Mozambique, one of southern Africa‘s glorious tourist secrets, is a country with an intriguing history of how it was formed through colonization and to be called what it is now.
For one thing, the name “Mozambique” has been known for more than 1,000 years in the Arab world. This points to the transcontinental prominence ancient Mozambique held from the first millennium in the common era.
The land of the modern country has been populated since at least, the 4th century CE by Bantu-speaking peoples. From the west and north of southern Africa, the earliest immigrants came and settled around the Zambezi River, right down to the coastal areas where by the 5th century CE, they were living an advanced sedentary life.
From the 9th century, trade between the peoples of the east and south African coast and Arabia opened up. Yemeni traders, specifically, became important seafaring visitors to the east coast of Africa around this time.
The trade across the Indian Ocean led to the founding of multiple port towns such as Sofala and Angoche. These autonomous polities, one of which was founded around the 10th century by an Arab Muslim, Mussa al-Bique, on an island that is now part of Mozambique, became essential points for cross-cultural exchanges.
Mussa al-Bique’s eponymously named town was corrupted into Mozambique, perhaps by the Portuguese who arrived in the 15th century. European cartography after that period cemented this name that has now been used for more than 500 years.
Mozambique used to refer to just al-Bique’s island but from the 16th century, the name was in reference to the inland territories that the Portuguese had secured after the port town of Sofala right up to the Zambezi.
By the 19th century, the African peoples of that Portuguese colony had begun to think of themselves as a nation, thus prompting a push towards sovereignty. Mozambique the independent nation in 1975 under the leadership of Samora Machel.