With its Mediterranean-style architecture, waterside setting and wide avenues lined by jacaranda and flame trees, Maputo is easily one of Africa's most attractive capitals. It's also the most developed place in Mozambique by far, with a wide selection of hotels and restaurants, well-stocked supermarkets, shady sidewalk cafes, and a lively cultural scene.
The heart of the city is the bustling, low-lying baixa (busy port and commercial area). Here, Portuguese-era buildings with their graceful balconies and wrought-iron balustrades jostle for space with ungainly Marxist-style apartment blocks. Galabiyya-garbed men gather in doorways for a chat, Indian traders carry on brisk business in the narrow side-streets, and women wrapped in colourful capulanas (sarongs) sell everything from seafood to spices at the massive Mercado Municipal (Municipal Market).
A few kilometres away, along the seaside Avineda Marginal, life takes a more leisurely pace. Fishermen stand along the roadside with the day's catch, hoping to lure custom from the constant parade of passing vehicles; banana vendors loll on their carts in the shade, with Radio Moçambique piping out eternally upbeat rhythms in the background; and local soccer teams vie for victory in impromptu matches in the sand.