The restored gardens at the Polana Serena Hotel, Maputo

The restored gardens at the Polana Serena Hotel, Maputo
The restored gardens at the Polana Serena Hotel, Maputo. Photo: Jardin. Lorna Gannon

Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, is a fascinating city … noisy, gridlocked,lively, colourful. Emerging from a long civil war, this City of Acacias is a melting pot of Portuguese, Shangaan, Arab and Indian, and increasingly Chinese, influences.

In many places, fine Portuguese buildings remain in decay or are adapted to accommodate a burgeoning population. The historic Polana Hotel, however, has risen from the ashes and is now set in beautiful grounds overlooking Maputo Bay. Designed by the architect Sir Herbert Baker, a huge influence in South African public buildings such as the Union Buildings in Pretoria, it opened in 1922 “with very few hotels in Europe to equal its conditions.”

During the Second World War, as part of the Portuguese empire, it became notorious as a neutral meeting place for spies and secret agents from Germany, Italy and the Allied Forces. Sitting under the ceiling fan on the verandah, it’s easy to imagine the exchanges taking place, deals and double deals, information bought and sold. All it needs is a pianist and Ingrid Bergman urging him to “Play it once Sam, for old time’s sake”…. but that was another part of Africa, wasn’t it?

The hotel fell into decline, when 250,000 Portuguese left hurriedly in 1975 and a civil war ensued, but happily was rescued by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development in 2002.

Click here to read more and view photographs: Jardin Design

Ismailimail collection of posts on Gardens

All related posts: Polana Serena Inauguration, 2010

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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