Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Changes in Maputo Since We Moved Here

Rico and I moved from Chimoio to Maputo in late January 2006, if I'm not mistaken. The city has really changed since our arrival - in my opinion, mostly in positive ways. Here are a few changes I can think of:

- putting up new (funcional!) traffic lights at major intersections, and better positioning them so you can actually see if it's green or red from your car without having to crank your neck out the window.

- repaving Av. 25 de Setembro in the baixa and putting up a median, thus ending the phenomenon of people parking their cars diagonally in the middle of the 2-lane busy street.

- painting lines on several roundabouts and major thoroughfares in an attempt to keep people in their lanes.

- work to control the erosion of the Marginal road, although this is a problem Maputo will have to contend with forever.

- the opening of the Maputo Shopping Center, bringing with it an assortment of overpriced shops, a nice food court, a big, relatively cheap grocery store targeting the Indian community (lots of spices and products you have to identify from photos on the wrapper because everything is in Arabic or Hindi), and a cinema with a tacky neon façade that has yet to open.

- a visible increase in Chinese presence, from construction sites to restaurants to the flight between Joburg and Maputo (last time we took it, at least 1/3 of the passengers were Chinese).

- increase in Brazilian presence, in particular due to companies like CVRD, Camargo Correa and now the opening of a Fiocruz office in Maupto to support the antiretroviral factory that supposedly will be operating by 2010.

- opening of the Polana Casino and accompanying restaurant - The Meat Co. - and nightclub - Sassas. Great food, random club, no comment on the casino facilities as gambling isn't something I've done here in Maputo.

- opening of Zambi, definitely one of the best, most reliable restaurants along with The Meat Co.

- decline in quality at Costa do Sol. When we first arrived in Maputo, it was our absolute favorite restaurant and we knew the manager and benefited from him ordering special seafood platters on our behalf. Now, apparently, the management has changed. It's still a good restaurant and certainly worth a visit due to its history, but there is better seafood to be had elsewhere, in my opinion.

- change in management at the restaurant at Hotel Terminus, definitely a change for the better. Maputo increasingly has several very good restaurants to choose from.

- opening of Café Sol, the first (and hopefully not the last) coffehouse in the city.

- new hotels in the city: VIP executive and the Arabian-themed one on Av. 24 de Julho.

- destruction of the abandoned Four Seasons hotel. We watched the big blast from Jenny's apartment, and Paco got it on tape, complete with me inadvertently yelling "Caralho!" at the sound of the explosion and subsequent collapse of the old concrete structure. Maputo's shoreline is certainly better off without that eyesore.

- booming residential construction, especially in Bairro Triunfo.

- increase in crime, though thankfully Maputo is still a relatively safe city, especially if compared to places like Rio or Joburg. There have been several carjackings and kidnappings in the last year, a change from the more petty pickpocketing and vehicle/home burgulary that usually plagues the city. I suppose this is one of the unavoidable consequences of growth, especially if the economic benefits don't trickle down to the majority of the population.

- increased food prices and transport cost. I keep wondering when the unsustainable solutions reached following the transport riots in February will start to break apart.

- more "luxury" options available in Maputo: day spas, massage parlors, pilates and yoga classes, etc.

- increase in rent prices. Now it's very difficult to get an apartment in a "good" neighborhood as an expat for less than US$800/month. It's not at all uncommon for a newer/remodeled 3-bedroom flat to go for US$2,500 - US$3,500 per month in these areas. Big houses can easily go for US$3,500 to US$4,500 per month. This is much more than I was paying in Austin, or certainly in New Mexico, and is nearly what rent is like in notoriously expensive cities like San Francisco and New York!

What other changes have you noticed lately in Maputo? Any contributions to this list in the comments are welcome!


Anonymous said...

yes. the new VIP executive SUITS hotel...when will they fix that sign?
Yet to try Terminus restaurant food...do not like Zambi, think its just too much hype.
Maputo would benefit more from ethnic restaurants, there is too much of the same (steak, fries, chicken, and a slew of portuguese style dishes).
definetely more coffeehouses, and pastries!
and rent...tell me about it! it actually hurts to look at 800$ apts and their condition.

Jo Ann v., a writer on the D-List said...

Oh... some rents in Angola in new buidlings went up to 20K$ per month ! No wonder Luanda is more expensive than Tokyo and Paris !! :-|

Ali la Loca said...

~Anonymous - Heheheh. I'd actually not noticed the sign on VIP Exec Suits. Classic! Will have to pay attention the next time I pass by there.
I love certain dishes at Zambi: octupus carpaccio, their grilled veggies and creamed spinach, and the apple crumble. Totally agree on the need for more ethnic places. Supposedly there's an Ethiopian place on Eduardo Mondlane, but I've yet to try it.

~Jo Ann - Angola is on a totally different level in terms of being expensive. Salaries are also inflated accordingly, as we have several friends making the kind of money it would take to live in a US$10k to US$20k per month apartment. One just moved away from Luanda to take a much more modest salary elsewhere, because at the end of the day his savings were much greater. Crazy!!

Jo Ann v., a writer on the D-List said...

Are they expats ? Because the rents are going up faster than any Angolan salary. Funcionários (don't even remember the spelling !) don't have the means for such apartments. Most of the Angolan "commoners" (sem ser filhos de ou ter um posto importante) have to leave Luanda to the suburbs (como Viana) and the traffic jam is terrible, even without rush hour. It took me once 5 hours to go and come from the university in Viana and that day I was so pissed, I told everybody I didn't want anyone asking me if I wanted to go back to Angola to live. And thinking that so many people living in Viana have to wake up at 5AM to be at work at 8 and sometimes be late... no, I just can't... :-(

Ali la Loca said...

~Jo Ann - Yes, they are expats. They still have to deal with the traffic, though! Nobody escapes that wonderful side of Luanda!

Jo Ann v., a writer on the D-List said...

That's the one democratic thing in Luanda: traffic jam ! :-D

MoziEsmé said...

That crime thing is a bummer. It's terrible when three women go walking together on the Maputo beach in broad daylight, with people around, and get mugged, as happened to my sister recently. Though there were no knives or guns involved, so it's still not on par with other big crime places :)

Loved your list. Though now that we have a Shoprite and Mundos and Nandos and Indian food in Matola, I see less and less of Maputo.

Ali la Loca said...

~Moziesmé - Yes, the mugging thing is unfortunate, but at least, as you said, most crimes here are still nonviolent. Being aware is the best preventive measure, along with not carrying anything of value on the beach - we take our clue from the brazilians: no purse, no backpack, nothing of value - just a little money tucked into a pocket, sunglasses and keys!

Also, you're right, Matola has gone through a massive transformation as well. I remember watching them build the Shoprite from my office window at the Banana Empire.