Sunday 30 December 2018

Maputo - the people in the street

Maputo was the final stop on my recent tour of Mozambique. Regular readers will know that my favourite activity when traveling is to wander the streets observing every day life whilst meeting and photographing local people. Maputo is a great city in which to do all of those things. This post introduces some of the many people I met there.

Mafalala is one of the city's best known areas. Close to the centre it was built to accommodate African workers who were denied the right to live in the central area during the colonial period despite working there every day. The neighbourhood was to become an important centre of resistance to colonial rule. Despite being one of Maputo's poorest neighbourhoods it has  a strong reputation for art, music and dance. This can be seen in the many murals that add colour to the streets. It is also the birthplace of football legend Eusebio and of Samora Machel, Mozambique's first president after independence.

The people are friendly, welcoming to visitors and happy to talk about their lives if interest is shown. I visited twice during my few days in the city. On the first occasion I met Amina in the street opposite a small mosque. She was sitting under an umbrella, taking shelter from the extreme heat and waiting for customers to purchase fruit from her stall. I was surprised to hear that she is 85 years old. She seemed much younger and this must have shown in my expression as she produced her ID card and asked me to look at the date of birth. She was indeed 85. She said that it was difficult to make money here but that her son works in London and is able to help her from time to time.

Amina, a youthful 85, Mafalala
Shop worker and impressive biscuit collection, Mafalala
Mafalala has several shops including a long established general store. I went in to buy some water and noticed that as well as local products there were some very familiar items on sale including Ovaltine and Milo. People who know me will not be surprised to know that I also noticed a very fine selection of biscuits including Oreos, Romany Creams and a brand called Boudoir. I've not tried Boudoir before but they looked interesting. I asked one of the staff if I could take his picture. A little shy he wanted me to obtain the agreement of the owner first. Agreement secured he happily posed in front of those biscuits.

Many children play in the streets of Mafalala. Some of them asked me to photograph them. This happens a lot when traveling in some parts of the world. In India and the Philippines I was pursued by children wanting just one more picture sir. The poses the children assume are pretty much the same everywhere doubtless influenced by music videos and youtube. One small group waiting outside a shop were enjoying loud music coming from a nearby house. The resulting picture is perhaps my favourite of my time in Mozambique.

Friends, Mafalala
Waiting for the shop to open, Mafalala
Alberto, street tailor
Away from Mafalala, I noticed a line of three tailors working under the veranda of a now closed cafe. Tailors fascinate me. Despite the worldwide mass production of clothing, it is still possible to see them working in the street in many places. Theirs is a portable skill with relatively few requirements for establishing a business. I was able to speak to them through a guide who told me that they had moved to Maputo from Nampula in the north in search of a better life. As I was about to leave, a woman called to me and invited me to photograph her. She was also from Nampula and was cooking a regional meat and rice dish to sell to hungry workers.

Preparing traditional Nampula dishes
Maputo has numerous markets, all of them good places to see every day life. The pictures below are from different mercados across the city. The young woman holding her baby was selling vegetables at a large market on the outskirts of Maputo. The very stylish young man in the long coat has a stall in the huge Xipamanine market. At Xipamanine, after seeing my camera, several people came forward to ask me to take their picture whilst others wanted a selfie with me. I am often surprised at how many people are interested in being photographed. Despite the widespread ownership of mobile phones, there is still something special about standing in front of a real camera.

Will you take us to Brazil?
The markets also provided moments of comedy. Some of the female vendors enjoyed teasing me. One group asked if I could take them to Brazil in return for a photograph whilst three very confident women said I could photograph them if I first agreed to marry one of them! When I suggested I take a picture and then come back when I'd decided who to marry they were not impressed saying they'd been caught out like that before. Others were less forward including a woman sewing bags for storing vegetables. She indicated that it was fine to take her picture but preferred to look down rather than at the camera. Some gentle teasing from her friends eventually persuaded her to look up but I really like the series I took with eyes downcast and a smile playing on her face. Another woman, Amalia, involved in the same type of work, looked directly at the camera allowing me to capture her kind expression.

