This important southern Indian Ocean port lies less than 100km (60 miles) from neighbouring Swaziland and South Africa. With its subtropical climate, beautiful sheltered bay and blend of Portuguese architecture, African spontaneity and Indo/Portuguese/African cuisine, Maputo (formerly Lourenço Marques) has retained much of its colonial mystique. Nightclubs swing to samba rhythms until dawn and a host of quiosques (kiosks) serve galinha piri-piri (chicken piri-piri), matapas (a cassava-leaf dish), bacalhau (dried cod) and some of the best batatas frita (fried potato chips) in the world. Hundreds of salões (sidewalk cafés), dozens of nightclubs and the odd suitably sleazy strip joint complement the vibrant atmosphere of this capital city that feels more Latin American than African.
Modelled on Portuguese harbour cities such as Lisbon and Porto, Maputo’s wide avenidas (avenues) are lined with pavements inlaid with black-and-white stone mosaics. Laid out in a grid pattern in 1847, the ‘long’ avenues extend at right angles to Avenida da Marginal while the ‘short’ avenues traverse Maputo Hill away from the bay. By car, you will enter the city via the large traffic circle on Av. 24 de Julho, and proceed for 5km (3 miles) before reaching Av. Julius Nyerere, the heart of the cima, or upper city. Visitors arriving at Maputo International Airport will enter the city via Av. de Acordos de Lusaka. This becomes Av. da Guerra Popular on reaching the high-rise area, runs downhill to the baixa – the lower city – and ends at the massive ‘peace goddess’ statue in the centre of the square opposite the Maputo Railway Station.