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Nampula is the third largest city in Mozambique (after Maputo and Beira), with a population of around half a million. It is a transit point for travellers entering from (or leaving to) southeastern Tanzania and eastern Malawi. It is also the gateway to Island of Mozambique (aka Ilha de Moçambique). Carlos Queiroz, current coach of the Iran national football team and once the assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, was born here.
The Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima is a huge, impressive building, and the Museu Nacional de Etnologia has an interesting collection of exhibits.
Nampula enjoys a tropical climate with generally warm to hot and humid weather. There are two seasons, a dry and cool season from April to October and a warm and wet season from November to March. Temperatures usually vary from around 25 °C during the day from June to September and around 30 °C from December to March, at night dropping to around 23 °C and 17 °C respectively. Highest rainfalls are recorded from January to March and these are probably the months to avoid if you can, because hurricanes can strike.
Nampula has the country's only passenger railway service, connecting with Cuamba near the border to Malawi. It runs in each direction on alternate days except Monday: Nampula to Cuamba on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and Cuamba to Nampula on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. It takes about 11 hours. 3rd class costs M175, second class M331, and there's no first class. Contrary to other reports on the web, the dining car doesn't look sufficiently appealing to want to spend the journey in it.
There are Grupo Mecula buses from Mocuba to Nampula at 5:00am and 7:00am each day. After leaving Mocuba bus station, it makes another stop at Cruzeiro (a crossing opposite Pensao Cruzeiro) before leaving Mocuba. It's a 2-aisle-3 configuration with little leg room. It costs M280 for the roughly 8 hour and 15 minute journey, terminating in Nampula just off Ave. 25 de Setembro and a couple of blocks south of Ave. Eduardo Mondlane.
Heading south, the most comfortable option is TCO (Transportes Carlos Oliveira) - their office is in the Galp gas station in Casa Fabiao on the corner of Ave. 3 de Fevreiro and Ave. de Independencia. The service runs at least twice a week to Beira, leaving at 4:00am from the gas station a block behind the cathedral. The journey takes 16 hours and costs M1,610. The bus has A/C and a toilet, and breakfast is included in the price. Lunch is picked up from a gas station along the way - all the passengers' orders are phoned ahead. Though this is much more expensive than the normal buses, it's significantly more comfortable and makes the journey to Beira in 1 day rather than 2, thus saving on a night of accommodation.
Chapas (minibuses) to Island of Mozambique leave regularly from the minibus park east of the railway station on Ave. do Trabalho. It takes about 3 hours and costs about M150.
There is an Internet cafe in the main shopping centre (containing the Girassol hotel) on Ave. Eduardo Mondlane, for M40 per hour (Oct 2009). The speed is OK but the Opera installation is extremely pernickety, the connection occasionally goes down (for which you don't get a refund), and they're closed all weekend.
See also International Telephone Calls
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