Inhambane, Mozambique

(Notes from a journey to Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia, Sep/Oct 2015.)

Inhambane, a coastal town in South Mozambique, was once a port of call on the Indian ocean trading circuit. For hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans on the East African coast, Arabs, Persians, Indians, other Africans, Indonesians, and even the Chinese came to these shores, trading textiles, silk, porcelain, spices, pearls, and more (a Chinese explorer, Zheng He, returned with a live giraffe as a gift for the Ming emperor). All this created a cosmopolitan and syncretic culture, still evident in Inhambane. Vasco da Gama visited in 1498 and he loved the area so much he called it Terra de Boa Gente ("Land of the Good People"). At least since then, the people on this stretch of the coast have held a reputation for being polite, gentle, and laid back, which seemed to me still apt.

In the 18th century, after the coming of the Portuguese, the dominant economic activity shifted to trading slaves and ivory. Thereafter, as the global economy moved on, Inhambane fell behind. Today it’s a quiet town of tree-lined avenues, mosques and churches, colonial architecture, and an overall aura of faded splendor. At the mosque we had a long chat with a young Muslim doing a Ph.D in human rights at a university in Portugal; he had returned to his home town to do field work. He spoke vividly about his difficult transition from this backwater town to life in the metropole, a story at once bittersweet and universal. [—Namit Arora, October 2015]

Municipal council

Dhows, Inhambane Bay

A dhow, Inhambane Bay

Residential street

Statue of first president, Samora Moisés Machel (more)

Cathedral of our Lady of Conception

Old town street

Jesus on her butt

Cinema hall

Rua da O.U.A

School girls hanging out

Av. da Independencia


Coastal Road (more)

Inhambane Bay at low tide

Coastal Road

Inhambane Bay at low tide

Dhows in Inhambane Bay

Women singing on their way back from collecting mussels at low tide


A quiet residential street

Old mosque (19th. cent)

Inside the old mosque

New mosque (more)

A secondary school

Bar and cafe

Decor on the wall

Dining area

Train station

Inhambane Bay at sunset

Inhambane Bay at sunset

Inhambane Bay at sunset (more)

Av. da Independencia (more)

Kids playing soccer

Street on Sunday eve

Square on Sunday evening

Decorated shop front

A neighborhood

Africa Tropical

We stayed here

Coconut curry with rice

Sailing on a show

Going to Maxixe

Maxixe in the distance

Waiting for the bus


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