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Destinations | Zimbabwe

“Every time I look at a zebra, I can’t figure out whether it’s black with white stripes or white with black stripes, and that frustrates me.”

~Jodi Picoult ~

In 2016, for the first time visiting ZIMBABWE, I immediately fell in love with the incredible nature and its greenery, diverse landscape and abundance of wildlife in the national parks. As we drove towards Lake Kariba, we came across wildlife, such as elephants and zebras grazing on branches of trees by the side of the road and roaming freely.

Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, is a land locked country, which shares its borders with Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Namibia.

Interesting facts about Zimbabwe:

​1. Zimbabwe is home to about 15 million people.

2. The capital city is Harare (with its population of 1,5 million) and is located in Mashonaland province, where most of the Shona-speaking natives live. The second largest city, Bulawayo (with its population of 1,2 million) is in Matabeleland province in the west, where most Ndebele-speaking natives live. Bulawayo is a gateway to Matobo National Park, home to the Matobo Hills rock formations and Stone Age cave art.

3. Zimbabwe is a multi-currency country. One of the most interesting and in the same time frustrating facts about Zimbabwe concerns its currency. Since 2008, when massive inflation hit the country, Zimbabwe has been a multi-currency nation. To combat the inflation, Zimbabwe started using the U.S. Dollar as its main trading currency, also maintaining it own RTGS (Real-time gross settlement - which is their local currency). Items priced in U.S. dollars were also paid in RTGS or South African rands depending on the rate. However, in 2018, the Zimbabwean government reinstated the Zimbabwean dollar as the local currency, but on the black market the USD dominates.

Lots of Zimbabweans are using EcoCash, which is a mobile payment solution for Econet customers. It allows you to perform simple financial transactions, like send money to a cellphone number of the designated person you wish to send money to, buy prepaid airtime or data for yourself or other Econet subscribers and pay for goods and other services, all using your mobile phone.

4. While the majority of Zimbabweans speak Shona (75%) and Ndebele (18%) as a first language, standard English is the primary language used in education, government, commerce and media in Zimbabwe, giving it an important role in society.

5. The best time to visit Zimbabwe is during a dry season from May to October. At this time Victoria Falls is most impressive and wildlife viewing is excellent as animals congregate around the rivers and waterholes. This is especially true in Hwange where the artificially pumped waterholes attract elephants. Rainy season starts from November to March (very hot, lots of rain from December to February).

Attractions & landmarks:

6. Zimbabwe has five UNESCO World heritage sites. There are 3 cultural sites: the Khami Ruins, Great Zimbabwe National Monument, and Matobo Hills and 2 natural sites: Victoria Falls and Mana Pools.

  • The Khami Ruins is an extensive complex of stonewalled sites and once was the capital of the Butua State. Khami was developed between 1450 and 1650.

  • The Great Zimbabwe National Monument was, according to legend, the capital of the Queen of Sheba. The ancestral Shona people built the site between 1100 and 1450 AD. They are the largest ruins in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • The Matobo Hills have one of the highest concentrations of rock art in Southern Africa. These date back at least 13,000 years.

  • The Mana Pools are home to a wide variety of wild animals, for instance, elephants, buffalo, leopards, cheetahs and Nile crocodiles.

7. Zimbabwe is home to one of the world’s biggest waterfalls

The fifth UNESCO World Heritage Site is Victoria Falls. The waterfall was named after Queen Victoria by Scottish explorer David Livingstone. Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and is located in Zimbabwe and Zambia. The waterfall stands at an altitude of about 915 metres above mean sea level and is 1,708 metres wide. UNESCO inscribed Victoria Falls on its World Heritage list because of both its geological and ecological importance.

8. Zimbabwe has the largest man-made lake in the world

Lake Kariba is the largest man-made lake and reservoir in the world by volume. You’ll find it some 1,300km upstream from the Indian Ocean, along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is 226km long and up to 40km wide in some places. It provides electricity to both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Lake Kariba is a great place for fishing lovers and apart from fish, Nile crocodiles and hippopotami also live in the lake.

9. Zimbabwe’s flag is full of meaning

Zimbabwe was the last African nation to gain independence from British colonial rule. This happened in 1980 and Zimbabweans celebrate Independence Day on the 18th of April. On this date in 1980, the flag of Zimbabwe was raised for the first time at the midnight to mark independence.

The flag is full of symbolism. For instance, the green stripe represents vegetation and agriculture. The gold colour represents the country’s mineral wealth. The red stripe represents the blood that was shed during the war of liberation. Black represents the black majority. The white triangle represents peace. The red star represents the nation’s aspirations and the golden bird is the “Great Zimbabwe Bird” which is the national symbol of Zimbabwe.

