Mozambique Island, Mozambique

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

The lovely Ilha de Moçambique (“Island of Mozambique”) was once a hub of many cultures on the Indian Ocean trade network and an Arab port and shipbuilding center. Vasco da Gama visited the island in 1498 en route his famous voyage to India. Beginning in 1507, a permanent Portuguese settlement—including a port, a naval base, and a chapel—was established in the northern part, which grew to take up the area now known as Stone Town. The island then became the Portuguese capital of East Africa until 1898, when the capital shifted to Maputo. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, the Island of Mozambique abounds in crumbling colonial era buildings, many under restoration—including a Hindu temple—and “the oldest complete fort still standing in sub-Saharan Africa.”

We stayed in a lodge whose interiors and courtyard-centric design had a strong Indian sensibility; we learned that its Italian owner had purchased it from an Indian family who had lived there for generations. The island's current population of 14,000 is 90% Muslim and 10% Christian, but as an American evangelical pastor we met here indicated (that conversation is a story for another day), monotheistic lore sits loosely upon older beliefs that include animism, ancestor worship, and witchcraft, as well as matrilineal social arrangements. We were lucky to encounter a bi-weekly street market on the island, full of a bright and expressive sense of color most evident in the fabrics of chitenge—the dress women wrap themselves in all over east Africa. [—Namit Arora, October 2015]

View from the one-lane bridge to the island

Restored part of Stone Town

Portuguese architecture


Mosque (more)

Church, Igreja da Saúde

Hindu temple
(under restoration)

A public park

Two boys (1, 2)

Mac and his friend

Two girls

With a brand new ball

A restaurant run by an American evangelist

A facade in Stone Town

Recently restored

Deep blue sky

Historical buildings of Stone Town

Built between 16-19th centuries

Colonial-era buildings

Restored town hall

Awaiting restoration

Fallen apart during the Civil War

Dilapidated buildings abound

A restored building

Children, Makuti Town

Children, Makuti Town

Children, Makuti Town

Children, Makuti Town (1, 2)

A hotel pool / restaurant

A commercial building

Island coast

Sunset hues

Street on eastern side

Street on eastern side

Street on eastern side

For lunch, anyone?

Steet on the eastern side

East coast

East coast

Three children (more)

Island's residents

Plaza with statue of Luís Vaz de Camões (1524-80), arguably Portuguese language's greatest poet (1, 2)

Luís Vaz de Camões (more)

Vasco da Gama

Museum of the Isle of
Mozambique (1, 2)

Museum courtyard

Igreja da Misericórdia
(1, 2)

Chapel decor

Colonial era rickshaws

Restored colonial-era boat

The fort in the distance

Old customs house

Near the southern end

Street going north

The southern coast

Banyan tree lined street

Faded splendor

A colonial-era theater

Street on the eastern side

Restored buildings

Eastern coast (more)

Northwest coast

What color is the sea?

Indian ocean blues

Hospital de Mozambique

A street Stone Town

An Indian origin trader

A plaza in Stone Town

Madrassa Ibrahimo

Thatched-roofs of Makuti Town

Street vendors, Makuti town

Condom ad in an eatery

Sunset (more)



Matapa siri-siri with rice and piri-piri hot sauce

Homes in evening light

Home with thatched-roof

Beach shack / bar


Banyans in a public park

Playing basketball

Evening in Stone Town

Italian restautant (more)

A bi-weekly market on the Island of Mozambique





(1, 2)

(1, 2)

The Fort of São Sebastião

Oldest complete fort in sub-Saharan Africa

Dates from 1558

Late afternoon (more)

Dominates the northern end of the island (more)

Another view of the fort

Church inside (1, 2)

Inside the church

Canons and crosses

Awaiting restoration (more)

View from the ramparts

Canons (more)

Northeastern wall

Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte

Recently restored, the chapel was built in 1522

The oldest European building in the southern hemisphere (1, 2)

An example of Manueline vaulted architecture (1, 2)


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