Daily life in Mozambique – hardship and happiness

This post is part of the Mozambique 2011 series.

Location of Mozambique in Africa (Map source: Wikipedia)

Mozambique is a country with a rich and complex history starting with the early migration of Bantu-speaking people from the west and north. This was followed by Swahili and Arab traders along the very long Mozambican coastline, and amongst the islands off the coast. Like a lot of other African countries, Mozambique is also a former European colony. All these influences have blended into a diverse and interesting culture. After gaining independence from Portugal in 1975 following the Mozambican War of Independence (1964 – 1974), the country was plunged into another war, the Mozambican Civil War which last from 1977 – 1992. These long-term conflicts had a devastating effect on the country’s people, infrastructure and economy. Although Mozambique is rich in natural resources, investment to the country dried up during the civil war, and the then well-established tourist industry collapsed. Although it is now almost 20 years after the civil war ended, there is still a lot of poverty – especially in the rural areas – low education levels, and poor health-care.

Daily life for the average Mozambican is tough. They make their living where and how they can. Because of Mozambique’s natural beauty and attractiveness to tourists (especially water sports and fishing enthusiasts), some of those activities involve catering to the needs of the people who visit there. Despite all their hardship, the Mozambican people come across (even in photographs) as being open, friendly, happy people who have a lot of artistic talent and ingenuity (many running small informal businesses to support themselves). In a lot of the photographs I’ve seen from this trip, they seem to carry themselves with dignity and grace. Below are some photographs showing the local people in some of their daily activities.

Contradictions on the outskirts of Maputo: old infrastructure and neglected buildings next to modern technology, Africa-style. See the cellular business in the foreground. © Theo van Zyl

Some of the adverts on buildings in Mozambique are for South African brand products, together with the ever present Coco-Cola sign. © Theo van Zyl

Doing laundry in the river on the road to Pomene. © Theo van Zyl

The local car wash. © Theo van Zyl

A woman grinding corn in the traditional way. ©WMB

Locally grown corn which is being ground into maize meal. ©WMB

Women who work at the camp, wading out into the lagoon shallows to the dhow water taxi, which will take them home to their village across the lagoon. ©WMB

The water taxi taking the women across the lagoon. Because of the strong wind blowing, only a section of the triangular sail is deployed. ©WMB

Happy children at the local bakery posing for the camera. There are some young performers in this lot! ©WMB

The local bakery with the tin-drum baking oven . . . © Heyns Kotze

. . . and what comes out of it. This woman bakes and sells the pau (bread) to the tourists in the camp. ©Heyns Kotze

Local women coming to the camp to sell fresh fruit. The locally grown and naturally ripened fruit taste better than any store-bought produce. ©WMB

The Pomene curio shop which sells shells, carvings and paintings. © Theo van Zyl

Young boys at Vilanculos, fishing in the shallows with hand-held fishing lines. © Bobby Esterhuizen

Smoking Karapau fish. ©Theo van Zyl


A man selling crab to the tourists in the camp. © Heyns Kotze

A real cool looking dhow operator! This dhow is one of many used to ferry tourists between the Mozambique mainland and the islands in the Bazaruto Archipelago. ©WMB

In the next installment of the Mozambique 2011 series, I will be featuring photographs of some of the local arts and crafts.

The Mozambique 2011 Series:

Thank you to Heyns Kotze, Theo van Zyl, Bobby Esterhuizen and Willie for allowing me to use their beautiful photographs for this post. See individual photos for credits.

A special thank you to Willie for providing the information used to write this post.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Lifestyle/Travel, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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50 Comments on “Daily life in Mozambique – hardship and happiness”

  1. May 17, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

    Fantastic post! Love the whole picture of life you so eloquently painted in prose and pictures!

    • May 18, 2011 at 8:40 am #

      Thank you! I was hoping that readers would be able to follow the story through the pictures and captions.

