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Saturday, 01 July 2017

A Mozambican Beach: A Very Social Institution

Written by Donal Conlon
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Going to a beach in Mozambique is totally unlike going to a beach in Greece, Italy or the South of France. Its role is different; it’s all about interaction. Maputo beach on the edge of Mozambique’s capital illustrates this in many ways. Obviously, people go there to escape the heat and humidity of the city, but they don’t go there to swim - few can, or to sunbathe - little need to. They go to play, socialize and do business.

People jump up and down in the water and frolic at the edges. Groups of young boys and girls play football as they howl and scream. Anyone can join in. They shout, “Come and play”. There are children scooping the sand for the thousands of tiny crabs trapped in dips in the sand at low tide.

Women and their children grill fish or chicken to serve with “xima” which is a dish made from milled maize; some sell oranges, pineapples, chocolate, hard-boiled eggs, peanuts or cashew nuts. There is a woman who makes the rounds with hundreds of different colored and sized brassieres slung over two shoulders and one arm. Some young men carry around the full panoply of nail varnishes and paint female toenails and fingernails with some very individualistic and creative designs. There is a photographer or two strolling around. Some young men tote around a trampoline which kids can jump on for a few cents; another young man is jerking the strings of two wooden and gaudily colored puppets as he has them jump around in some obscene dance.

In some ways, it is a huge “singles” bar. Few young people have the chance, simply not having the money, to go places where they might meet the opposite sex and have fun – and the beach serves this purpose well. Girls, in various states of clothing, stroll arm in arm or hand in hand, with their mobile phones at the ready.


Churches, particularly evangelical ones, use the beaches for baptisms, prayer meetings, and exorcisms (these can be very noisy as devils don’t vacate bodies without a fight).

The beach is the most democratic institution in Mozambique, nobody is refused permission. Dress code is informal: street clothes, swim wear, underclothes, no clothes, collar and tie, religious robes...

Beach Moz

After nightfall, you have to watch out for robbers, amorous couples, or a girl urinating in a dip in the sand (there are no toilet facilities).

I sometimes take a book, buy a beer and sit on the beach to read. I am seldom left alone for long. Sometimes a girl will sit down to show off her minimal English or to flutter her synthetic eyelashes to see if I am really concentrating on my book. Would she like a drink of something? Of course. Would she like a lift back to town? Of course she would.

©Donal Conlon

Last modified on Friday, 30 June 2017

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