The Great Zimbabwe Ruins

Ruins on the hill

After spending a night in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, we headed out to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins near the town of Gweru. Having done little of our own research, and being largely in the dark about much of Africa’s history, we had never heard of the place — duh. Travel is enlightening.

Prior to European colonization, before Zimbabwe was Rhodesia, there was a great city in Zimbabwe. Aghast! Civilization in Africa before the European arrived? It took years for archaeologists to indeed prove this, much to the dismay of the Euros. From the 11th to 16th centuries there thrived a monarchy dominating much of Southern Africa, with main headquarters centered around what is now the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. The Ruins are the oldest in the Sub-Sahara. They don’t seem so old in comparison to, say, the Egyptian Pyramids, or considering the fact that our human ancestors evolved on the continent as long as 60,000 year ago, but they’re still old and impressive.

The tower in the Great Enclosure

The Ruins themselves were craftily constructed using cut granite blocks, stacked intricately, and at times, phallically. A noticeable feature of the Main Enclosure was a very large stacked stone tower, representing the King’s virility and power. The Main Enclosure was double-walled and was where the King’s harem lived. The King himself lived in another walled enclosure woven through massive boulders atop of a nearby hill where he could see miles in every direction. The surrounding countryside is spectacular.

Scattered throughout the Ruins were relics of pottery making, iron forging, stone carving and evidence of trading with Chinese, Muslim and Indian cultures during it’s time. Most of these items were collected and impressively displayed in the museum. Among the stone carvings were a series of birds. When Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) gained independence, this bird was adopted on the flag as a national symbol and the country gained it’s name, Zimbabwe. This site is of major significance to African history and we were the only visitors around. It was a refreshing change in contrast to some of the other ruins we’ve visited, especially in Italy and Greece, where the sites were overrun with tourists and security. We were really able to take it in on our own terms.

Them's some big walls


    As Violet Archer, told me, the world is full of wonder.


  1. Pat Wilson

  2. Your trip is truly amazing. Everyone in my office is loving your posts. All I can say is “WOW”

  3. Bruce the Moose

  4. I should really read these in order…

    Ok I had heard of the Zim ruins…but you folks are seeing them which is the real thing. I believe there is some debate as to who actually built them…
    The stonework is quite impressive. Cool.


    They were super cool dad. You would have loved it.

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