DECO travelled to Maputo and found a city filled with moments of unexpected beauty.

There are places in this world that possess a particular magic so strange and wonderful that to visit them is like stumbling into an illustrated storybook. Maputo, with its steamy blue horizon, architectural cornucopia and acacia trees dropping leaves like fine confetti over crumbling pavements, is just such a place.

Inextricably linked to its chequered past, yet doing its utmost to face the 21st century, the city hangs delicately in the balance between ruin and renaissance. It’s still in need of a serious lick of paint, yet the development that’s taken place over the past few years is helping to nudge the seaside capital of one of the world’s poorest nations back onto the map.

Catch a tuk-tuk or a taxi blaring cheesy old-fashioned love songs and whiz towards town where you’ll find Maputo’s true rough and tumble wonderland. From fascinating examples of 1950’s and 60’s design by renowned Portuguese architect Pancho Guedes to beautiful yet astoundingly empty Art Deco buildings, there are faded and half buried treasures on almost every street.

Here, delight lies in the discovery and the detail: security bars as artworks; rusting signage; an old cinema echoing with the memory of long-silent movies.

Against this moody backdrop, Maputo’s inhabitants work and play with an upbeat energy that banishes any residual melancholy. The result is an unforgettable mix, an intriguing, layered city to feed your explorer’s heart.

Maputo | Elle Decoration SA
Maputo’s streets reveal a wealth of Art Deco buildings and details, from a petrol station to an abandoned bread factory to famous eatery Costa do Sol.

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Left: Close-up details of buildings by well-known Portuguese architect Pancho Guede, whose creative designs are dotted all over Maputo, Right: Decorative security bars by Malangatana, one of Mozambique’s most famous artists, at the Bureau of Public Information
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On Sunday mornings, baptism ceremonies take place along Maputo’s Miramar Beach
Inside the Club Ferroviário gymnasium
Inside the Club Ferroviário gymnasium
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Lighting in the foyer of the telecommunications building
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Left: Early sunday morning on the Avenida da Marginal, Right: the entrance to a nursery school on Ave Kim Il Sung
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Left: A yoga and dance studio at Cafe Canela on Rua Daniel Napatima
Maputo | Elle Decoration SA
Inside the Santo Antonio da Polana church, built in 1962
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Evidence why locals call the Santo Antonio da Polana the ‘lemon squeezer’

DECO Highlights: Don’t leave Maputo without…

Exploring the city’s architectural gems with a guide – we recommend architecture expert Jane Flood whose passion for, and knowledge of, Pancho Guedes’ work among others will take you to every nook in the city.

Contact: +258 82 419 0574 / jane.flood@gmail.com

Discovering the heart of old Maputo in downtown ‘Baixa’ area on foot. It’s completely safe to walk around during the day and a great way to see some of the more obvious sights, such as the cathedral and the ‘Iron House’ designed by Gustave Eiffel.

Catching some live music at Gil Vicente, a converted cinema in Ave Samora Machel that plays lively host to the city’s jazz, reggae and marrabenta stars.

Experiencing Maputo’s legendary nightlife. Dance ‘til dawn at the Coconuts complex in Ave da Marginal, touted to be one of the best music and dance venues in Africa.

Haggling for fresh fish and seafood at the vibey fish market, before getting it cooked right in front of you at one of the makeshift eateries in Ave da Marginal.

Feasting on a plate of prawns at Costa do Sol – ‘home of the LM prawn’. Also try the prawn rissoles as a pre-dinner snack.

Contact: +258 21 450 115 / Ave da Marginal

Enjoying a chilled sundowner at the pool bar of the restored Hotel Cardoso.

Contact: +258 21 491 071 / 707 Ave da Martires de Mueda

Attending a Sunday service at the 1960s Church of Santo Antonio da Polana, if only to experience the wondrous interior of what the locals call the ‘lemon squeezer’.

Visiting the Chissano Museum to see the works of renowned Mozambican sculptor Alberto Chissano at his family residence in Rua Torre do Vale, Bairro Sial, Matola.

Mingling with the city’s creative set at artist’s cooperative, Nucleo de Arte. Its laid-back Sunday evening gatherings are the city’s best kept secret. 94 Rua d’Argelia.

Tucking into peri-peri chicken at perennial favourite Restaurante Piri Piri.

Contact: +258 21 492 379 / Ave Julius Nyerere

Dining on a shredded crab salad in a restored Pancho Guedes building at Zambi in Ave 10 de Novembre.

Indulging in an evening of two-star Michelin fare at the Hotel Serena Polana Delagoa Restaurant.

Contact: +258 21 491 001 / Ave Julius Nyerere

Sampling the city’s best pasteis de nata and Portuguese galao at Nautilus Café in Ave 24 de Julho.

Taking an early morning Sunday stroll along Miramar Beach to watch the fishermen’s dhows, as well as the various baptism ceremonies.

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The Portuguese Embassy on Ave Julius Nyerere

 Photographs by Adriaan Louw – Text and Production by Lin Murray

First published in the REVAMP Issue 77

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