  2. May 18, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    very interesting!! and wonderful pictures!

    • May 18, 2011 at 8:41 am #

      Thank you! Yes, my roving photographers did such a good job of the photo assignment I gave them! 🙂

  3. tokyobling
    May 18, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    Came here from Amblerangel’s blog! Love to see stuff about Africa not related to poverty or disasters. Keep the photos coming!

    • May 18, 2011 at 8:50 am #

      People don’t always realize that Africa isn’t just one big disaster area – that there is a lot of beauty here, and goodwill between people. The aim of my blog is to concentrate on the positive side of life in Africa.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

      • Jose
        June 7, 2016 at 1:43 am #

        Have you had any experience with insecurity/crime, etc.

  4. May 18, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    Great post. Life is difficult for some people.

    • May 18, 2011 at 8:51 am #

      Thank you! Yes, life can be difficult here. But what is interesting to see is how people who have so little, seem to be happier than some of those who have a lot.

  5. May 18, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    Really enjoyed this post. The photographers did a really good job! Okay, I’m sure you did a good job in selecting which photos to use too 😉

    There can be much joy in simple living – even with its hardships. And from the look of it these people have ingenious ideas on how to do things most of us can’t do without electricity and our modern appliances.

    • May 18, 2011 at 8:56 am #

      Thank you! Yes, the photographers did great. I had to do minimal editing of the photographs I selected for this post.

      I agree with you about living simply. If food and shelter isn’t a problem, then leading a less complicated life is a lot more peaceful.

  6. May 18, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Fascinating post. That bread looks yummy.

    • May 18, 2011 at 9:04 am #

      Yes, doesn’t it? It’s amazing what one can produce with some ingenuity. I should stop complaining about my electric oven’s little quirks!

  7. Lu
    May 18, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    It’s amazing to see that there are so many similarities across Africa. The most obvious and striking being that there are so many “smilers” 🙂 Life goes on, despite what we might think of their living conditions (as compared to how we might live). They make the best of what they have, and don’t fret about what they don’t have. I sometimes wish that I didn’t know better… How much more relaxing would life be then!? Viva “Hakuna Matata”!

    • May 18, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

      No worries, indeed! Here in the Southern Cape it doesn’t feel like the “real” Africa, so it’s always interesting to see how people live further north. A while back there was some competition, with contestants from all over Africa. They visited the finalists in their homes in different African countries. It was interesting to see that no matter how little their families had materially, they all wanted the same basic things in life – including a better future for their children.

  8. jacquelincangro
    May 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    I’m absolutely amazed at how the women balance the big baskets of fruit on their heads, and do it while smiling. I think the secret must be that they stand proud and tall!

    Boy, does that bread look delicious. I think Anthony Bourdain would enjoy it if he stopped in Mozambique.

    Thank you for shaing this photo essay. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

    • May 18, 2011 at 8:25 pm #

      Yes, it is amazing how the women balance quite heavy loads on their heads. Must have strong necks – and as you said good posture!

      Mozambique is also known for their Portuguese-inspired cuisine, so I’m sure that Anthony Bourdain would enjoy it there.

  9. May 18, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Great pics. Love those baby ducks!

  10. June 1, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    the rich and complex history give people different feel

  11. June 7, 2011 at 3:10 am #

    Beautiful people. I love the fact that you illustrated their simple lives so colorfully! They seem to have a rich culture of their own. Plus, I have a strong admiration for hardworking, down to earth people! Great blog. 🙂

    • June 7, 2011 at 7:15 am #

      Thank you! I’m very happy that my feelings about the Mozambican people came through in the photographs I chose.

      Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

  12. marisiana areka
    October 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    the pics ae fantastici`m.more attached coz i`m of mozambican decent.my fellow country woman are at piece with life

    • October 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      Thanks so much for your comment, Marisiana! I’m very happy to hear from somebody with Mozambican connections, and that you liked the post. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  13. Joseph
    January 13, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    After going through all the photos, I had to go back to the one with the “Bread Photo”. Looks so fresh and tasty! The one thing that always stands out is the genuine nature and the sheer warmth of the smiles that the individuals in these photos have. Truly authentic. Nice blog

    • January 14, 2013 at 6:12 am #

      Hi Joseph! I agree with you about the beautiful smiles. The “bread photo” is one of my favourites too.

