Statsraad Lehmkuhl visits Maputo December 17 2022 - January 3 2023
Maputo is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Mozambique, in the east of southern Africa.
The way the globe is unfolded when presented on flat maps deceives us. Africa is really huge, the second largest continent after Asia. Mozambique is also large, two and a half times larger than Norway.
The country has a low coast, and rises towards a mountain plateau inland. Several large rivers flow from the plateau, such as the Zambezi and the Limpopo. The grey-green, greasy Limpopo is probably familiar to many from Kipling's story about how elephants got their long trunks.
Mozambique was populated by hunters and gatherers when the Portuguese Vasco de Gama and his crew arrived there in 1498. By then, Arab traders had lived along the coast for several hundred years. The Portuguese built trading posts and fortresses, and used the land as a stop on the sea route going further east.
The country remained a Portuguese colony until 1975, when it became independent after a ten-year liberation war.
The Portuguese had little focus on building up infrastructure, the economy and education, and eventually gave the rights to the rich natural resources away to private companies. After Mozambique became independent, the country experienced several decades of civil unrest, before a new constitution focusing on free elections and a market-based economy was enacted in 1990.
Since then, Mozambique has been democratic. Most of the 30 million inhabitants work in small-scale agriculture, and agricultural products are the country's main export along with aluminium.
Port and railway
Maputo in the very south of the country is the most important port in Mozambique. From here, the country's export goods are sent out by ship, and by rail south to Pretoria in South Africa. The city has around one million inhabitants.
Maputo lies inside Maputo Bay where five of the many rivers from the interior ends, a strategic place to set up a trading station, as the Portuguese did here in 1782. In 1787 the station was reinforced with a fort. A hundred years later, the trading post had grown into a town, which grew further when the railway was built in 1895.
A planned city
The town was named Lourenço Marques after the Portuguese trader who first settled here. The name Maputo, after one of the five rivers, was given to the city the year after the country was liberated.
Maputo was originally a planned city, with separate areas for housing and others for industry, wide avenues and rectangular blocks. But in recent years the population has increased rapidly, and the city has grown. Now many of the inhabitants live cramped and impoverished, and struggle because of the lack of infrastructure.
In the middle of summer
Maputo has a tropical savanna climate, with dry winters and humid summers. Maputo is south of the equator, so it is the middle of summer when Statsraad Lehmkuhl arrives in December. The city gets 813 millimeters of precipitation annually, slightly more than what Oslo receives.
Normal maximum temperature in December: 30.1 ℃
Normal rainfall in December: 118 mm