Vegetable vendor and child
Vegetable vendor, Xipamanine
Pretending to be shy, Xipamanine
Amalia, Xipamanine
Chamanculo is a short drive from Mafalala. The two have much in common with many difficult social issues including poor housing and sanitation. The warmth of the people is similar too and many of them called out hola or boa tarde as I passed by. I noticed Felix, Nelson and Milton sitting on the external counter of a closed shop. They wanted to know where I was from and if I like football - the two questions I was most asked in Mozambique. They told me they like English football but were keen supporters of Barcelona and Juventus. As with several other people I met, they asked for a picture with me and my guide before we parted. The little boy in the red t-shirt stood and watched my exchange with the three young men. As I was about to move on, he approached me and asked very politely please sir, one picture?. Who could say no?

Felix, Nelson and Milton, Chamanculo
Please sir, one picture, Chamanculo
Maputo is a seaside city and has some beautiful beaches overlooking the Indian Ocean. Early in the morning on certain days of the week, followers of the Zion churches gather on the beach to pray and to perform rituals which encompass both Christianity and traditional beliefs. On the morning I visited a young priest was also present, he is pictured below.

Church of Zion priest
Prayers by the sea
I spent just three days in Mozambique's capital city. I could happily have stayed longer. I hope to return one day to revisit Mafalala, Chamanculo and Xipamanine and to meet more people of magnificent Maputo. In the meantime, some more pictures...

Nelson, shoeshine, Downtown
Five minutes rest, Xipamanine
Idalia in pink

You can see more pictures of Mozambique here.

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Monday 17 December 2018

Ibo - Ghosts Of The Past And Hope For The Future

Ibo is a small island of about 4,000 inhabitants. The largest of the Quirimba group it is accessible by air and sea. Visitors come to scuba dive, to see the many different species of wildlife and also to use the place as a base from which to visit other islands. I came for different reasons, to meet the  people and to see the streets abandoned by the Portuguese in the 1970's, many of which have fallen into a serious state of disrepair.

Ibo airport
I arrived as the only passenger in a four seater light aircraft that took just 25 minutes from Pemba. The short flight offers spectacular views of other islands and the Indian Ocean's many shades of green and blue. Arrival on Ibo was also quite something as children playing football beside the runway interrupted their game to waive hello and a small group of women crossed the landing area carrying baskets on their heads.

The people of Ibo are friendly, interested in visitors and gave an enthusiastic response to my attempts to wish them good morning or good afternoon in Portuguese. The children are especially curious about foreigners. On several occasions during my few days on the island, I was followed by groups of school age (and younger) children who called out hola repeatedly. A few of them would try out a little more English, asking me where I was from, where is my wife and what football team do I like. They were singularly unimpressed when I told them I am not keen on football.

Flor de Ibo
Avenida Maria Pia
Abandoned building in the administrative area
Kiosk selling provisions
The island is small and I was soon walking amongst the abandoned villas and shops that I had read about and seen pictures of. Some of them are in particularly bad shape, with collapsed roofs and nature is beginning to reclaim them but others have fared better.

Ibo was once a thriving commercial centre with Portuguese, Indian and Chinese owned businesses as well as local merchants. Mozambique became independent from Portugal in 1975 and the new government gave Portuguese residents a choice. They could either adopt Mozambican nationality or leave within 24 hours taking just 20 kilos of possessions with them. The vast majority chose the latter and over 300,000 people left the country in just two weeks. One of the islanders told me that he remembered seeing the Portuguese depart. They packed their things, closed the door behind them and left. We miss them. Many Indians and Chinese also left, leaving behind locked homes and businesses, most of which remain empty today.

On Avenida Maria Pia, there is a particularly poignant reminder of the old days. Flor de Ibo was once a thriving grocery story. It is now slowly decaying, its green paint peeling away and vegetation growing on the roof. The owner was one Mahmoodu Haji Jacob who sold spices, fresh fruit, vegetables and other food items. Something drew me back to this spot several times during my stay. The shop retains a little of its former grandeur due to its size and the stylish pediment over the entrance, but there is something unbearably sad about it too. A terrible sense of loss. Sitting opposite the old store in the late afternoon I could almost smell those spices and see the ghosts of the former residents going in and out of the shop.