      Thank you for visiting my blog and for your kind comments! 🙂

  14. February 9, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Really interesting photos of daily life a long way from (my) home

    • February 10, 2013 at 8:39 am #

      Thanks Julie! This is quite far removed from my daily life too. I think we can learn something from these people.

  15. February 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm #

    La vie est simple mais elle est belle et vécue comme elle le doit être.

    • February 14, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      Exactly! People who live simpler lives seem to be happier, don’t they?

      • February 14, 2013 at 7:57 am #

        Yes! plus on est simple et plus on est bien tranquille.

  16. February 28, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    That’s quite an amazing collection of photos. Living with grace on survival needs. What a shot of the crude water taxi; going places driven by the wind. Third world people could teach us a thing or two on living with less.

  17. March 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Love your photos of this amazing place.

    • March 4, 2013 at 6:16 am #

      Hi Francine! Thanks, this post featured the photos of a couple of the people who went on this trip. I also think they captured what they saw beautifully.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

  18. March 9, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Love the photos and the kids, it shows you that kids are the same everywhere when you pull out a camera.

    • March 10, 2013 at 9:07 am #

      Yes, the kids are wonderful aren’t they? Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

  19. Zaits
    October 21, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    Hey Lisa..

    How are you?
    My Father Planing to start some business in Mozambique.
    What I want to know from you is exact current economic, legal
    and governmental situations of the country, specially above situations in
    Maputo city.
    will be waiting for Your fast & exactly true reply.

  20. Mashtura M. Nigar
    January 25, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    wow!! the descriptions about them were very nice!! 😀 i knew much about them…

  21. Tawanda Muwonda
    July 19, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    Mozambique is the best place to be in Africa anyone who hasn’t sojourned in mozambique i plead with you make an effort

    • August 20, 2014 at 9:22 am #

      Hi Tawanda! Sorry it’s taken so long for me to reply to you. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

  22. Jose
    June 7, 2016 at 1:49 am #

    My financial adviser (lovely lady) is from Mozanbique. I try to get as much info as possible because I might try to spend a couple of years there. My main concern is crime. Could you en-light us a bit on this topic? I know that sometimes these topics are best not to touch while on a particular country. Thank you.

    • June 9, 2016 at 9:20 am #

      Hi Jose!

      We don’t live in Mozambique, so can’t comment on the crime situation there. Willie has been there a number of times, but spends his time in remote fishing camps. I know that there have been problems in Northern Mozambique, but don’t have enough information to advise you on this.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂


  23. September 11, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

    Thank you for visiting – I hope to see you again. I will be posting from South Africa in early 2017

    • September 13, 2016 at 7:06 am #

      Hi Candy! Where in South Africa will you be travelling? Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. 🙂

  24. October 19, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

    Very interesting. Thanks for the great post and photos. It is hard to imagine that way of life. We take our luxuries for granted much too often.

    • October 20, 2016 at 7:11 am #

      So true! Even if we do visit these “third world” countries, we know in the back of our minds we will be going home at some stage.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

  25. December 12, 2016 at 11:46 pm #

    Amazing…thank you for this humbling and fascinating look into the lives of others.

    • December 14, 2016 at 6:58 am #

      Obviously this is just my perception of the situation, but I think you can see a lot from the photos. I was amazed at the grace the Mozambican people have despite their poverty.

  26. Ninita
    February 22, 2017 at 8:17 pm #

    Thank you for this lovely article, and wonderful photos, depicting like you said, the people’s happy way of being and their ingenuity in the face of difficulties. I was born in Mozambique, and miss it every day. Thank you


  1. Missing Mozambique | femmegypsy - February 10, 2015

    […] “Daily life for the average Mozambican is tough… Despite all their hardship, the Mozambican people come across (even in photographs) as being open, friendly, happy people who have a lot of artistic talent and ingenuity (many running small informal businesses to support themselves)… they seem to carry themselves with dignity and grace.” – source […]

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