The musings of Mr Monkeysized

The decline of civilisations by monkeysized
February 9, 2011, 10:35
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Enough about the Majesty of Flight for now, and so it’s time to move back to another pet topic – the Decline of Civilisations. I’ve written about visiting Ihla de Mocambique, and how it made me think of Britain after the Romans had left – people living in the ruins and half memories of a departed civilisation that had lasted for centuries.

Just down the coast from Ihla is Beira, a resort town that was a convenient holiday spot for Rhodesians. I’ve long been a fan of fading and crumbling beach resorts, but Beira takes this to a whole new level. And a film about the fate of the symbol of Beira’s heyday, the Grande Hotel, has just been made:

Spectacular. Nothing lasts.

Like Britain when the Romans went by monkeysized
February 27, 2010, 22:31
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I recently visited Mozambique with Mrs Monkeysized. It’s where the little picture of the door that I use comes from:

This is the door to the oldest European building in the Southern hemisphere, the Capela de Nossa Senhora do Baluarte on Ilha de Mozambique, the Portugese capital of East Africa for several hundred years. It’s a remarkable place, where history turned on a sixpence more than once – arguably a failed Dutch attempt to take the island was responsible for what we now know as South Africa. But I digress.

What’s really remarkable is that this was a major Portugese outpost in Africa for centuries, where the Portugese established an empire with a sense of permanence. They built their majestic imperial buildings and ruled, as the rest of the world tumbled through the centuries, from the Thirty Years War to the Crimea, from the British East India Company to Stalingrad. Sure, after several hundred years, the capital moved south to what is now Maputo, but the Portugese only left in the mid seventies. And now what? Well, this is the hospital:

I know some troubled, war torn bits of the world, and they don’t look as bad as parts of Ilha de Mozambique. The place is largely ruined, and the people live in the ruins. It was a glimpse of that fascinating moment in history when an empire fades. Not a step in the path of never-ending progress, but a jolt.

It felt like Britain after the Romans had abandoned their villas and temples to the drizzle. It is a fascinating monument to impermanence. Empires wax and wane. Look around you – think about exactly when the building you’re in will finally disintegrate. In a thousand years, bulldozed (or 3010 equivalent) for a fast food outlet? Or in thirty years, on a battlefield between humankind and the robots? What about the country you’re in. When will that cease to be? Because as sure as eggs are eggs, it will cease to be. As you will.

Not only was Ilha de Mozambique fabulously monkeysized, it was also beautiful and worthwhile. One night we splashed out $10 on two lobsters the size of dachshunds. The lack of lights at night becomes less of a worry once you gauge the friendliness of the people who live there. And unlike aid, of which I remain largely sceptical, and governmental projects, which almost always result in disaster, being there and spending money felt like it was a benefit to the people of that country.

Go there before, like the Portugese and the Romans, you run out of time.