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History of Mozambique

Vasco da Gama first came across the country that would later be called Mozambique in 1498, but by that time there was already a strong Arab presence with commerce and slave trade practices well established along the coast. The Arabs had been on the coast for several hundred years before the Portuguese arrived, and before the Arabs arrived there were the Bantu peoples who had moved down from the north and the west, more than a thousand years before.

Mozambique history tells of ports and forts established by the Portuguese became important points along the new route to the east and soon there were traders and prospectors exploring the interior in search of gold and slaves. Portuguese power increased through individual settlers and officials who had been granted extensive autonomy by the Portuguese government. By the early 1900’s Portugal had put the administration of Mozambique’s affairs largely in the control of large private companies, who naturally instituted policies which would be profitable to their interests, which usually meant the building of wealth amongst Portuguese immigrants and those operating from Portugal itself. Subsequently there was a void created where national governments usually craft policies intended to foster national integration, infrastructural development, skill development and local economic growth. Colonial rule ended in 1975, but drought and a drawn out civil war would see the country being brought to its knees before peace could be found. Marxist policies were abandoned by the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) party in 1989 and with a new constitution multiparty elections were held. Peace was only established in 1992, however, with a peace agreement being negotiated by the UN. The rebel Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) forces and FRELIMO were finally able to come to peaceful agreement after many years of destructive civil war. Luckily for tourists, the Mozambique people and their government have put their war torn past behind them and are focused on rebuilding their country. Mozambique tourism offers beautiful beaches, islands, a World Heritage site, colonial architecture and warm welcoming people and culture, making for a great place to visit.


Mozambique's major ethnic groups encompass numerous subgroups with diverse languages, dialects, cultures, and histories. Many are linked to similar ethnic groups living in neighboring countries. The north-central provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are the most populous, with about 45% of the population. The estimated 4 million Makhuwa are the dominant group in the northern part of the country. The Sena and Ndau are prominent in the Zambezi valley, and the Tsonga and Shangaan dominate in southern Mozambique. Despite the influence of Islamic coastal traders and European colonizers, the people of Mozambique have largely retained an indigenous culture based on small-scale agriculture. Mozambique's most highly developed art forms are wood sculpture, for which the Makonde in northern Mozambique are particularly renowned, and dance. The middle and upper classes continue to be heavily influenced by the Portuguese colonial and linguistic heritage. During the colonial era, Christian missionaries were active in Mozambique, and many foreign clergy remain in the country. According to the national census, about 40% of the population is Christian, at least 20% is Muslim, and the remainder adheres to traditional beliefs. Under the colonial regime, educational opportunities for black Mozambicans were limited, and 93% of that population was illiterate. In fact, most of today's political leaders were educated in missionary schools. After independence, the government placed a high priority on expanding education, which reduced the illiteracy rate to about two-thirds of the population, as primary school enrollment increased. Unfortunately, in recent years school construction and teacher training enrollments have not kept up with population growth. With post-war enrollments reaching all-time highs, the quality of education has suffered.


Mozambique covers an area of about 800,000 sq km’s and has a coastline of more than 2,500km’s. It has an extensive coastal plain which varies from 100 – 2,000 km’s wide in the south. The north of the country is dominated by plateaus and mountainous terrain where towering granite outcrops called inselbergs occur. While the south coast is edged with barrier lakes, the Zambezi River Valley is situated in the central regions of Mozambique and creates an extensive delta region towards the coast. Mount Binga is Mozambique's highest peak at 2,436m, situated in the Chimanimani Mountains on the Zimbabwean border. Other important rivers which flow through the country are the Limpopo River, the Save River and the Rovuma River (the border between Mozambique and Tanzania in the north).

Mozambique has a diverse ecosystem with extensive wetlands, mangrove forests, off-shore marine habitats and montane habitats including the Chimanimani Mountains and the Gorongosa Massif in central Mozambique. A lack of official regulations and structures continue to hamper the conservation of many areas. Even when boundaries have been set, much of Mozambique’s natural resources are being ignored or squandered. Timber trade in the northern parts of Mozambique is an example of how over-utilization and inappropriate logging practices are being pulled off with large scale damage to the surrounding environment as neither replanting nor sustainable harvesting has been implemented. There are however a number of small projects which focus on the promotion of sustainable development and community resource management.

The main dry season runs from April to November and during this time, daytime temperatures average 24°C. The rainy season is from November to March and temperatures average 27°C. The country’s highest temperatures occur in the north around Pemba and west towards Tete. Rainfall averages 850mm per annum along the coast while during intense rainfall periods, up to 2,200mm can be recorded.

Flora includes some 5,600 species, of which an estimated 250 are endemic. Two areas of notably high biodiversity are those of the Chimanimani Mountains and the Maputoland Center of Plant Diversity along the South African border. The latter area is considered a site of global botanical significance with coastal forests and some 2,500 species of vascular plants. Common species which occur throughout most of Mozambique include various types of Brachystegia (Miombo) and the tall Mopane tree. Mangrove swamps are a common feature along Mozambique’s central and northern coastline and cover an approximate area of 400,000ha.

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