Land and People

The Mozambique Channel separates the country from the island of Madagascar. Mozambique's c.1,600 mi (2,575 km) coastline is interrupted by the mouths of numerous rivers, notably the Rovuma (which forms part of the boundary with Tanzania), Lúrio, Incomati (Komati), Lugela, Zambezi (which is navigable for c.290 mi/465 km within the territory), Revùe, Save (Sabi), and Limpopo. South of the Zambezi estuary the coastal belt is very narrow, and in the far north the coastline is made up of rocky cliffs. Along the northern coast are numerous islets and lagoons; in the far south is Maputo Bay. The northern and central interior is mountainous; Monte Binga (7,992 ft/2,436 m), the country's loftiest point, is situated at the Zimbabwean border W of Beira. About one third of Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) falls within Mozambique's boundaries; Lake Chilwa (Lago Chirua) is at the border with Malawi. Much of the country is covered with savanna; there are also extensive hardwood forests, and palms grow widely along the coast and near rivers.

In addition to the capital, other cities include Beira, Moçambique, Nampula, Pemba, Quelimane, Tete, Angoche, and Xai-Xai. The principal ethnic groups are, in the north, the Yao, Makonde, and Makua; in the center, the Thonga, Chewa, Nyanja, and Sena; and in the south, the Shona and Tonga. Small numbers of Swahili live along the coast. People of European, mixed African and European, and South Asian descent make up less than 1% of the population.

About 40% of the inhabitants of Mozambique are Christian (Roman Catholic and Zionist Christian), while about 18% follow traditional religious beliefs, and another 18% are Muslims (most of these living in the north). Although Bantu languages are widely spoken, Portuguese is the official language.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Mozambique Political Geography