What to see at the Beira Beachfront
Let’s get one thing straight, Beira is not the picture you see in the Mozambican beach pamphlet! There are no turquiose waters here. Infact the water is usually murky brown thanks to the Pungwe river which snakes into the Beira harbour, spitting out all its contents from the mines upriver and a whole lot more. ‘Clean’ is definitely not the word I’d use to describe Beira, and that most certainly includes her beaches! So why go to the beach in Beira then?
I can think of 4 reasons to visit the Beira beach front and all of them centre around ‘places of interest’ and not so much a place to strip off for a refreshing dip in the sea!
1. The Grande Hotel
It used to be a luxury hotel in the colonial days and was open from 1952 to 1963. When the war started, the basement was used as a prison for political prisoners. Later the military took over the second floor and used it as their quarters. Refugees from all over Mozambique also made the hotel their home during the war that lasted for 16 years. Many of them have never left and now the second generation lives on in the run down hotel. There is no electricity, sewage sytem or running water. The swimming pool is used as a wash basin and the bar pool as a urinal. There are now 3000 people living in the hotel. A very interesting place to see. I have never been inside the hotel and must admit that I’m a little nervous to do so. The locals living in the hotel are never too pleased about people taking photos! So I have not felt much ‘welcome’ to enter the building! Yet.
2. The Macuti Lighthouse
The Macuti lighthouse is something special. And it has less to do with the structure of the lighthouse and more to do with the shipwreck right on it’s door step! Not something one usually sees together! Again, the guards are a bit ‘iffy’ about taking photos unless you offer them a little ‘boncela!’ We did and also got to go inside and climb a very narror staircase all the way to the top. It offers spectacular views of Beira.
3. The Prawn shack
If you want really good seafood, and LOTS of it, then the prawn shack has to be it! It’s literally a shack on the side of the road, very Mozambican style! Opposite the ‘shack’ stands the old Esteral hotel, also inhabited by squatters. The owner, Chef Ennocent, is very generous with his servings. The meal is usally a continuous flow of crab, prawns, calamari, fresh fish and crayfish and bottles of vinho verde to wash it all down! Make sure you park your car close because you literally roll out of the restaurant!
4. Have a cold beer on the beachfront. Beira is not overflowing with restaurants but depending on what you’re looking for, there are a number of places to visit. To name two of them, Nauticas – a cosmoplotin club with a private beach, pool and tennis courts. Biques – a casual thatch restaurant that is a favourite spot amongst the South Africans and Zimbabweans.
Other reasons to go to Beira include seeing the cathederal built with the blocks from the Sofala ruins – I will post some pictures of it in another blog. And then of course for Beira’s old portuguese architecture. It’s full up of abandoned, battered and evidently at one time, beautiful buildings – a photographer’s dream!
The city has a lot of character, poverty and diversity.
If you plan to visit Beira as a tourist, do remember this; it’s a city that is not pretty – but it’s interesting!