The Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has struggled with economic crisis after crisis since its independence with staggering rates of hyperinflation. It used to be the food basket of Africa with loads of agriculture, but has been in decline since. As discussed in the Zambia post, it was part of the Central African Federation and gained independence in 1980 under the leadership of Mugabe. Hyperinflation started in 1988 and Zimbabwe briefly started using the US dollar in 2009. In 2016, they rolled out their new currency but US dollar is still widely accepted due to its stable value.


The Great Zimbabwe Ruins gave the country of Zimbabwe its name. Zimbabwe means “great house of stone.” It is the fifth largest World Heritage Site in terms of the number of stones on site. The ruins were home to the king of the Shona people dating back to 1200 AD. Upwards of 25,000 people were thought to have lived in the city, making it the largest settlement in central and southern Africa at the time. The king traded gold found in the riverbeds for iron that they used for tools. The king had 200 wives at one point due to the widespread use of political marriages to stabilize the region. The Shona people believed that eagles were divine messengers, carrying their prayers to God. The king was thought to be God on Earth and carved eagles were made for each king that passed. The reason for the fall of the civilization is unclear, but it is likely multifactorial, due to disease as there were no sanitation measures, deforestation, and overgrazing.


The pattern in the stone on the perimeter wall of the Great Enclosure symbolize fertility and water.


The circular shape of the houses and circular arrangement of the houses resist strong winds and symbolized unity. Corners were thought to harbor evil spirits, so no home had corners.


While in the recreated village, we saw a traditional spiritual dance.





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