Sailing across the Indian Ocean to East Africa is a century-old trading route. Today’s container ships can rely on satellites, radar, and radio. There are still maps on the bridge though, and these maps show the position and light characteristic of each lighthouse on the coast.
Pinda lighthouse oversees Mozambique’s Memba bay. The tower was built in 1923 by the Portuguese colonial government. There’s a lighthouse keeper’s house built around the tower, but the lighthouse is automated nowadays. In the South of Baixo da Pinda peninsula is Nacala, one of the three largest ports of Mozambique and the deepest natural port of East Africa. From Nacala, there’s a railway to Western Mozambique via landlocked Malawi. Huge trains loadad with coal roll from Moatize to the port in Nacala where the coal shipped. On the 10-hour stretch between Nampula and Cuamba, there are also passenger trains.
Up to the 19th century, Ilha de Moçambique was the principal city-state – comparable to Tanzania’s Zanzibar, and Kenya’s Mombasa. After Vasco da Gama’s rounding of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497, the Portuguese established their capital of Portuguese East Africa. Ilha’s importance faded in the 19th century in favour of the natural deep-sea port of Nacala further in the North.
Dhows have sailed the monsoon trading routes on the Indian Ocean to East Africa for many centuries. Spices, cotton, indigo were imported from the East Indies, China, India, Persia, and Arabia. The contact between Bantu people of East Africa and the traders created a common language on the Swahili coast. In return, exports from East Africa included iron tools, ivory, horn – and later slaves. Cowrie shells were the major currency.
In those times, dhow sailors have used celestial navigation – long before there were lighthouses and satellite navigation.