Saturday, August 13, 2011


Bem-vindo a Nampula, capital of Nampula Province and third-largest city of Mozambique.

Nampula Airport

The good news is that our flight this morning was surprisingly clean and safe, and the food was actually better than U.S. economy class options (though that's not really saying much): after an unmemorable snack at the beginning of the flight, we were served chicken à zambeziana with pasta, bread, mango juice, and flan.

The sad albeit unsurprising news is that corruption is hardly limited to Maputo. Within minutes of landing at the Nampula airport, a uniformed officer asked me for a refresco, in response to which I (quite implausibly) pretended to understand neither Portuguese nor English before hurrying ahead.

We were greeted in the arrivals hall by two TechnoServe employees: Ana, a consultant from Portugal, and Sinezia, the Millennium Mills project director. After dropping our bags off at the hostel where we'll be staying, we started our tour of Nampula, a sprawling town of about 500,000 inhabitants.

Our tour of the city center quickly revealed that Nampula, despite being the third-largest city in the country, is at a much lower level of development than Maputo. Nampula lies at the center of the region that was most ravaged by Mozambique's brutal 15-year-long civil war that lasted until 1992. Nampula and other northern provinces bore a disproportionate share of the damage by virtue of being the stronghold of the anti-Communist political organization that lost the war. Even today, travelers are advised not to stray off main roads due to the threat of active land mines.

We made our way to the central market, a labyrinthine network of stalls selling everything from live animals to second-hand clothing. I was only able to take one quick picture before Sinezia advised me to immediately put away my camera.

Mercado Central

As I wrote in an email to a friend, it's my first time in an underdeveloped country (unless Morocco counts), and definitely my first in a place where the GDP per capita is $430, and so everything here is different in that admittedly cliche new-perspectives-slash-grateful-for-everything-I've-had-but-don't-deserve kind of way. Hopefully I'll have a slightly more nuanced and interesting take—and some more good stories—by the end of the summer. And for now, dear reader, I'll try to separate out the typical "no hot water!" or "bug in my soup!"-esque sob stories from the more interesting elements unique to Mozambique.