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Ilha de Moçambique

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Su Shi

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Mozambique 23-24/05/2012

Cand baobabii au facut loc din nou palmierilor, am zarit istmul de 3,5 km care leaga continentul de fascinanta Ilha de Moçambique, fosta capitala insulara a tarii, si din 1991 sit World Heritage. Aceasta este una dintre cele mai interesante destinatii pe coasta estica a Africii. Splendoarea apusa a arhitecturii coloniale, cladirile din coral din cidade de pedra (Stone Town), fortul Sāo Sebastiāo odinioara impenetrabil, cidade de makuti (cartierul de colibe din palmier) in care traiesc pescarii … un loc al contrastelor care vorbeste despre prezent la trecut. Numele insulei vine de la cel al sultanului Muss Mbiki care in secolul XIV a fost rasturnat de la putere de portughezi. Acesta a fost centrul comertului maritim care lega Portugalia de Estul indepartat.

As the baobabs made way for the palm again, we reached the mesmerizing Ilha de Moçambique (pro­nounced ilea de musa’biki), the country’s original island capital and World Heritage Site since 1991. This is the unpolished gem of the African east coast: grand colonial architecture stands monument to a past, from the entrance to the old dockyard to the urban residencies in the cidade de pedra (Stone Town) and the once impenetrable Fort of Sāo Sebastiāo. The name Mozambique is derived from Muss Mbiki, the Sultan of the Ilha when the Portuguese arrived there in the 15th century. The Ilha is linked to the mainland by a 3,5 km causeway. The southern end of the island is the poorer neighborhood called cidade de makuti (palm frond town). The huts are where the locals actually live and contrast sharply with the faded architecture of the rest of the former hub to the entire sea route between Portugal and the far East. The Makuti slum was built in the quarries that had provided the stone for the 400 colonial buildings; a parede social (wall) separates the two residential areas.

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Un labirint de stradute inguste si case in paragina, unele doar o coaja pe care doar buruienile o mai tin in picioare.

On the northern end of the Ilha, narrow streets wind between the double-storeyed coral stone buildings of the old Stone Town. This was the aristocrats’ territory, an eclectic mix of Portuguese and East African architecture. Few houses have been restored, due to conflicting ownership and governmental stammer. Many are only shells, held together by roots and vines of wild fid trees. Some streetscape:
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Vopseaua de pe fatade se cojeste in straturi de vremuri-demult-apuse

The paint peels off facades in layers of it-will-never-the-same-again

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Fosta scoala de arte si meserii

School

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Dar viata merge mai departe

But life goes on 

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In 1498, la sosirea lui Vasco da Gama, Ilha de Moçambique era deja un port important, legat de Zanzibar, Madagascar, Oman si Persia. In sec. XVI devenise baza portugheza permanenta pentru nave si echipaje angajate in ruta catre Macau si Goa. Diferite evenimente din sec. XX (descoperirea zacamintelor de aur in Transvaal, inaugurarea canalului Suez, expansiunea portului din Maputo) au dus la decaderea economiei insulei. Populatia a scazut, caldirile au colapsat si din pacate multe piese inestimabile de mobilier au ajuns lemne de foc (in casele refugiatilor din cazua razboiului civil). 

When Vasco da Gama landed here in 1498, Ilha de Moçambique was already a well established trading port, linked to Zanzibar, Madagascar, Oman and Persia. It is the island that gave the nation of Mozambique its name, not the other way around. By the 16th century it had become a permanent Portuguese station for their ships and crews sailing to the eastern bases in Macau and Goa. Various early 20th century events (discovery of gold in the Transvaal, the Suez Canal inauguration, the rise of the port of Maputo) led to the decay of the island’s economy. Population shrunk, buildings collapsed and sadly many irreplaceable carvings, shutters and furniture had been used as firewood by civil war refugees.

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In micul port Santo Antonio familii de pescari (musulmani) se adunasera ca in fiecare zi pe praia (plaja), sa sorteze pestele si sa stea la taclale. Cu barcile traditionale (dhow) aferente.

In the small fishing harbor of Santo Antonio families gathered on the praia (beach) to sort the day’s catch and chillax. Check out the traditional boats, called dhow.

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Nici macar barbatii nu indrazneau sa se ceara in poza, dar de indata ce unul isi facea curaj, sesiunea foto era de nestavilit.

Not even these Muslim fishermen were daring enough to demand being photographed, but once one would be so cheeky to ask us, a photo frenzy would ensue. 

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Ce prada fabuloasa! Moluste, arici de mare, caracatita si tot soiul de specii exotice, totul pescuit artizanal. Oare pentru consum propriu sau pentru cina unor restaurante scumpe?

Look at the fabulous catch! Mollusks, sea urchin, octopus and all sort of exotic species, hunted with spears and small fishing nets. Must be sold to fancy restaurants?

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Ochii copiiilor au o lumina aparte. Pitacii se dau in vant sa interactioneze si sa fie fotografiati

Chatty locals kids have captivating bright eyes

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Mina si tovarasii de joaca

Mina and some play buddies

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Eu si tovarasele mele de joaca

Me and my play buddies

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Eu si Saidi

Me and my pal, Saidi

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Ne doream sa ramanem o noapte pe insula, dar ne-am sfiit sa campam pe plaja si hotelurile ni s-au parut prea scumpe, asa ca urma inca o noapte in tufele de casava. Abia dimineata ne-am dat seama cat de riscant fusese locul ales la repezeala. De oboseala nu am mai rezistat sa cautam mai bine si dormisem chiar intre doua drumuri, aproape in vazul unuor sateni. 

We wanted to sleep on the island, and we were too shy to squat on the beach. But the dorms were too expensive, so we were looking at another night in the cassava bush. Only in the morning we would realize how risky had been our pick. Too tired and unable to navigate in the dark, we had pitched our camp right between a village road and a neighborhood path. 

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Asa ca la 5 ne stiam pe nume cu o mana de localnici: Amina, Anija, Ajira si Antonio. Oameni de zahar, nu degraba portughezii i-au spus acesti zone Terra da Boa Gente (‘Taramul oamenilor buni’). Erau, fara exceptie, bucurosi de musafiri, asa ca le-am printat cateva poze. Ajira ni s-a parut chiar eleganta cu cosul ei de nuiele pe cap. Doar batrana Amina a mentionat in treacat ceva de bani, iar nepotul ei a intrebat daca nu i-am putea da ceva de lucru. Asta ne-a amintit din nou de Congo (Zair): adesea strainii care se ocupa de infrastructura dorm in corturi si spun ca sunt ‘in tranzit’, asa ca e normal ca aparitia unor albi prin imprejurimi satenii sa caute sa se angajeze. In Congo asta incepuse sa ne agaseze, cand de fapt arata dorinta localnicilor de a face treaba.

A little after 5 a.m. we had already made acquaintance with Amina, Anija, Ajira and Antonio. Sweet people (even the Portuguese had called this place Terra da Boa Gente - ‘Country of the Good People’). They were genuinely happy to see us, and we printed some photos for them. Ajira was quite elegant with her basket. Amina was the only one who mentioned briefly a money gift and her nephew inquired if we could employ him. That is another reminder of DRC: frequently foreigners who build the roads squat in tents and say they are ‘in transit’, so it makes sense that when there’s word of white people sleeping nearby, villagers would gather and look for temporary jobs. That became a hassle in DRC, when it proves eagerness to work. 

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