As well as a significant number of Indian residents there was also a small Chinese community on Ibo. Over many years, Chinese merchants visited from Macau, another former Portuguese colony now reclaimed by China. They came here in search of sea cucumbers and one of them, Hong Jan Irmao established a very successful export business from the island before he too left in the great exodus of the 1970's.

Following the dancers
But of course, there is still life here and during my stay I was to see Avenida Maria Pia street come briefly and gloriously back to life.  My stay coincided with a cultural programme arranged in honour of a visit from the Italian Ambassador. This included music, dance and craft exhibitions at the beautifully restored Fortaleza de Sao Jean-Baptista during the day. In the evening an open air concert was staged near the main street and several stalls opened up to sell food and drink. I spent a little time there and enjoyed the music but the highlight of the day for me was an impromptu performance by some of the drummers and dancers over from Nampula. They walked from the fort to one of the jetties where they performed a dance surrounded by at least 100 children who had followed them all the way from the fort, traversing the Avenida on the way.

Folk dancers from Nampula
Joao Baptista, Ibo's oldest inhabitant
I was able to meet several interesting people during my time on the island. Joao Baptista is said to be the oldest resident. A youthful 91, his birthday is celebrated on 23rd June every year as part of the Ibo Island Festival. His father was an official in the colonial administration and due to this Joao was the only African child allowed to attend Ibo's Portuguese school. I asked him how his friends reacted to this and how he was received by the teachers and other pupils. He told me that his friends were happy for him to go to school and that he was made welcome by the other children. As an adult Joao initially worked for the Portuguese but later became involved in the independence movement which resulted in him being imprisoned for a time in the island's fort - the name of which, ironically, he shares. Today he likes to sit on his favourite Goan chair on the veranda of his house and to talk to passers-by, telling them about the old days and answering their questions about his beloved island.

Bashiri Yusufa, silversmith
Sheena gets to work on another customer
Joanna, Moishes and Jacob
There are a number of craftsmen working on the island including silversmiths and wood carvers. Bashiri Yusufa told me he is 46 years old although he appeared to be older. He has a small workshop where he makes silver rings, necklaces and other items of jewellery, sharing the space with two young men who work in copper, producing similar items. I bought a few pieces from him and he was happy to pose for a photograph. He called out bom dia to me when I walked past his workshop again the next day.

If I am traveling for more than a few days I like to visit a local barber shop, to get tidied up and to see how this noble profession operates in other countries. Ibo has two barbers and after finding the more central one closed on a couple of occasions, a young couple helped me to find Sheena's in the village. Sheena is a serious chap and took a moment to understand my joke when I pointed to one of the somewhat bouffant styles advertised on the wall of his salon. Friends know I am what you might term challenged in the follicle department and the chances of me leaving his shop with anything other than a zero cut were negligible. He eventually saw the funny side of my request and I came away a satisfied customer.

One of my other must-dos when traveling is to try the local coffee. Ibo coffee is of the robusta variety and has a very strong taste which is perfect for me and I bought some to bring home. It can be sampled at the few cafes dotted around the island.  In addition to the cultivated coffee there are a few abandoned plantations. The islander who spoke to me about the departure of the Portuguese showed me one such place and it was here that we met a young woman carrying a baby who stood in the doorway of her home observing us. She smiled, laughing when I asked for a picture and was quickly joined by a second, older child when he realised that there were visitors. She told me her name is Joanna and the children are Moishes and Jacob. It was only later that my guide told me that the plantation and the house had once belonged to his family.

