The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #54


A reader writes:

Once again, a window with no real visible landmark hints. Could be several places, but the double parking on the sidewalk is known as Tico-style parking. The architecture is reminiscent of that in Central America. And the tamarind becomes visible on the trees after using the infinite zoom function. Therefore, this is likely Tamarindo, Costa Rica. (Proximity won it last week, so here’s hoping it comes into play again.)

Another writes:

I’m not good at these things, but there seem to be clues:

– Near a beach
– I notice they drive on the left
– The houses look like they’re in South America
– A couple of people whom I think are black

Could it be Georgetown, Guyana? I don’t know where exactly, and I’ll be late for my graduation if I spend a lot of time. But maybe that building is the Russian Embassy. So perhaps it was taken from a house on Kitty Public Rd. & Pere St.


Driving on the left, the red tile roofs, streetlight design, tropical foliage including coconut palms, Norfolk Island pines and possibly Australian pines all indicate this pic to be of a coastal suburb of a Queensland, Australia city (at sunrise). But I can’t pinpoint exact location.


The kombi, truck, two other cars, palm trees and buildings are typical of many small condominiums along the Costa Verde (green coast) region of the state of Rio de Janeiro. The traffic light suggests a city, so I will guess Angra dos Reis.


The photo reminds me of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, where I have visited off and on for 16 years.  The white building in the right is Aparthotel Impala, where the country’s leading novelist is the cook to the Spanish owner.


Okay, I give up.

There are a few clues here that should make this simple – driving on the left, dark, the nearly square black license plate on the blue car, the sun tells us we’re looking west (assuming that’s a sunset we’re looking at), and the satellite dishes on the house are pointed south – telling us we’re in the Northern Hemisphere.

Put all those things together, and precious few countries make the grade, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. Barbados is the only place that comes close – driving on the left, the license plates, the northern hemisphere, but damned if I can find a match. That solution bothers me anyway: the satellite dishes are pointed at a low angle, like they would be if you were pretty far away from the equator, which Barbados isn’t really.

I give up.

The photo was taken at 6.11 am, so it’s actually a sunrise. Another:

Is it Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei?  Attached is a photo I took from my hotel room in Sept 2010 (and meant to e-mail to you for the contest but probably never did):


Another gets on the right track:

This one was a geographer’s dream.  First off, I suppose I could be wrong, but if those aren’t sunrise clouds I’ll be very surprised, which means we have an easterly shore on a very large body of water. While there’s no cars moving in the picture, all the parked ones are on the left side of the street. That means it’s probably a left-hand driving country, which narrows it down pretty well.  There’s absolutely nothing remotely Asian looking about any of the architecture, so I think we can scratch off India, China, and Japan.

This gets it down to Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, and east Africa below the horn.

From there we have fairly Western, industrialized streetlights with buried power lines, relatively lush vegetation (including palms), Spanish Mission architecture, a right-angled street grid, asphalt macadam streets, meaning it has to be at least a somewhat urbanized, developed area with a decent amount of economic prosperity.  The landscape just doesn’t look like an island to me, and there’s nowhere in the Caribbean that has the right look.  The palm trees mean it’s tropical, and it looks too lush for tropical Australia.  (Also, the plants don’t look, well, weird enough for Australia or New Zealand.)

So going around the cape of Africa, it’s going to have to be a reasonably prosperous, developed, coastal city.  The two biggest candidates that jump out are Durban and Dar es Salaam.  I am really torn between those two, but in Google image searches, Durban just looks a lot drier than this picture.  I’m going with Tanzania.  (No, I’ve never been there, I’m just going on geography.)

Another is also in the right territory:

Seventy six jurisdictions drive on the left.  Some of those are tropical enough to have coconut palms.  Only a few of the cities there are facing somewhat east – that is a sunrise isn’t it?   With enough traffic to merit a stoplight, one would expect more of it at sundown.

Mombasa, Kenya has most in common with our requirements.  T-shaped streetlight poles.  Red tume roofs.  Tall fences and security gates with a guard shack one might find in a poor country with some affluent neighborhoods.

Another zeroes in:

Finally, one I know!  This photo was taken from a block of flats in Maputo, Mozambique, with that specific view looking at the intersection of Avenida Mao Tse Tung and Avenida Julius Nyerere (the flat where this photo was taken is located on Avenida Mao Tse Tung):

Maputo 02

I shouldn’t feel too proud of myself though; I used to work down the street from that location, and also lived within a few blocks of there as well (I passed that intersection on my way home every day).  In fact, at one point, I nearly moved into a flat in that same building where this photo was taken from.  Come September I’ll be back there again, can’t wait … Maputo is a great city.

A half-dozen readers correctly guessed Maputo. Another:

Okay, another set of white buildings with red tile roofs … Grrrr.  I tried to get a photo of the building, but the best I can do is this: the window is, I’d say, on the fourth or fifth floor of the apartment building over the Sheik Restaurant and the lower-level Sheik Discotheque (proper attire required), at Avenida Mao Tse Tung, 57, (at the corner of Avenida Armando Tivane), in Maputo Mozambique.  If I can get more precise on the window, I’ll write again.


