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The Grande Hotel in Beira, Mozambique, was build during the aera of Portuguese colonisation; at that time it was considered being the biggest hotel in Southern Africa.
During Independence War in the 1970s the place was taken over by Mozambican forces that came from all parts of the country, military and migration. From now on, the Grande Hotel served as the main accomodation for forces against the Portuguese.

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It remained in this state until the Independence of Mozambique in 1975, and consequently families of these occuping groups started to join the independence fighters to live in this place. The number of inhabitants even increased with the onset of the Civil War which started shortly after independence. By the year 1992 when the war ended the hotel has turned into a place to accomodate refugees.
After the War people continued staying in the Hotel as going back to their homes in other parts of the country,  was not possible due to landmines and with most of the infrastructure and houses destroyed.
Beira, no longer the capital of the country, but Mozambique´s second major city after Maputo, attracted huge groups of traders from the northern part of the country, which sold their goods at informal markets in town. These immigrants used the Grande Hotel as accomodation, as the only place giving shelter from rain without any costs for rent. Rooms could be taken as a private area by a single payment to the military which was still in control of the hotel.

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Nowadays, January 2007, about 3000 people call the Grande Hotel their ´home´. The former richness of colonial times has obviously disappeared, all furnitures, wooden, glass and metal parts, even silver and gold cuttleries and sanitary parts where sold in order to feed the bellies of the inhabitants.
All you can see today is a gigantic old grey building of concrete without any electric power or water supply. The beach in front of the hotel is no longer a pleasant five star place with a beautiful view but more a big toilet and bathing area for thousands of people.
A lot of roumors paint a misterious picture of the place, saying it is impossible for foreigners aswell as local people, even for the police to enter the building, because you will only find gangsters, bandits, prostitutes and drug dealers.

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On the rainy 26th of January 2007, Helio, Samira and Roland, decided to take a look inside this very debated place to gather some first hand information about this outstanding building.
Every single non-wet corner of this building, like parts of verandas, rooms, lobbies, kitchen, corridors, even the former toilets and the roof terrace have been occupied as private apartments for different families.
Underlying this chaos a structure have evolved, and it seems to control the life of this unique and seperated world in Beira. Compared to the traditional chiefdom system of rural areas, there is a hierarchy with chefs and sub-chefs. Within the hotel they have formed their own laws and rules, created a church, opened several authorized and structurized markets in each floor.

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In order to take pictures inside the Grande Hotel there is a need to get a permission of the highest authority, to whom we had to pay a small informal tax. What we found is special.
The hotel itself has a soul which can be spotted in every corner and in every inhabitant, for example in the smile of children, in the way they are taking care by cleaning the place from the water floods and showing that they are proud of the hotel where they were born and are living in. People hope for change of their life conditions. The same way as the trees are growing on the roofs and balconies of the building does not provide apropriate conditions for kids to grow up; however, they do – just naturally – without any education or care. The trees will be removed one day, the inhabitants of Grande Hotel will also have to leave, without knowing where will be their new home.

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G R A N D E      H  O  T  E  L (Lyrics by Hélio D.)

I am just coming from the  Grande Hotel
3000 people living in Grande Hotel
One world of lives
Got a lot to tell
They’ve been coming and going
Ho!What a day
Started to rain
It’s morning time
No sunshine
From the front side
Here we’re standing
What a broken view
Of the old building
Ready for films pictures and iterviews
Breaking my mind
Trying to get you learning
Understand how to feel like one of us
They’ve been talkink about
The old building in town
That’s why I am making the sound
Good feelings in Beira but sick people in Grande Hotel
Not living well
How and who
Are we going to blame?
Nothing seems to change
Still in the same
No water, no power
No toilet no control
Almost 22 years a go
I am breeding in this hole
I live here
For many years
My life, my wife, my goods, my fear
We don’t know anything
About what is going on
Most of the people don’t know about our own world
They call us gangsters
Dangerous
That’s too much
They were never here by chance
Somebody dying
Somebody being robbed
But so what?
They are
Afraid to die
No one feels save to be going inside
What a hell
Let’s just go there
Says the white guy
With the local guys
Honestly after all that I see
I don’t know how God made the hell
What is there
In the Grande Hotel
Got  no way to compare
With a real hotel
But for me it seems like spending days
In a real hell
Honestly I would like that you talk about me
In the better way

23 Responses to “Grande Hotel, Beira, Mozambique”

  1. Jason Says:

    are there means to find out who owns this hotel ?
    relocate these people and get the hotel back to former glory ?

    so that this will give the work and uplift their lives

  2. Maria Turner Says:

    I lived in Beira most of my life. Used to go to the Grand Hotel every Saturday night to their ‘boite’ on the ground floor, with friends and really enjoy it. Swimming in the morning and have lunch by the pool! Wonderful! It would take a few millions to get it back to its former glory – but if you have the means tell me and because I am Portuguese I might find some info for you by contacting the Town Planning, Municipality and other government entities. Where there is a will there is a way!

    Maria
    maria29@nullblueyonder.co.uk

  3. Joao Says:

    This hotel went into decline in the mid 60′s and is now a monument to the malaise of failed socialism, corruption and urban decay.
    It is beyond economic repair and it would be better if the local administration demolished the whole rotten edifice and consigned it to failed black african history.