Much work is being done to revitalise life on the island. I stayed at Ibo Island Lodge, a beautifully restored heritage building facing the sea where a superb range of activities are on offer. The Lodge also runs several projects aimed at improving opportunities for local people including a Montessori English School, a silversmith's programme and a number of other community enterprise schemes. Several international organisations are supporting work to protect biodiversity whilst a small number of the crumbling buildings have been restored, one of them as an hotel. There are often complex legal issues relating to abandoned buildings that make it difficult to rescue them. This is a world wide problem but is especially acute here where much of the built heritage is at risk and where there are many conflicting priorities for investment. Who knows what the future will bring.

A few more memories of Ibo...

Woman wearing Mussiro - a natural cosmetic that protect the skin from the sun
Is he taking our picture?

I stayed at Ibo Island Lodge, a beautifully restored heritage building facing the sea. 

You can see more pictures from Mozambique here.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Maputo Art Deco

Maputo is the capital city of Mozambique and home to 1.2 million people with a further million residing in the adjacent satellite city of Matola. It is also home to a fine collection of Art Deco buildings constructed during the Portuguese colonial period when the city was known as Lourenço Marques. Maputo's deco buildings include cinemas, a radio station, commercial and residential properties and a stunning cathedral. The style remained popular here well into the 1950's, significantly longer than in most other countries. A local aficionado explains this in part by Portuguese settlers needing to work for several years before being able to build a home and then choosing a style that had been popular when they left Europe. Perhaps. 

I have not been able to locate documentary information in English about several of the buildings featured in this post and even Portuguese language websites do not carry full details of the architects or dates of construction. This is not peculiar to Mozambique and there are Art Deco and modernist buildings across the globe for which reliable information is unavailable. If anyone reading can add something please do so in the comments space below!

Cine Africa, completed 1948
As in many major cities, Maputo had a number of Art Deco cinemas. I was able to see the exterior of two of them during my short stay. Cine Africa on Avenida 24 Julho, began life as the Cinema Manuel Rodriquez. Built in 1948 in classic Art Deco style it has a fabulous facade complete with speed-lines, a narrow central glazed pillar or "thermometer" topped by a "screw" and flagpole. The cinema appears to have been re-painted recently and has a crisp, clean, well cared for appearance. It could seat 1,500 people but during the colonial period audiences were segregated. The last film was shown in 2004 and the building is now the base for the National Ballet Company. Cine Africa is a greta example of a late Art Deco building - from it's appearance it could easily date from the early 1930's rather than the end of the following decade.

The Scala on Avenida 25 de Setembro still operates as a cinema. Built in 1931 with a seating capacity of 1300. The original owners were the Transvaal Delagoa Bay Investment Company. Another South African company, South African Cinema Lda provided the films. Occupying space over two floors, the cinema's blue and white facade and stylised lettering carrying the Scala name make the building stand out on the Avenida. The former pastelaria of the same name seems to have been closed but film fans can still take advantage of a bar with outdoor seating on the first floor terrace.

Scala Cinema
Catedral de Nossa Senhora de Imaculada Conceição
Whilst Art Deco cinemas can be found all over the world the same is not true of religious buildings. Maputo is a notable exception to this with both a Catholic Cathedral and a Hindu Temple built in the style. The Cathedral, Catedral de Nossa Senhora de Imaculada Conceição was designed by a civil engineer, Marcial Simoes de Freitas e Costa who took particular inspiration from Pardal Monteiro's church in Lisbon. The brilliant white Cathedral is constructed from concrete and cement. It is approached by a series of steps that add to the visual impact, contrasting horizontal and vertical arrangements. The foundation stone was laid in 1936 and construction completed in 1944.

Maputo has been home to a Hindu community for many years. In 1932 The Association of Hindu Workers was formed and their temple, Bharat Samaj Ved Mandir was inaugurated in 1938. The facade displays both Hindu and Art Deco influences with ziggurats, geometric shapes and use of the rule of three principle. I do not have details of the architect.

Bharat Samaj Ved Mandir, Hindu Temple, inaugurated 1938
National School of Dance
National Organisation of teachers building
Art Deco high school
There are also a number of Art Deco buildings in Maputo that were designed to fulfil educational functions. I spotted three during my stay - the National School of Dance, the head quarters of the National Organisation of Teachers and a stunning high school. All three display classic deco motifs and combine a white exterior with detailing in a different colour - red, green and blue respectively. Again, no details so just enjoy the pictures!