I can’t believe this. What a treat. This photo is taken from an apartment building at number 36 Avenida Mao Tse Tung:


The intersecting street that we barely see is Julius Nyerere. I’m not sure from what floor the photo was taken, but I believe it was not the 9th floor, where I lived. A new building has been constructed toward the Indian Ocean and the house across the street has been painted a new color, but that’s it, I’m certain. I know because I spent many mornings staring at this exact scene as I ate imported Golden Grahams and caught up on Dish posts that had accumulated after I had gone to sleep the night before. (Or tried going to sleep; the thumping bass from the in-building night club, Sheik, often keep us up until sunrise.) My own photo is attached.

I spent a year in Maputo and made wonderful connections with people I’ll stay in touch with for the rest of my life. But you mean to tell me that another Dish reader is (or was) living in my building? Now that’s a connection I wish I could have made.

The following reader had the most accurate and impressive response:

No. 57, Avenida Ma Tse Tung (the Sheik Disco/Restaurant building), 6th floor, corner apartment. Please see attached file called “VFYW Satellite image” where the building is circled in black and the approximate location of the apartment is circled in red:

VFYW Satellite image

Ive never entered this contest before, although I’ve guessed correctly on one or two entries, but the husband is out of town, it’s horribly hot and I’d rather be inside, and something about this photo captivated me. So I decided to give it a try.

I noticed the cars were driving on the left, so that narrowed it down. The large satellite dish in the background was distinct, as were the street lights. It had to be somewhere warm enough to have palm trees, but not so dry it couldn’t support more lush vegetation. It also seemed to be on a slight hill, judging from the fence. The buildings also seemed to have a colonial flavor.

So I went to work. A few guesses (Grenada, Suriname) were very wrong, and then I noticed the trees. They looked like flame trees I’d seen in African countries. So I started to look for African countries where they drive on the left. I ruled out former British colonies with coastline and then stumbled across Mozambique. I didn’t know the Portuguese used to drive on the left and the fact they do so in Mozambique is still a holdover from the colonial days. Learn something every day!

Once I had Mozambique, I started looking at the map of Maputo for the boulevard-type streets with a median in the middle, where one intersects with another. There are several in Maputo, but I finally found the intersection of Avenida Mao Tse Tung and Avenida Julius Nyerere. From the satellite view, I could clearly see the buildings visible in this photo. Ah ha! Gotcha.

I could see there were two tall buildings across the street, and figured the photographer must be in the one closer to the park and away from Av. Julius Nyerere. But finding a photo of it was the real challenge. Maputo is not as photographed as a lot of other places and it took a lot of digging to find the buildings. I found photos with the buildings from a distance, but close ups were another story.

Eventually I found a few photos of the Sheik disco/restaurant building. Here‘s a link to a photo of it, but it’s only a few stories, not the whole building. (The person who took the photo lives on the 6th floor, corner apartment in that building. I think.)

Along the way, I discovered that many people who either grew up in what was then Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) or left as kids have memories of it (some fond, some not) and even return as tourists. If you search online for the city and street names as they were during the colonial period, many more things turn up.

I found a YouTube video of someone driving down Avenida Massano de Amorim, which is Avenida Mao Tse Tung’s name in the colonial era. At 2:13-2:14 in the video you can see the building (the yellow one, the Sheik building) from which the VFYW photo was taken:

Prometheus and Sheik Buildings

As an aside, the white building next to it was designed by renowned architect Pancho Guedes and was called Prometheus. It’s since been renovated (not in a good way), but you can read about his thoughts on it here. And here‘s a photo of it when it was in its prime. You can take walking tours to see Guedes’ buildings in Maputo these days. He’s got lots of fans.

And also along the way I found this blog entry, which Google helpfully translated from the Portuguese for me. It turns out that the blog owner had lived in that apartment building growing up and someone sent her photos taken from the windows. You can see the street lights, the flat-topped guard house, and other landmarks. The building that is vivid orange in your VFYW photo must have been painted recently because it’s yellow-beige in these photos, which were taken in 2010. The author says the person who took the photos lives on the 5th floor. The photos on the blog seem a bit closer to the ground than the one you posted, so I’m going to say the VFYW photo was taken from the 6th floor, which is the exact apartment in which this person lived.

I’m sure someone will have a great story about how they grew up in this apartment (like the owner of that blog, maybe) or a terrifying one about how they had to flee for their lives when the Portuguese were expelled from Mozambique and left everything they owned in that apartment, so I don’t expect to win the contest. But it’s been really fun learning about Mozambique, a country I knew virtually nothing about. And do take a moment to listen to the music in that YouTube video – no idea who the artist is, but the music is great.

Congrats on the win; we will get you a window book soon. And thanks to everyone else for the great guesses.