The markets of Maputo

Market in Maputo

Maputo is not boring!

“Maputo is so quiet, honestly it seems a bit boring.” My face falls as I hear this statement. Lais, the girl in front of me, has just arrived in Maputo. She is originally from Brazil and has been traveling for a few weeks. For me, the past two weeks have been filled with visa issues and logistics of a possible internship in the north of Mozambique, so I have been keeping still. But this statement made me quite horrified. Maputo is not boring and I promised Lais to show her just how vibrant the city is if she stays the weekend with me. She agrees! It is Friday so Maputo is bound to be boiling. I immediately start going through my contacts to find out where the party is tonight. With barely one month in this country I am impressed by the amount of numbers I have managed to collect, it says something about how very social the social climate is here. We are in luck! There is a live reggae concert tonight at Rua de Arte and at eight o’clock one of my friends came to pick us up. It is a new kind of luxury to have friends with cars. It was the first thing I noticed when I landed in South Africa all those months ago. My friends are living a different level of grown nowadays, the car-kids-and-career type of grown. I am not complaining, it is luxurious! When we arrive at the event, the place is dead. I am starting to realise that despite what is written on the event poster, all Mozambican events start at least an hour late. We park the car in a dark alley, we are in downtown Maputo and the system of parking is… unclear, to say the least. But to this day, no car has been stolen so something must be working. They are still testing the sound when we enter the venue and the echoes from the reverb rises towards the open sky. It is a simple venue, it looks more like a fenced in courtyard than anything else. I love that about the infrastructure in Maputo; life is everywhere! In any kind of corner or space, people have found a way to make it functional.

 

We are sipping on passion fruit caipirinhas as the venue fills up. I introduce Lais to everyone and everyone is equally welcoming to her as they were to me when I had just arrived. After an hour of mingling, I hear a hoarse voice starting to sing. It is the singer Ras Skunk, accompanied by a band, that has taken the stage. All of Maputo’s Rastas are here to take over the dance floor and we dance and jump to the beats until our feet are raw. After the concert, Lais and I get invited to some sort of initiation party, the details are unclear and despite our friends best efforts to convince us otherwise, we decide to start heading home. In the car I realize I am starving! But where do you get food in the middle of the night in Maputo?! At Mercado Pulmão of course! The real name is the barracks of Pulmão de Malhangalene. When we get there at one AM, the market is popping! There are people partying and hanging outside of the liquor barracks, there is music is pumping from the different barracks and the noise is absolute. It is a happy energy and I can’t help but marvel at this city and all of its secrets! I follow the smell of fried chicken inside of the market and within minutes we are all seated on the cement floor devouring Maputo’s best fried chicken!

 
the global entity showing off Maputo
Mercado Pulmão Maputo
Mercado Pulmão, click the image to see the video.
Mercado do Frango Maputo
Mercado do Frango, click image to see the video.
Mercado Janet Maputo
Mercado Janet, click the image to see the video.

Reflections on female solo traveling

When traveling alone, I have often found myself feeling dependent on the men in my surroundings. Specifically, I feel dependent on their presence when I want to go out at night or explore a non-touristy area. It’s not that I am afraid of being attacked by a stranger, rather it’s a way to protect myself from unwanted advances and conversations that I get as somebody that is visibly a foreigner. Many times people assume that I am together with one of my male friends and I do not correct them since it enables me to be more free and safe. There is a kind of skewed security that comes with “belonging” to a man. I say skewed security for many reasons, one of them being the often problematic dynamic that can be created between me and the man I am relying on. What happens if he confuses his “protective role” with actual flirting? What happens if he expects something in return for his “protection”? I don’t like the feeling of dependency, yet, at the same time, I have not figured out how to be an independent, traveling woman without relying on the mercy of the men I meet. I am grateful every time I meet a man that can provide me with the freedom that I am yet to understand how to create for myself. It can’t be just any man but somebody I trust, somebody that I can call a friend. I need to feel safe that he wont take advantage of my dependency. Naturally, sometimes, that strategy backfires. Like the night of the reggae concert with Lais. The friend, who had driven us around all night, asked to come inside and use the bathroom before he continued driving home. Nemas problemas. When he comes out, he announces that he is too intoxicated to drive home and asks if he can sleep over, saying that the hostel owner always lets him stay. Sure, I say, but think it’s rather odd how he is suddenly too intoxicated after not drinking one drop the whole evening. But I am not about to tell a friend to hit the road when they say they are intoxicated. Nor will I tell him to sleep in the car when I have plenty of room and he has driven us around all night. My dorm is empty except for me and since he does this “all the time” I feel it’s rude to say no.