Clube Ferroviario (The Railway Club) was inaugurated in 1943. Occupying a prominent corner plot it's presence is emphasised by its white facade, green speed-lines and intricate detailing on the doors. Formerly a swamp, this part of the city is prone to flooding and at least one commentator gives this as the reason for the raised entrance. An over zealous official came out and told me to stop put my camera away but the picture below gives a little idea of its grandeur. 

The Escola-Hotel Andalucia, formerly Hotel Avis, built in 1946 is another grand deco building. I like its asymmetrical design, crittal windows with metal detailing on the panes, flag posts secured with an Art Deco "screw" feature and most of all those fabulous balconies that cover the facade. The hotel was sold in 2012 and immediately closed for renovation. The external information board says that the works began in 2013 and were to last for one year. They are not yet complete and there was no sign of activity at the time of my visit. Let's hope this beautiful building is not left to fall into disrepair - several of the windows are already broken.

Clube Ferroviario, inaugurated 1946
Escola-Hotel Andalucia, completed in 1946
Window detail, Escola-Hotel Andalucia, completed in 1946
Three days is not enough to see all of Maputo's architectural treasures and to fit in the many other things that I wanted to do. However, I did manage to cover a lot of ground, see some of the most significant buildings in the central part of the city and whet my appetite to see more in the future. I will blog separately about Maputo's marvellous markets, surprising jazz history and fascinating local neighbourhoods but in the meantime, a little more Art Deco...

Radio station building
Radio station building - window detail

Edificio Abel da Silva Pascoal, completed in 1946
Casa Rubi, once Mozambique's tallest building
Portuguese Embassy, a modern take on Art Deco
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You can see more pictures of Mozambique here

Thursday 22 November 2018

Ilha de Moçambique - The People In The Street

It's quite a journey from London to Ilha de Mocambique. It takes almost 20 hours from check-in at Heathrow to arrival but after two flights, a long wait in Johannesburg and a couple of hours drive, a first look around makes it all worthwhile. Joined to the mainland by a new three kilometres long bridge, the island is a visual treat - full of colour, history, surprising architecture and friendly, welcoming people.

For almost four hundred years the town was the capital of Mozambique and the most important Indian Ocean port south of Mombasa. It boasts numerous mosques, three churches and even a Hindu temple (although there are no Hindus living here now).  There is also a huge 16th century fort which contains a small church, Capela da Nossa Senhora do Baluarte which dates from 1522 and is the oldest remaining European building in the Southern Hemisphere. These riches contributed to the island being declared Mozambique's first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.

Most of the main sites are within ten minutes walk of each other but for me, as ever, it is the people and the narrow streets of the old city that I find most interesting. The island has two distinct parts, Stone Town in the northeast and Macuti Town in the southwest. Most of the landmarks are situated in Stone Town but both areas are rich in atmosphere and the chance to engage with local people.

I had read that it can be difficult to photograph people in Mozambique. Numerous internet articles talk about cultural and religious issues and the need to tread carefully. Others emphasise the likelihood of being asked for money in return for a picture.  However, I spent three days on the island and although there were some incidences of people requesting refreshco i.e. payment in return for a picture, it was generally for tiny amounts and not once did anyone refuse point blank to be photographed. This was in no small part due to my engaging a local guide to walk with me as I have about ten words of Portuguese and many older people do not speak English. I also found that those ten words were helpful in making a connection. Just being able to say good morning, thank you and please made a difference. I found most people I met to be friendly and even seemingly grumpy roadside vendors would give a big smile in response to an unexpected boa tarde.

