Great Zimbabwe on your bucket list? It should be!

From its impressive size to an enduring mystery linked to a yet unexplored underground tunnel, here are just a few of the reasons Great Zimbabwe should be on your bucket list.

Great Zimbabwe covers almost 800ha or 8km² – that’s four times the size of Monaco! The site is divided into 3 sections: the Hill Complex (aka the Royal City), the Great Enclosure and the Valley Ruins.

Founded in the 11th century the city peaked in the 14th century when 10 000 people were believed to live within the city, and the same number in the surrounds. Great Zimbabwe is the largest ancient structure in Sub-Saharan Africa and is made up of over 900 000 granite blocks.

The main wall of the Great Enclosure (aka Imba Huru) is 11m high, 250m and is made up of 15 000 tons of granite blocks. What makes this architectural feat even more amazing is that no mortar was used on the site, just ingenious engineering. Three sundials still stand in the Great Enclosure, indicating the tracking of seasons and planned harvests specifically and a well organised civilization in general. Archaeological evidence found at the site, glass beads and porcelain from China and Persia, gold and Arab coins from Kilwa, indicates long-standing trade with the rest of the world.

Great Zimbabwe gave the country its name upon independence in 1980 and although the meaning is disputed, is most commonly believed to mean ‘Houses of Stone’. The bird on Zimbabwe’s flag also hails from here, and visitors can see 7 of the 8 original birds (+ 1 replica) at the site. They vary in exact style & design but the original inspiration is clear and has been carried through to modern day Zimbabwe. There is a large odd shaped boulder overlooking the Hill Complex and it is this that is believed to be the inspiration for the Zimbabwe bird. If you squint just a little as you stare up into the bright sky it’s easy to see why. Plenty of cattle but almost no human remains have been discovered at Great Zimbabwe and one of it’s most enduring mysteries is where the dead were buried. There is a tunnel entrance in the Hill Complex, rumored to connect to a village 10km away, it is starting to be explored and may hold the key to this mystery and who knows what else!

It's very difficult to describe how awe inspiring this site is. It's sheer size, sophistication and grandeur are unparalleled. Comparisons with other travellers to South American sites even favoured this incredible Zimbabwean site. Being able to get so close and explore the same tunnels as inhabitants did 1000 years ago adds magic to the experience, and if stop and close your eyes it's very easy to be transported to a time long ago. We spent 7 hours exploring the site and left with much still to discover, so we will be back. Hope to see you there!

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