Xai-Xai is a town in southern Mozambique. As capital of the Gaza province and a port town of about 95,000 people, Xai-Xai is a battered city on the rise. The town formerly known as João Belo lies near the mouth of the famous Limpopo river, and is an important market centre. It is connected to the rest of the country by roads as well as an ancient steam train, which is both a curious tourist attraction and an important means of transport for the inhabitants of the area.
Xai-Xai hit the headlines when it was devastated by a flooding Limpopo in early 2000. People were driven out of their homes and stranded on rooftops. Many died from drowning, disease or lack of food. Eventually things got better: International attention and aid appeared, and with time, the water receded. The inhabitants could go about building up their country ruined by civil war again.
The nearby river is not just a curse. Normally, it is of good help to the people who live in and around Xai-Xai. Cashew nuts, rice, corn, cassava, and sorghum are grown with irrigation from the Limpopo, whereupon they are taken into town and sold.
Praia do Xai-Xai lies 10 km outside of town and is where most of the tourists go to live. It is, as you may have guessed, a beach, quite empty of tourists and covered in orange sand. The bay is protected from the wrath of the sea by a coral reef one kilometre out, and is therefore a great place to explore by snorkel. The other major attraction of the area is the Banhine National Park, situated between the rivers Limpopo and Changane.
Important buildings such as the local church and the post office are painted with bright, contrasting colours. The city also houses a monument to Eduardo Mondlane, a guerrilla fighter of Mozambique and a martyr for their freedom.