A surprising day for us – we expected more primitive villages such as what we found in Madagascar – not so! Maputo is the capital & largest city of Mozambique. Its location on the Indian Ocean has led to an economy centered on the harbor – they export coal, cotton, sugar, chromite, sisal, copra, and hardwood. The past fifty years have been pretty challenging, and only since 1992 has the area made meaningful progress toward civility & modernization. Maputo has a strong South African influence as well as Bantu, Portuguese, Arab, Indian, & Chinese cultures. The Portuguese, Islamic, Indian & Chinese communities achieved great prosperity, but the largely unskilled African majority didn’t. Back in 1962, the formation of the Mozambique Liberation Front fought for independence from Portuguese rule. The Mozambican War of Independence ended in 1974 when the government of Portugal granted independence to all Portuguese overseas territories. The People’s Republic of Mozambique was then proclaimed in 1975 – over 250,000 Portuguese left the area – virtually overnight – and the newly independent country had no skilled professionals to maintain the infrastructure. The economy and the area in general plummeted. The governing party turned to the communist Soviet Union & East Germany for help, but by the early 1980’s the country was bankrupt. The Civil War, which lasted until 1992, further weakened the economy and killed over 1 million citizens – but gradually, growth & stability has returned.
The city today is a mixture of the old & new – construction activity is prevalent in the downtown area as they gradually replace the very old & deteriorating buildings, continuing their modernization efforts. We planned to hire a taxi for the day. The free shuttle bus (contracted by Holland America) was to take us to an open-air marketplace where passengers could pick up taxis if desired, but the shuttle trip took us through downtown and past some very interesting landmarks and enough so, that we really didn’t feel a need to explore further. We spent about an hour at the market, hopped back on the shuttle and returned to the ship. We’ve seen plenty of museums, government buildings and so forth – no sense in paying a taxi or participating in an organized shore excursion as many did. Hats off to Mozambique – while there remain many poor, frightening areas in the city, the residents are making a massive effort to restore their city having been riddled with war & destruction for so many years. The average ANNUAL income is US $800 and with 2 million residents, there’s a lot of competition for the better paying jobs but again, good progress is being made.
Our focus now is on Richard’s Bay, South Africa. We arrive tomorrow morning and at 10:30, Cheryl and I disembark the ship for two days as we go on our African safari. We’ve been looking forward to this adventure for several months – actually our entire lives.
Captain's Log update: Madagascar & Mozambique - CLICK HERE