Nestling in the heart of Zimbabwe is an ancient African kingdom. The area known as Great Zimbabwe was inhabited by ancestors of the Shona people and dates back to the 11th century. It comprises some of Sub-Saharan Africa's oldest and largest structures and is attributed on UNESCO's World Heritage list as one of the most important archaeological sites in Africa.
Built by King Munhumatapa, this realm comprises of a series of stone complexes to house over 10,000 people. This fortified capital, built with basic tools and no mortar, much like the Peruvian architecture of Machu Picchu, survived for over five centuries. The name "Zimbabwe" is a short form for "ziimba remabwe", a Shona term meaning "the great house built of stone boulders". Much of Great Zimbabwe still stands as a proud national display of curved stone walls, huge enclosures and cylindrical structures.
The closest town from which to visit this ancient kingdom is Masvingo, about 30 km away. From a choice of Masvingo hotels I chose to stay at the African Sun Great Zimbabwe Hotel, located on the edge of the Mutirikwi Recreational Park. This is an excellent location from which to also visit Lake Kyle - known for its wide array of water recreational activities and the African Sun team made me feel at home from the moment I arrived.
My exploration from the Masvingo hotel, which is partially on the World Heritage site, into the depths of this magical kingdom began with the Hill Complex. Being the highest part I was relieved to have tackled the climb during the coolest part of the day. With the adrenalin pumping it was a great feeling to be looking down from where King Munhumatapa must have surveyed his fine work. Divided into three distinct architectural zones, the type of stone structure gives an indication of the status of the citizenry of the resident population. I descended from here to the Valley Complex and then onto the impressive area of the Great Enclosure, containing over 300 stone structures. The more elaborate structures were built for the kings and situated further away from the centre of the city, supposedly, in order to escape sleeping sickness.
Reflecting on my day, back in my Masvingo hotel, I thought how incredible, that all this was once kept a secret by white settlers, because they didn’t believe a black man could build such a wonder using stones!