Published: August 23rd 2006August 23rd 2006
This was the mosque responsible for the 4am wake up calls!
Thankfully our hut at Casa de Luis had a thatched roof, so when the fright that awoke us from our brief siesta sent us through it, we didn't sustain any serious injuries. Being woken up by a fanatical muslim, chanting verses of the Quran through no less than a dozen speaker phones at close range is about as pleasant as being woken with a bucket of ice cold water at 6am on a monday morning. If this was our reaction mid afternoon, Mohammed only knew how we'd react at 4am each morning when he sent one of his messengers to lead the days call to prayer. Ihla de Mocambique lies 3km off the mainland of Mozambique and it's ties to Persia, Arabia, Madagascar, East Africa, India and elsewhere date back as far as the 14th century. Although Islam is the predominant religion on the Island, and the local culture is Makua, Christian and Hindu communities are also prevalent. Perhaps we can all take a reality check by observing how harmoniously the different denominations live together and intermix. Stepping into a local home it is not uncommon to come across members of the same family living according to different faiths. In 1991
Fort and Chapel
East wall of San Sebastiou and Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte
Ihla was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site and although many of the ancient buildings of Stone Town are derelict, there has been an effort in recent times at rehabilitation. So far on our African adventure the only history that we'd encountered was that resulting from war and apartheid, so from a philanthropist point of view we were particularly excited about Ihla and to immerse ourselves in it's atmosphere and culture. Once we took off our sleepy heads we spent the rest of the day wandering aimlessly through Stone Town and exploring the Fort of San Sebastiou and the adjacent Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte, which built in 1522 is thought to be the oldest European building in the Southern Hemisphere. We may have taken off our sleepy heads, but very quickly it became apparent that the whole island was infact in a state of slumber, and probably had been since day 1. Whilst groups of men drank tea and played dominoes in the shade, young girls and women sat in doorways combing and braiding eachothers hair. The only people to show any semblance of energy were the thousands of children playing football, hopscotch or elastics. They'd momentarily look
This building that hadn't been the beneficiary of rehab had a distinct ancient Greek feel about it.
up from their games and rattle off a bom dia or a hello, but generally they were content to go about their activities and let us go about ours. This was quite refreshing as one annoying aspect of being a white tourist in Africa is getting used to people, usually teenage boys, latching onto you and offering all the services in the world which you ofcourse dont need, only for them to then give you the soap opera about why they desperately need your money. Not to say this didn't happen on Ihla, it just wasn't as in our face as much as other places. A cool Glaswegian that we'd met and who spoke Portuguese taught us to say "estoy branco, nao estoy banco!" which basically translates to I'm white, I'm not a bank. Any of our new local friends that we decided were on their way to asking for a handout would get a ...nao estoy banco, and for those that didn't bother with the formalities of conversation, we'd hit them with "tu tens para trocermos?" what are you trading? Our Glaswegian friend Tiff was a musician and DJ who had been teaching music to under priviliged kids in
Dancing in the doorway!
This little fella had quite a groove going on!
the Nairobi slums of Kibera. He was travelling in Mozambique before heading back to Scotland and we decided that there was a good chance we'd bump into him again along the road within the next week or two. We also met 3 older Saffas from Capetown who were doing Africa in style. Two of them were riding massive overland BMW motorbikes whilst the third, along with a local from Maputo that they'd commandeered as a cook and cleaner were in a Range Rover. The support truck had enough supplies of petrol, water, food and camping gear to sustain them for weeks at a time and when fully loaded looked like it was ready for a mission on the moon rather than Mozambique and beyond. When they found out we were doing the same trip and then some, but instead via any means possible they thought we were lunatics and had photos taken with us. One of them owns a Pool Bar in GreenPoint, Capetown and told us that if we made it back to Capetown alive there would be friendly faces and cold beers waiting for us. As if we needed any extra incentive! By day 3 on Ihla we
The "weeping willows" gave Ihla a mystical feel.
were famous and couldn't go anywhere without having our names shouted out down an alley or for children and adults alike to shake our hands and engage us in conversation. Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Can we guide you? For the most part, being famous was a bit of a laugh, but there were times when even in Luis' private gardens that we wanted some solitude, but had friends and fans pestering us and not taking the hints. One stall holder had even tracked us down in search of his empty Lemon Twisty bottles that he could get a refund for. He stormed straight into our hut and said "give me my bot!" When we asked him what he was on about he pointed at the empty lemon twisty bottles and said "my bot!" Although it never came to it we got an insight into how people of legitimate fame could end up chucking a wobbly, or telephone, when it all became too much for them! Apart from Escondidinhos which was a plush French Hotel and Restaurant where we afforded ourselves coffee, toast and pastries of a morning, Ihla was far and away the cheapest place
Walking through the hospital where we saw lots of eye openers. Thank God we didn't get sick on Ihla.
that we had been to so far. At Casa de Luis we were paying less to share a small hut than what we'd previously been paying to camp, although the bed was so bad that for all but the first night I slept outside on the couch (ala the dog house!) and wrapped myself in a hammock to avoid being carried away by mosquitoes! For dinner all we had to do was walk around the corner to the night market where 20000Mts, less than $1Aus would see us absolutely stuffed with fresh fish, calamari, cassava, bread and peanut slice. From there it was just around the next corner to a little pub/restaurant where 100000Mts was enough to get us a 500ml carton of gin, enough Sprite to accompany it and a handful of beers. Needless to say the gin wasn't top shelf but the hangover went close! For our final night we decided to eat in and from the market bought some rice, veges and spices and then when the fisherman returned in the afternoon to sell their catch we scored 3 Barracuda. We turned out enough Barracuda Curry to feed 4 hungry travellers and two locals who thought Christmas
No shortage of children
Everywhere we went we had lots of inquisitive friends!
had come early! Including the 6 cans of beer to wash it down we spent about 200000Mts. It was Ihlas history, laid back atmosphere, originality compared to anywhere we'd previously been, and ofcourse affordability that combined to make it one of our favourite destinations to date. Even the morning wake ups and constant barrage from the mosques couldn't detract from our enjoyment, but infact added to the aura and esteem of the island, and hey, we always knew what time it was and in which direction was Mecca! We ofcourse had no trouble waking up for our next and yet another 4.30 am journey, this one continuing further north to Pemba.
There are more photos below