  4. Carlos Says:

    Dear Joao,
    Your comment could,t be more accurated… it is painful just to look at the pictures of the Hotel where I learned to swim 38 years ago. Today, 33 years,1 month and 16 days after the independence the progress is what we see. The democracy to the people of Mozambique came with a very high price and this is a debt these guys will be paing for many generations to come.
    God bless you all guys

    Carlos

  5. aldo Says:

    Very very sad, I am a south african, and only hope to God that this is not the future of South Africa, because evedently, this is how most of the African Continent looks like. A good example is Zimbabwe.

    Hope a lesson will be learn oit of this mess.
    aldo

  6. Dale Says:

    Some statements made are simply incorrect. The hotel never served as accommodation for forces against the portuguese. The occupation only happened after the independence. Until then, although not functioning as a hotel, it was a venue for functions, and the swimming pool. I know, I swam there many time in my early teens. Beira was as peaceful as all the other main cities in Mocambique, where the war hardly made headlines on the newspapers.
    The occupation of the hotel started well after 1975, initially by the military that used the basement of the hotel as the dugeons to torture political prisoners.
    It was only later on that the general population started taking over. Of course by that time I was no longer living there, but I know this from an article on a maputo newspaper.
    Also, contrary to the statement, Beira was never the capital of Mocambique. In the early days of the colony (for 400 years until 1898) the capital was the island of Mocambique, otherwise the capital was Lourenco Marques, now called Maputo.

  7. susan Says:

    Is there any thought that this is the hotel depicted in jorge’s Murmuring Coast. And who was the architect?

    It is a fantastic building, thank you for the posting.

  8. marie vigier Says:

    bonjour Rolando Furioso,

    je suis étudiante en quatrième année à l’école d’architecture de Saint-Etienne. Je souhaite effectuer un travail anthropologique sur les lieux et les habitants de cet hôtel,et cela dans le cadre d’un mémoire de fin d’études. Je suis en train d’organiser mon voyage sur place pour septembre 2010 et j’aimerai avoir vos conseils et surtout votre retour sur votre voyage. Serait-ce possible?
    Pouvons nous communiquer autrement? Notamment par mail?

    Je ne parle pas trés bien anglais et revanche si vous parler portugais et que vous ne comprenez pas ma demande je peux la reformuler en portugais.

    Merci d’avance pour votre aide précieuse,

    Marie Vigier

  9. Smith Taylor Says:

    Well, I *have* to leave a comment in this thread.. Well put :)

  10. wedding updos Says:

    This article not only shows us the trend that took off after the colonial rule it shows how Africans are in competent with resources can imagine all furnitures, wooden, glass and metal parts, even silver and gold cuttleries and sanitary parts where sold.

  11. Carlos Says:

    Nao ha palavras para descrever a situacao actual.
    Vivi na Beira muitos anos de 1952 a 1969 e para mim era como algo de muito especial aquela pequena mas tao bela cidade. Vejam pois no que deu a Independencia e depois se os brancos falam algo sao racistas, mas uma verdade e que pretos nao fazem nada de jeito so servem para provocar a destruicao. Meu querido Grande Hotel onde eu e muito colegas passamos grandes momentos a comecar nas passagens de Ano. Doi-me o coracao de ver as fotos daquele que foi o melhor e maior hotel de Africa. E Triste mas infelizmente e uma realidade.

  12. nike ctr360 maestri Says:

    good post.

  13. adidas soccer cleats Says:

    From now on, the Grande Hotel served as the main accomodation for forces against the Portuguese.

  14. Francis Says:

    Can anyone direct me to any site on the internet that has photos of the Grande Hotel before 1975 when it still looked nice and beautiful ? -Many thanks.
    (My mother was born in Beira)
    - – -
    Quem me pode dar direcoes para fotogrfisa na internet do Grende Hotal quanod o hotel ainda era novo ? -Obrigado !
    (A minha mae nasceu na Beira)

  15. Francis Says:

    Is there still anything that can be sold in the hotel ?
    Is the hotel even going to be taken down ?

  16. Francis Says:

    Apparently now the hotel is fully booked. When it was new, never !

  17. Francis Says:

    Apparently the hotel is fully booked now.
    When it was new, never !

  18. Adidasi Dama Says:

    I am impressed by the design of this building. I’m curious how it looks in the period when it was fully functional. Too bad we did not find photos before it looks like a wreck.

    Sincerely, Adidasi Dama

  19. Francis Says:

    Can anyone direct me to any website that has photos of the INTERIOR of the Grande Hotel before 1975 when it still looked nice and beautiful ? -Many thanks.

  20. Francis Says:

    HELLO ? HELLO ? Nobody there or have you all checked out ?
    he he he he

  21. Francis Says:

    “HI CAN I HAVE A DOUBLE ROOM, PLEASE, FOR 3 NIGHTS ?!”

    “Sorry, sir… we’ve been fully booked for 30 years !”

    he he he he he he he he

  22. Layla Watson Says:

    This Grande Hotel is witness of many different historical events so it has its own importance. The architecture of the building fantastic and I think it was the most adorable creature of that time.

  23. John Weissmuller Says:

    Hello Layla Watson
    What do you thin will happen to the Grande Hotel, the building?!
    Do you think it will ever be refurbished and used again as a top hotel or will it be left to rot and eventually collapse and kill all those people ?

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