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The area was explored by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and colonized by Portugal in 1505. Mozambique became independent in 1975, and became the People's Republic of Mozambique shortly thereafter. It was the scene of an intense civil war lasting from 1977 to 1992.
The country was named Moçambique by the Portuguese after the Island of Mozambique, derived from Musa Al Big or Mossa Al Bique or Mussa Ben Mbiki, an Arab trader who first visited the island and later lived there. Mozambique is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries and an observer of the Francophone.
The workforce is divided primarily along geographic lines. The majority of the population is rural, and these people are farmers. In cities, there are more skilled workers as well as street vendors and a small white-collar workforce. Professionals such as teachers, lawyers, and government officials constitute a small percentage of the population and generally come from a small number of middle-class or wealthy families.
The constitution guarantees all citizens the right to work, but women often face obstacles when they seek nontraditional employment and are considered subordinate. Women have historically been responsible for all domestic tasks. In the towns and cities, they generally are confined to the home, whereas in rural areas, they play an important role in the agricultural labor force.
Polygamy is traditionally practiced and until recently was quite common. Marriage celebrations involve feasting, music, and dancing. The traditional family includes several generations living together under one roof.
Kids in Mozambique begin doing chores at an early age, girls taking care of the house and boys on the farms. Many rural teen boys go to South Africa to find work beginning at 15. Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Mozambique. Beach volleyball and basketball are also popular. Traditional dancing is an important part of Mozambique’s culture, and many regions hold dance competitions which attract many competitors and spectators. Mozambique also has some of the best runners in the world.
Mozambican teens wear Western clothing, except for the extremely poor. Despite the European and American influence on fashion, some styles, such as blue jeans and short skirts, have not been adopted. Dress also can be a marker of ethnic identity. Muslims in the north wear traditional long white robes and head coverings; Asian men wear white two-piece cotton suits, whereas Asian women dress in black or colored silk dresses.
The diet of rural residents is based on the cassava root, which is called mandioca in Portuguese. Its importance is testified to by its name, which translates as "the all-sufficient." Corn is the other staple food; both corn and cassava were introduced from the Americas by the Portuguese. Cashews, pineapple, and peanuts, which are other important foods, found their way to Mozambique in the same way. Along the coast, the cuisine is more varied and Portuguese-influenced than it is in inland areas. The diet there includes more fruit and rice as well as seafood dishes such as macaza (grilled shellfish kabobs), bacalhão (dried salted cod) and chocos (squid cooked in its own ink). Food is seasoned with peppers, onions, and coconut.
Portuguese is the official and most widely spoken language of the nation. Bantus speak several different languages, the most widely used being Swahili, Makhuwa, Sena, Ndau, and Shangaan. English is also spoken as a second or third language. The majority of the Mozambicans is Christian but Muslim makes up 25% of the total population.