If one asked a Rhodesian archaeologist who built Great Zimbabwe the answer was invariably foreigners who had come to Africa to seek gold.  This may not have been what they actually believed, but the white regime in Rhodesia would not even consider the idea that the magnificent 11th century settlement had been built by indigenous Africans.  Even today there is a faction which believes that the amazing stone structures were the work of the ancestors of the Lemba, an ethnic group of Jewish or Arabian descent which paired with women of the Shona people. The majority of scholars, however, believe that Great Zimbabwe was built the Gokomere, ancestors of modern Shona.


The area was settled as early as the fourth century and for three hundred years the Gokomere or Ziwa cultures farmed in the valley.  They also mined and worked iron.

The Great Enclosure, which lies at the heart of the ruins, has walls up to 36 feet high and extending 820 feet. The Kingdom of Zimbabwe flourished from 1200 to 1500, with a population estimated at around 18,000 spread over an area of 1,800 acres. Archaeological evidence suggests that,during its heyday, Great Zimbabwe wasa center for trade extending as far as Kilwa, an island off Tanzania. Trade – mainly gold and ivory – may even have extended as far as China.

A World Heritage Site since1986, this remarkable site is composed of large towers and structures built out innumerable stones perfectly balanced one on top of the other without mortar.

Getting to Great Zimbabwe is not a piece of cake, especially with the political climate that has prevailed in the country for some time. One can either hire a car or take a bus – 3 hours from Bulawayo and 5 hours from Harare. The nearest town is Msvingo which has accommodation. There is a hotel and a campsite right at the Ruins.


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