and most people are friendly!
2. Eiffel, of the Parisian tower, designed the train station
Why travel all the way to Europe, when you hop right over the border and see the work of this incredible architect? I realise how dumb that statement is, but just hold on and look at this picture of the station…
There’s also this funny tin house in the centre of the city designed by Eiffel too, Casa do Ferro. Hot in summer and freezing in winter apparently, maybe not such a clever idea in the southern African climate, but rad to see nonetheless.
3. Maputo is an Art Deco overload
So Maputo has more art deco than the Durban beachfront. It’s also mostly in degradation, which is a little sad, but on the whole it’s a photographer’s wonderland. Most of the residents I spoke to mentioned Pancho Guedes, a famous architect who was born in Portugal, studied in South Africa, and then went on a building spree in Mozambique when he lived there.
His buildings are an interesting mix of the mathematical lines of the Bauhaus movement, coupled with a more organic flow of circular design. It’s unique, and I found them all extremely interesting to look at.
You can read more into the architecture of the city on Eager Journeys.
4. The fruit is more exotic
I don’t mean like that of a tropical island really, but there’s much more variety and tons of weird-looking things, like these custard apples.
Once these are ripe, you break open the armadillo-like shell, and then the flesh inside is the colour and flavour of proper custard! It honestly was such a revelation that I smuggled home some of these bad boys in my suitcase!
5. Seafood is honestly as readily available as the legends
I’ve had so many friends come back from a trip to Maputo and tell me about the fish markets, and street food stalls, and everything tasty from the sea that they ate. It’s all true! Every single story of massive prawns and lobsters and langoustines: I ate them all.
Sadly, I never got to the fish market, but let’s not pretend I’m not going back as soon as I can.
6. There’s a museum for creepy animals and elephant embryos
Yes, and it’s awesome. If you love a laugh, coupled with nostalgia, and don’t mind a creepy stuffed lion staring you down when you enter a room, you may as well stop at the Museum of Natural History in Maputo.
7. Portuguese Mosaics? Everywhere, basically!
The intricate, and handmade, mosaics from the Portuguese settlers are still all over the city. These dainty tiles are largely in perfect condition and can be seen on houses, buildings, offices, on the street, everywhere!
8. There’s a church that looks like a lemon squeezer
You know the kind that you juice oranges and lemons on? Yes, that is exactly what this church looks like from the outside.
From the inside, it’s an incredible sight lifted by the light from the stained glass windows. We happened to stumble on a wedding when we visited and the acoustics inside the lemon squeezer were better than any I’ve ever heard.