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The Place You Call Home

Postcard of Museo Álvaro de Castro in Lourenço Marques, MozambiqueThe Museu Alvaro de Castro is also known as the Museum of Natural History today. It is perhaps one of Lourenco Marques most enduring landmarks, so easily recognized that the entire block where it is located is referred in normal conversation as Museu by the Laurentinos (residents of the city of Lourenco Marques).

Construction was completed in 1933, commissioned by the City Council of Lourenco Marques in the Neo-Manueline style of architecture which was unusual since by then art deco, streamline and the uniquely portugues suave were en vogue. Fortunately, very little has changed in its more than eighty years of existence and depending on one’s perspective that can be either good or bad.

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As a property entirely patronaged by the State, having very little other purpose than being a museum, combined with the general disinterest of the African population to its contents, it has survived remarkably well and to the delight of many appreciate such things.

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The main collection at the museum – Fuji Superia 200 simulated

The structure is relatively modest in a polygonal shape and distributed over two floors. The main collection of embalmed mammals is located immediately after the main entrance. It includes lions, buffalo, giraffes, elephants and other principle creatures one would expect to see in the African savanna. The second floor has collections of fish, reptiles and insets in glass display shelves.

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ʼThe Café Continental as its name implies is a coffee establishment in the Santos Gil building on Av. de Republica (25 de Setembro). Besides the Scala which was on the opposite side and also housed a cinema, it was the other iconic and emblematic watering hole for the residents of the city and the subject of many narratives.

It first opened its doors sometime in the 1950s and remained largely unchanged for the next forty years.

the Continental Cafe, was vast and vaguely presented in a sort of late Deco, already somewhat Americanized. This was where men were focused on the discussion of politics – yes, in Lourenço Marques political discussion was also trivial – the latest news from local and metropolitan football and the intrigued news of a relatively small society, although their territorial conquest would suggest the opposite. As if it were reflex action, passersby who knew the patrons would instinctively nod their heads, salute or doff their hats

In Dave Grinnel’s account, ‘Christmas in Lourenço Marques’ he explains how the members of the Desportivo Club (a local football team) favoured the Cotinental and often stared menacingly at the members of a rival team who congregated at the Scala just across the road.

Above a Fiat 500, 600 and Volkswagen Beetle suggest the photo to be from the mid 1960s. In the center is a raised 4-way type traffic light with the striped paint-scheme. These may have been a recent innovation as only a few years earlier the traffic was controlled by an officer standing atop the circular base.

It was the Café Continental that was the center of the Laurentinas [local and popular brand of beer] and the tiger prawns that accompanied each round, the steaming coffee was for the climax and signaled the end of the social encounter. The Cokes served to mitigate the annoyance of the impatient boys at the unintelligible conversations of the adults who unfortunately dragged them there, beginning after some time to swing their legs in silent protest. Sometimes a clac! relatively audible turned a few heads toward the noise and the suddenly reddish face of the cheeky brat. These were times when this was done in public and without major objection.

A photo taken on what appears to be a very busy day

A photo taken in the evening featuring several neon signs and the brighlty illuminated Café Continental

After several years of operations, the lean years, including a few where the Café Continental seemed to be gone for good, it finally re-opened in 2019. Its tie-up with Minerva Central (another historic brand of LM), means there is more space reserved for books than there are for tables and coffee.