Maputo retains that old charm

Maputo, formerly known as Lourenco Marques after a Portuguese explorer who landed there in 1544, is the capital of Mozambique. Located in the far south-west of the country, it is easily reached from neighbouring Swaziland and South Africa.

Maputo, formerly known as Lourenco Marques after a Portuguese explorer who landed there in 1544, is the capital of Mozambique. Located in the far south-west of the country, it is easily reached from neighbouring Swaziland and South Africa.

However, the city is fast coming into its own and is now considered an ideal destination for an exotic weekend adventure. Old buildings have been restored, new buildings are going up at an alarming rate and business is booming, and still retains a distinctly Mozambican charm. In a single weekend you can explore the cultural heritage of the city, relax on beautiful Inhaca Island, gorge yourself on the famous Mozambican prawns and - if you're brave enough - venture into the legendary Mercado Xipamanine.

The city was founded in the 18th century, but not much from that period remains today. The biggest historic attraction in town is the Portuguese fortress, built in 1787. A more recent landmark is the Mousinho de Albuquerque Square in the centre of town. The beautiful Train Station is definitely worth a look. It was built in 1910 by an architect from the Eiffel school in Paris.

Neither the war of independence nor the fighting between the government and Renamo which began in the early 1980s, occurred in the city. So unlike other parts of the country, Maputo escaped largely unscathed.

A peace treaty was signed in 1992, officially bringing the war to an end. Maputo is full of life. Mozambicans love to party and Maputo is a great place to listen to live music, dine on phenomenal fresh prawns in pili-pili sauce or simply wander through an art gallery or two.

Accommodation in town includes two backpacker lodges. The Base, run by an extremely welcoming staff, is located in the heart of the city and is a perfect base for venturing around Maputo. Small but clean, The Base offers small six-bed dorms, singles and doubles. As an added bonus, the balcony offers great views of the Indian Ocean. Fatima's, a few blocks away, offers a similar bunch of amenities with questionable results.

If anything is certain, you will not go hungry in Maputo. No matter your budget there are enough choices to keep everyone happy. Need to eat on the cheap? Check out one of the many markets where a plateful of stew with Pap will run you less than R14.

The local fish market, located on the north end of Avenue Marginal is one of the best places in all of Africa for fresh fish and seafood. Every evening around dusk, local fisherman haul their catch into the market where discerning buyers scoop up as much as they can carry.

Several bars and restaurants on the market premises will cook whatever you buy for a small fee. Another fantastic option in the centre of town is the Feira Popular. This amusement park cum restaurant haven is probably the only place on earth where you can get amazing prawns pili-pili, a cold beer and a round or two of foosball or bumper cars. Entry into the fairgrounds is R1470 and is well worth it, day or night. Be sure to take a taxi after dark. - www.world66.com

X