Blue doors in Macuti town
More than 90% of the inhabitants of Ilha de Mozambique are Muslim. Many of the women wear the hijab or some other kind of head covering but this did not seem to impact on their attitude to photography. Walking through Macuti Town I came across two hijab wearing women and a small boy sitting outside their home. The scene was a riot of colour. The house had blue and white doors with bright yellow steps and exterior walls. One of the women wore an ochre hijab whilst the other wore a striking animal patterned headscarf and bright purple lipstick. I wished them bom dia and when they responded I lifted my camera to indicate that I would like to photogrpah them. They nodded agreement and after taking the group photo above, asked me to photograph them individually - something that was to occur several times during my stay here. Later that day when reviewing my day's work I noticed that I had also captured two children peeping at me through the doors. I was able to shoot several group scenes on the island, some of which are pictured below.

Family and friends, Macuti Town 
Sitting in the shade, Macuti Town
Everywhere I went in northern Mozambique I saw women wearing a white face mask called Mussiro. Originally a symbol of virginity, the mask would no longer be worn when a young woman married. Today it is used primarily as a cosmetic and has properties that prevent acne, provide protection from the sun and keep the skin smooth. It has even been worn by models at the Mozambique Fashion Week. Pipinia was chatting with a group of women when I noticed her. She was wearing Mussiro and very quickly agreed to be photographed. She had clearly done this before, humorously assuming a series of poses and expressions in the style of a modelling shoot. Still on the subject of modelling, a few minutes after leaving Pipinia I came across two young men sheltering from the hot sun in the doorway of a house. I liked their almost hipster style and they too would not be out of place in the fashion pages. 

Pipinia wearing Mussiro
Youth and style
Hey, I want to be in the picture too!
During the day the streets of Ilha de Mozambique were full of small children. Often they would call out hola, what is your name and where are you from. Sometimes they would also call out photo, photo and begin posing and making gestures that they can only have seen on cable TV. One group of small boys began calling to me as I walked along the main street. They were a jolly band with adult family nearby and so I began to photograph them. I soon noticed one boy from the adjoining house, leaning over the wall, desperate to be in the picture. At each click he leaned further across until he eventually solved the problem by climbing over the wall and joining the group. I only wish it was possible to encounter that level of enthusiasm everywhere in the world!

Colours in Stone Town
There are a number of artists and traditional craftsmen working on the island. I visited a silversmith's workshop where I found a beautiful pair of earrings for my daughter. Three artisans were working there, in a simple blue painted room, their work displayed in a beautiful antique wood and glass cabinet. The simplicity of the scene and the beautiful blue backdrop were great examples of what makes this place such a visual delight.

A little later I met Hamis Hussein, a tailor. He works from his two room home where he both repairs clothing and takes orders for new garments. I asked him if this was a skill he had learned from his father. He said not and that his father had been a prominent official in the local administration during the Portuguese period. Hamis had learned tailoring at a practical school and established his own business. He is not sure of his age. He may be 72 but he has no documentation to confirm this. I was very taken by his calm attitude and kind face. I would like to be able to talk to him again some day. 

Hamis was not the only tailor I met on the island. When walking alone early one evening I noticed two men sitting in an alleyway at the side of a house. One sat by the door to the alley whilst the other worked at a sewing machine. The man by the door waved, smiled and called out hola as I passed by. Never one to miss the opportunity for a chat, however brief, I went back and learned that they were brothers and that both of them are tailors. Even in this alley, there was colour as one of them worked on a bright new garment.

Hamis Hussein, tailor
Brothers and tailors, Stone Town
Back on the mainland, there is a small but busy market at the entrance to the bridge. People come here to buy and sell fish, fruit, vegetables, electrical goods, second hand clothes, shoes and other items. It was a great place to photograph people, some of whom were very enthusiastic about having their picture taken. One elderly woman saw my camera and began shouting and gesticulating. At first I thought she might be objecting to my taking pictures. On the contrary, she was demanding that I photograph her saying take my picture, I am still beautiful. So I did. I took a couple of shots of her before moving in for a close-up portrait. I loved the result - a slight smile and her face half in shadow half in sunlight, every line telling a story.

