Maputo, formerly Lourenço Marques, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. A port on the Indian Ocean, its economy is centered around the harbour. It has an official population of approximately 1.244.227 (2006), but the actual population is estimated to be much higher because of slums and other unofficial settlements. Coal, cotton, sugar, chromite, sisal, copra, and hardwood are the chief exports. The city manufactures cement, pottery, furniture, shoes, and rubber. There is also a large aluminium smelting plant, Mozal. The city is surrounded by Maputo Province, but is administered as its own province.
In the early 1900s, with a well equipped seaport, with piers, quays, landing sheds and electric cranes, enabling large vessels to discharge cargoes direct into the railway trucks, Lourenço Marques developed under Portuguese rule and achieved great importance as a lively cosmopolitan city. It was served by British, Portuguese and German liners, and the majority of its imported goods were shipped at Southampton, Lisbon and Hamburg. With the continuous growth of the city's population and its expanding economy centered on the seaport, from the 1940s, Portugal's administration built a network of primary and secondary schools, industrial and commercial schools as well as the first university in the region - the University of Lourenço Marques opened in 1962. Portuguese, Islamic (including Ismailis), Indian (including from Portuguese India) and Chinese (including Macanese) communities managed to achieve great prosperity - but not the unskilled African majority - by developing the industrial and commercial sectors of the city. Prior to Mozambique's independence in 1975, thousands of tourists from South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) frequented the city and its several scenic beaches and high-quality hotels and restaurants.
The Mozambique Liberation Front, or FRELIMO, formed in Tanzania in 1962. Led by Eduardo Mondlane, FRELIMO fought for independence from Portuguese rule. The Mozambican War of Independence lasted over 10 years, ending only in 1974 when the Estado Novo regime was overthrown in Lisbon by a leftist military coup - the Carnation Revolution. The new government of Portugal granted independence to all Portuguese overseas territories. The People's Republic of Mozambique was proclaimed on 25 June 1975. After independence, the city's name was changed to Maputo. Maputo's name reputedly has its origin in an old, fierce tribal leader, Maputa, who once ruled over the region. The statues to Portuguese heroes were removed and most were stored at the fortress, and black (scarry) soldiers carrying Russian rifles replaced Portuguese Army soldiers (both black and white) with western arms in city barracks and on the streets.
Over 250,000 ethnic Portuguese pulled out virtually overnight, leaving unmanageable Mozambique's economy and administration. With the exodus of trained Portuguese personnel, the newly-independent country had no skilled professionals to maintain its infrastructure, and so the economy plummeted. FRELIMO, now the governing party, turned to the communist governments of the Soviet Union and East Germany for help. By the early 1980s the country was bankrupt. Money was worthless and shops were empty. After that the country was plagued until 1992 by a long civil war opposing FRELIMO to RENAMO - the Mozambican Civil War.
Growth and stability returned in the 1990s, but the city, although being the largest and most developed in Mozambique, is still well under its full potential. Overpopulation, unemployment, poverty and crime are major problems.
Maputo International Airport is the main international airport of Mozambique. Maputo's transportation needs are mainly served by minibus taxis called chapas, which are believed to transport the majority of the city's commuters. There is also a state-owned bus company with a bus fleet that currently numbers some 37 buses. The minibuses are largely used imports from Japan, and they carry most of the public transport activity. There are two major bus terminals in the city: one at Baixa ("downtown"), and another one at Museu ("the Museum"). The chapas(minibuses) are Toyota Hiace.
Maputo is a planned city with square blocks and wide avenues, with Portuguese traces and their typical architecture of the 1970s. Portuguese refugees fled in massive numbers at the end of the independence war in 1975, and the resultant lack of skills and capital, in the context of a fierce civil war and government mismanagement, contributed to its state of dereliction in the years following the declaration of peace. Nevertheless, the city itself was never damaged, since it was tacitly considered neutral ground during both the colonial and the civil war. Recovery has always been very slow owing to a lack of investment. In many cases new buildings are being erected for the rising middle class, rather than existing buildings being renovated, and many city services are still precarious.
The Maputo beach has been spoiled by waste dumped into the bay, so it is not used for recreation, though the water quality does now appear to be improving.
Maputo is a melting pot of several cultures, with a strong South African influence. The Bantu and Portuguese cultures dominate, but the influence of Arab, Indian, and Chinese cultures is also felt. The cuisine is diverse, owing especially to the Portuguese and Muslim heritage, and seafood is also quite abundant.
An important cultural and artists' centre in Maputo is the Associação Núcleo de Arte. It is the oldest collective of artists in Mozambique. Seated in an old villa in the centre of Maputo the Núcleo has played a significant role in metropolitan cultural life for decades. Over one hundred painters, sculptors and ceramists are member of the Núcleo, which regularly stages exhibitions on its own premises and over the last few years has actively participated in exchanges with artists from abroad. The Núcleo became well known for their project transforming arms into tools and objects of art. It played an important role for reconciliation after the Mozambican Civil War. The exhibition of art objects such as the Chair of the African King and the Tree of Life was shown around the world, among others in the British Museum in 2006.
Maputo is home to the Dockanema Documentary Film Festival, and international festival showcasing documentary films from around the world. The 2nd DOCKANEMA festival is scheduled for September 14 - 25, 2007, and will include more than 80 films.