Maputo, known as Lourenço Marques before independence from Portugal in 1975, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. It is an Indian Ocean port city, with its economy centered around the harbor. It has about two million inhabitants.

The city was originally named after Lourenço Marques, the Portuguese navigator who was sent here in 1544 by the governor of Mozambique on a voyage of exploration. Over time, various trading posts and forts were established here but abandoned again. The existing town dates from about 1850 and chartered as a city in 1887.

The opening of the railroad to Johannesburg and Pretoria in 1895 created a lot of economic opportunity, increased the importance of the city's sea port, and caused the population to grow rapidly. The Portuguese moved their colonial administration here in 1898--Mozambique Island had been the colonial capital up to that point.

In the 20th century, the city achieved great importance as a lively cosmopolitan city with a growing network of schools in the region. While the Portuguese, Indian, and Chinese communities prospered, the African population remained unskilled and impoverished. Africans were not allowed to live in the center of the city where in the 50s and 60s large concrete apartment buildings were erected for the Portuguese population--hence the nick name Concrete City.

Independence in 1975 was quickly followed by a civil war which lasted until 1992. It was essentially a proxy war between the two blocs of the Cold War. Maputo, like the rest of the country, suffered greatly, and economic development essentially stopped, only to resume over the last decade.
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