Cabo Delgado

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                                                                                                                                                Capital: Pemba

                                                                                                                     Major Ethnic Groups: Macua, Makonde, Kimwani, Kiswahili

Information on how to cross the Tanzanian border by boat.


The Rovuma River seperates Cabo Delgado from Tanzania. But the river is a very loose cultural border. The Makonde are found on both sides. This group has resisted assimilation, even after independence. They are known for their wood carvings. They are often hired as guards in Macua territory because they are percieved as more trust-worthy than the Macua and also other Mozambicans are afraid of them. They were warriors, they carried spears.

Makonde women are recognizable by their facial tattoos called dinembo. Sometimes they even file their teeth to a point and wear a lip-plug called ndona. The effect is supposed to be frightening, and therefore considered beautiful within the Makonde community. Just as mussiro identifies a Macua woman, dinembo identifies a Makonde. 

    In Mozambique, this practice is usually seen on older women. The Portuguese didn't have much control over the Makonde, but they liked having visual means of telling the groups apart. When FRELIMO came to power, however, the practice was seen as mutilation and was discouraged. On the last page of the elementary school books across the country it has the "Children's Bill of Rights" which states that children have the right not to be ritually mutilated in initiation ceremonies. The mutilation aspect is debatable, but dinembo is probably on its way out of Mozambican culture.


The Master Peace Bus that goes from Nampula to Pemba.

My roomate and I had the idea that we would travel to the Tanzanian border from Nampula, just because we could. On the map it doesn't look that far. But maps often don't say whether a road is paved or whether the bus runs more than once a day.

               A house in Cabo Delgado with an inselberg in the distance.

We took a bus to Mueda, which was actually out of our way, but we didn't really know that. Mueda is the heart of Makonde territory. The Mueda Plateau makes the area cooler and isolates the group from outsiders. It is said that the plateau protects the Makonde from malaria. We stayed with Paulina, the mother of a friend of our school director. She spoke only Makonde, no Portuguese. She laughed at us the whole time we were there. You can see she has a lip-plug as well as tattoos. 

The next day we caught another bus to Moçimboa da Praia, on the coast. This is a Kimwani community, closer to the coastal Swahili people up north. The town was very Muslim, the muezzin could be heard, men walked around in skullcaps. The feeling of the town was almost mystical. I encourage anyone to see  Moçimboa. Everyone gets so excited about Pemba. Pemba is a pretty beach with an ex-pat scene that could be anywhere. Go for the out of the way places.

The son of the hostel where we stayed took us to his house dinner and a movie. Dinner was fish and delicious coconut rice. The movie was a Tanzanian vampire story which we watched with all the neighborhood kids.

We were woken up in the dark, first by the rain, then by the driver of the car that would take us to the border. Everyone staying at the hostel was going in the same pick-up truck, their bags and bodies in the bed of the same truck. There were 17 of us, 2 white girls and 15 Mozambican and Tanzanian men. And it was pouring down rain. This is the road we traveled, but in the dark and cold rain. At one point I took out the rain-fly of my tent and the whole group covered itself with the thin semi-rainproof material. It was hell.

But it wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't raining. The truck dropped us off about a mile from the river. The mud was so thick we all had to walk. There were young men waiting to carry everyone's bags. I took off my shoes, because they kept getting sucked into the mud.

We all loaded onto the boats that were waiting for us. This journey happens everyday. People take goods across the border to sell, or they go to see family or friends. We were just going, just traveling to travel. When we made it to the other side of the river, we had to walk about another mile on the Tanzanian side before we reached the customs hut. It is $50 for an American to cross into Tanzania. They want USD too, but all we had were meticais.  It was a relief to be on the other side.

We visited other volunteers in Mtwara and Lindi, Tanzania and then we went home. The best part of the trip was getting there, seeing more of Mozambique, meeting Makonde and Kimwani. It was amazing.

Later, we took a second trip to Tanzania. This time by plane. 

Makonde carving of a crocodile, bought in Mtwara, Tanzania.







Ilha do Ibo

Ibo Island has a similar history to Ilha and yet recieves many fewer travelers. You can reach the island by plane or boat from Pemba. Like Ilha, Ibo Island is a World Heritage Site:


Travel Information

 A Macua girl with mussiro in Cabo Delgado. The Macua and the Makonde are the two biggest groups in the province. Mussiro and facial tattoes distinguish the women from each other.





















 Vendors outside the bus sold chickens, wooden spoons, and books on Lenin.


            Red bananas!

































 Paulina giving us some of her attitude.

For images of other ethnic groups in traditional dress:

African Ceremonies









 The path to the Rovuma River



















On the Rovuma