Long time ago, when the Portuguese were still settling on the coast of Mozambique, there was a powerful man called Ngungunhane who ruled as Gaza Emperor. He was related with Shaka Zulu and later he signed a pact with the British to take control of the strategic area known as Delagoa Bay, a place which later became Lourenço Marques and after that Maputo.
Unfortunately for Ngungunhane and the British, a Portuguese general called Caldas Xavier decided to fight the numerous Gaza troops utilizing the ancient square tactic, the same that proved to be so efficient during the Roman Empire.
A big battle was fought precisely where Marracuene village is. Gaza warriors were defeated and emperor Ngungunhane deported with his seven wives and a son to an island of the Azores group. Despite this defeat, Mozambicans still celebrate every year the bravery of Ngungunhane and his soldiers in a ceremony called Guaza Muthine. Formerly young Mozambicans used to kill a hippopotamus symbolizing the Portuguese and feed the crowd with it, but hypos don’t appear in Incomáti mouth for years and years due to the salinity. Nowadays people just gather in Marracuene to share food, traditional drinks and dance.
During Portuguese rule, the battlefield of Marracuene was transformed in a quiet village leaned over the Incomáti river. It was called Vila Luísa. I don’t know who that Luísa was but I like to think that she was someone who knew how to cook and receive friends. The village is now a shadow of its past glories. It bears again the name of Marracuene but it has lost the glory of the empire and the quiet charm of a Portuguese village planted in Africa.
Each time we cross Marracuene we wish that someone had the vision to transform it into a village-museum and a center full restaurants and tourism. That would be possible with a strong alliance between the public and private sectors, with the support of one and the initiative of the other. It should be declared Patrimony of the Humanity too.
Marracuene is situated on the right margin of the Incomáti river and it is only at 17km far from Maputo. We recently crossed the ghostly village of Marracuene towards Macaneta, a beach on the left margin. Six months ago we went there to celebrate summer. It was time to welcome winter.