Well beyond the several decades of crippling civil war that began in the 1970s, Mozambique’s capital of Maputo is fast becoming a jet-setter’s retreat, with its posh hotels, trendy discos and casinos and flashy, modern look. Located on the Indian Ocean way down this very long and narrow country, it lies in an “ironic” tourist position, being only a few hours away from South Africa’s famous Kruger and other national parks, but nearly three times as far from its own best tourist attractions. As a result, tourists visiting Mozambique’s fantastic off-shore islands or inland big game reserves will likely start from Johannesburg, not Maputo.

Maputo’s many attractions include the museum of Mozambican history, a military museum, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima and the important cultural and artists’ center, the Associacao Nucleo de Arte, the oldest collective of artists in Mozambique with over one hundred painters, sculptors and ceramists. Like neighbor, Zimbabwe, Mozambique artists are considered among the most schooled and accomplished in southern Africa.<>The city has the oldest history of any port in southern Africa, having been explored by the Portuguese trader, Lourenco Marques, in 1544. Three hundred years later in 1876, the city was officially named the capital of Portuguese East Africa.

The city exudes charm with an emphasis on the arts and history with a new and modern twist. The Bantu and Portuguese cultures dominate, but the influence of Arab, Indian, and Chinese cultures is also easily seen. The city’s many fine and varied restaurants serve a very elaborate fare, owing especially to the Portuguese and Arab heritage.