Four friends
It was also here that I stumbled upon a group of three older men sitting on the steps of a shop, enjoying the afternoon sun. I secured their agreement for a picture and just as I was about to begin shooting, a fourth elderly man rushed forward to join them. They shuffled up a bit to let him in and then began a short conference with each other after which they asked me to take individual portraits of them as well as a group picture! I was very happy to oblige despite the fact that they would only be able to see their pictures on the camera screen. By this time a group of spectators had began to form which swelled to perhaps 20 or 25 people alternately laughing and cheering. A good natured crowd, they wanted to see the results too and I spent some time there holding the camera for them to see.

Later I noticed an elderly man laying back and supporting himself on his elbows. There was something very stylish about him with his colour matched trousers and hat, loose black overshirt and red slogan bearing tee. He asked me why I wanted to take his picture and expressed surprise when I said he looked interesting. His posture, outfit, yellow bag and contrasting yellow backdrop make this one of my favourite pictures from Mozambique. He seemed happy with the result and even waved at me as I passed by a little later on the back of a motorcycle!

Take my picture, I am still beautiful 
Man with style
Children of Lumbo

The motorcycle was my mode of transport for visiting Lumbo, a small town just a few kilometres away from the bridge but difficult to access by other means. It is a strange place. One side of the town has a lively market, a residential area and access to the sea enabling work in the fishing industry. The other side is a ghost town of homes and other buildings abandoned by the Portuguese during their mass exodus from Mozambique following independence in 1975. The town developed due to its being served by a branch of the national railway system that linked it to the much larger city of Nacala to the north. Trains no longer come here and the town feels cut off. The empty villas are beginning to collapse due to four decades of neglect and the effects of the climate. However, some of the larger, former administrative buildings are being used for educational purposes and the impressive Catholic Church is still in use.

Abandoned villa, Lumbo
Barber shop, Lumbo
Cine Teatro Nina, Stone Town

Former Chinese restaurant, Stone Town

Lumbo is not the only place in this area where there buildings have stood empty for years. Back on the island, the former Cine Teatro Nina closed a long time ago and although it seems to be structurally sound the effects of neglect are beginning to show. It stands beside a series of buildings constructed by the Portuguese including a former sports club and a Chinese restaurant. The interior of the restaurant is now exposed to the elements and the elegant tiles used to decorate the old counter can be seen from the street. With the exception of the cinema, this once impressive parade of buildings is likely to be lost forever if something isn't done soon. On the other hand, a number of buildings have been very well looked after and others are undergoing restoration. In Stone Town I made two great finds - a building with a beautiful wooden Art Deco influenced door and another with a stunning lobby complete with black and white tiled floor and original wooden bannister. These chance findings are the things that can make travel such an enriching experience.

I also had another chance encounter on Ilha de Mozambique. I wanted to see an exhibition of photographer Moira Forjaz's work at one of the island's galleries. Unfortunately when I got there the exhibition was closed. I stood looking through the windows when a small boy approached me and said there was another place to see the pictures. A little doubtful, I let him lead me to a house a couple of streets away where he knocked on the door and who should answer it but the photographer herself! She invited me in and I had a delightful half hour with her looking at photographs and hearing about her life. She was born in Zimbabwe but has lived in Mozambique since independence in 1974. An amazing woman, the book relating to her exhibition - pictures and stories of people on the island - will be available very soon. I have already placed an order.

Art Deco doors, Stone Town
Secret staircase
Retired fishermen, Stone Town
Fisherman in a red hat
I cannot finish without some reference to the fishing industry which remains important here. There is a small fish market adjacent to the beach and the catch can be seen being brought in all around the island. I photographed the little group of retired fishermen sitting in the street early one morning. The man in the red hat is also a fisherman. He was sitting on the beach with a group of his friends. I was struck by his style and poise.

I had just three nights on the island. Whilst it was enough time to see the sites and even to visit a couple of places on the mainland, it is the kind of place that draws you in and demands more time. I would have liked to meet more people, to hear more stories and find out more about the island's past. Maybe next year.

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You can see more pictures of Mozambique here

I stayed in Villa Sands, a beautifully designed, extremely comfortable and centrally located hotel. My dietary requirements were very sensitively taken care off and the hotel also put me in touch with a superb local guide who helped me to capture the images used in this post.