 

When I show him the extra beds in the room, he protests and tells me that he has no intention of sleeping alone. I explain to him that I am not interested and here is where it gets tricky. Up until now, this is a person that I’ve been hanging out with almost every other day, it is a key person in the group of friends I have here. The only group of friends I have here. If he takes my rejection the wrong way, I risk ending up completely isolated from the group. Although, there is a saying that says better alone than in bad company, we should not underestimate how hard that actually is to do. Humans are wired to equal social inclusion with survival, it is so human it is instinctual. Hence, the fear of exclusion is a powerful mechanism and I remember weighing the consequences of my rejection in my head before speaking. I don’t know if he is embarrassed by my rejection or what, but after some back and forth, he lies down on the bed, turns his back towards me and stops responding. Five minutes later I feel a flash of anger as I look at him sleeping peacefully. He doesn’t realise or care about the uncomfortable predicament he has put me in. I feel like he first ensured that he could sleep over and then ambushed me with his intentions. Honestly, it feels manipulative. Typical nice-guy tactics. Listening to my own thoughts makes me angry too. Why should I be the one awake, worrying? This is my room. If I am not comfortable with him in it I should just throw him out, right? But I won’t. I know I’d feel too guilty about throwing a supposed friend out on the street in the middle of the night. On the other hand, making me feel this uncomfortable is not giving me friendly vibes… why do I feel like I owe him to not be rude, to be nice, when he does not return the consideration?

 

I decide to go wake the night receptionist up and ask for another room to sleep in. I start feeling stupid over how naïve I had been. I should have seen the intentions of the guy and protected myself from it. As soon as I catch myself in that train of thought I stop myself. The habit of policing my own behavior in any kind of situation when blame is to be assigned is probably the patriarchy’s most successful mechanism. One of them at least. One that I am actively unlearning, a little bit every day. Anyhow, it bothers me how dependent I am on the mercy of men. It bothers me that he just fell asleep and I was left doing a risk analysis of the social consequences the situation may have for me. Que merda. What a shit show. When we see each other in the morning, it’s slightly awkward as we both pretend that everything is fine. I suppose he is embarrassed over getting rejected. Personally, I am just relieved that he doesn’t seem angry or  too butt hurt. From now on I’ll be taking the cab home, always. What happened is not something that is unique for Mozambique in any way. The many safety contradictions that women have to navigate is, in my experience, something very global. Even in Sweden, one of the supposedly most equal countries in the world, the nice-guy tactics is a whole phenomena in the social world. However, when I travel solo I am completely without context and community of my own, leaving me more vulnerable to these men than I would be in my own country. 

The markets of Maputo

I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning as my friend Bolodoamor (Gil) had planned to take me and Lais to mercado Xipamanine, a huge market that has everything one could possibly need. The mission was to find a traditional healer for me as I’ve been feeling heavy in my energy for the longest time. When we get out of the xiapa (the minibus used as public transport) the mud greets us, long gone are the asphalted roads. The market of Xipamanine is built on mud roads making everything appear as if it’s floating. The traditional medicine section is in the middle of the market and we have to pass by the cosmetics section as well as second hand clothes and shoes. If I ever need to rebuild the contents of my backpack all at once, this is the market I would choose. I wouldn’t want to walk here alone though… the amount of stolen items for sale makes this a place filled with lots of weird energies and intentions. Bolodoamor is walking a little in front of us talking to the different merchants and healers. He is collecting price offers to see which one has the best local price. He gives us a wave to follow him and another man as they disappear into the labyrinth of paths. He has found somebody. When we arrive, the healer, a man in his fifties, tells me to sit down on a bench in front of him. He doesn’t even look at Bolodoamor or Lais even though it was Bolo that said he needed help. It was like the healer could sense that I was in need. He looks at me and asks me a few questions. Bolo helps me with the Portuguese when I can’t keep up. After the consultation where he says I need a proper cleanse (agreed) he gives me a price that makes Bolodoamor pull me away. “No way you are paying that, that is three months salary.” This is one of the many blessings that come with having local friends, they will help you to not get scammed. I can highly recommend taking Bolodoamor with you, if you just like me, like to go on adventures but want to feel safe at the same time. He speaks both German and Portuguese!

 

I love hanging out at the markets of Maputo. There are so many of them but I do think my favourite one is Mercado do Povo, a normal food market right next to the cathedral. It was the first market I went to on my own, the first place where I started feeling like I knew the local prices and could negotiate for myself. Mercado do Povo means the people’s market and it truly is just that! It opens early in the morning so that the blue collar workers can go and eat their breakfast, something that in Mozambique mostly consists of food. The breakfast people are quickly replaced by either the lunch crowd or the drunk crowd, or perhaps most accurately, a little bit of both. I love chilling here with a cold 2M (Mozambique’s most popular beer) and some good friends. Another, similar market is mercado Janet which lies behind my hostel. Perfect for buying your morning fruits and veggies but not as nice to chill at in my opinion. On Sunday, I took Lais to one of the tourist markets: Mercado do Peixe! It is touristy due to the prices and the type of food served. There are also a lot of souvenir vendors who walk between mercado do Peixe and Mercado do Frango trying to sell their stuff. But if you want to go souvenir shopping for real, I would recommend going to FEIMA market. It is filled to the brim with crafts and art.

Market in Maputo
Mercado Xipamanine, click the image to see the video.
Mercado do povo Maputo
Mercado do Povo, click image to see video.
Mercado FEIMA Maputo
Mercado FEIMA, click image to see video.
Mercado do Peix Maputo
Mercado do Peixe, click image to see video.

3 thoughts on “The markets of Maputo”

  1. Happy to see that you have perfect knowledge over the markets 😁 It will be useful in december 💃

    Thankful that everything went well 🙏

    Is a market really a good place to search for a healer…😬 Talking from own experience 😬

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