Traditional & delicious food in Zimbabwe:

Fresh ingredients, green vegetables, exotic meats, the best fish all define Zimbabwean food, some of the most unique and amazing dishes in Africa:

  • Maizemeal – Sadza/Pap/Isitshwala

This is the most common dish found in Africa and it is stiff maize meal that is like a thickened porridge. It can be rolled into a ball and dipped into meat, sauce, gravy, sour milk, or stewed vegetables. It is eaten with a variety of stews and relishes such as collard greens, beef, chicken, or pork stews, and even Mopani worms.

  • Porridge – Bota/Iyambazi

Bota makes a delicious Zimbabwean breakfast meal. A diluted form of maize meal, Bota is made by adding hot water to the maize meal and letting it simmer for 30 minutes until it thickens. It can be flavored with peanut butter, milk or lemon or margarine, salt, and sugar.

  • Yellow Watermelon with Sun-Dried Maize – Umxhanxa

Umxhanxa is made by taking a yellow watermelon, known as iJodo, sun-dried maize, and sugar.The maize is boiled with water until the hard grains soften, which usually takes up to two and a half hours.The yellow watermelon is skinned and sliced, and all the seeds are removed. Then, it’s boiled for 30 minutes. It is then beaten, and the iJodo and maize are combined with sugar.

  • Peanuts, Maize and Beans Dish - Mutakura/Mangai

Mutakura is a wholesome mixed dish of maize, peanuts, bambara nuts, cow peas, and sometimes sugar beans.

It is a very nutritious meal as it has both carbohydrates and proteins. It is made simply by soaking all the ingredients overnight, mixing them together, then boiling for several hours or until soft.

  • Yams - Madhumbe/Magogoya

Yams (Sweet potatoes) a truly versatile ingredient. They can be eaten in a number of ways, most commonly boiled and eaten at breakfast or as a side dish.

  • Insects (Locusts, Aphids, Termites) - Hwiza, Hururwa, Ishwa, Inhlwa

Insects are a good source of protein, and Harurwa and Ishwa are found in large quantities throughout the rainy season in Zimbabwe.

Hwiza are caught during the day, and mini traps can be set up to catch them. These insects are caught, cleaned, and then prepared by frying in a lightly oiled pan until crunchy. They are eaten with Sadza and can be dried to be eaten later, too. This popular Zimbabwean food can also be eaten as a tasty afternoon snack.

  • Sour Milk - Hodzeko/Maasi

Traditionally, and in some rural areas today, it was fermented and cured in a clay pot known as a Hodzeko.

Nowadays, Hodzeko production is commercialized, and Hodzeko is sold in most supermarkets. It is eaten with Sadza as a lunchtime meal, as a snack, or even as a dessert with added sugar.

  • African Wild Mushrooms - Hohwa/Amakhowa

  • Offals (Beef Tripe) - Matumbu/Ezanga Phakathi

Matumbu is usually eaten as a tasty relish, or it can be barbecued to eat as a delicious snack known as Gango.

Matumbu can include tripe, intestines, testes, liver, and kidney. The offals are prepared by boiling the meat for several hours, then adding it to a tomato and onion soup.

  • Mopane Worms - Madora/Mancimbi

When picked from the trees, these insects are squeezed to clean their intestines out. They can be eaten freshly picked or dried in the sun.

If they are dried, you must first boil them to soften them. They can then be fried and eaten as a snack or made into a stew to eat with Sadza. Madora are available in most supermarkets, and can even be found canned.

  • Cow Heels - Mazondo/Amanqina

Traditional Zimbabwean dish and it is served with Sadza. The preparation of Mazondo involves boiling the cow heels for several hours. Then, salt, black pepper, and garlic are added. Finally, chopped onion and tomato are added to create a rich and delicious stew. As this dish takes time, and a lot of electricity, most families cook it over an open flame.

  • Pumpkin Pudding- Nhopi/Inhopi

Pumpkin pudding is traditionally made from mashed up pumpkins, water squash, mealie meal, and peanut butter.

While it is a naturally sweet dish, sugar can be added to further sweeten the taste. It is a light meal and can be served as dessert, snack, side dish, or lunch. Fresh cream and cinnamon are commonly added to pumpkin pudding.

To make pumpkin pudding, Zimbabweans boil the pumpkin and water squash together in a medium-sized pot.

The mixture is then mashed to a desired consistency and cream, butter, and peanut butter are added before serving.

  • Dried Greens - Mufushwa Wenyevhe/Ulude

Dried African spider flower leaves are a form of collared greens that are not farmed but instead grow like weeds. The plant is referred to as African cabbage, and it has slightly bitter taste.

Mufushwa are packed with goodness like iron, vitamins A, C, calcium, and phosphorus. The leaves are prepared by first being dried, then boiled in water.

Peanut butter is commonly added to enhance the flavor. It is often enjoyed for lunch or dinner with Sadza, and it is traditionally a meal eaten in rural areas.

  • Tanqanyika Sardine - Matemba/Kapenta

These tiny fish are found in Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. They have a salty taste due to the high amounts of salt used in the drying process.Tanganyika sardines are usually sold sun-dried, then rehydrated during preparation. They are so small they are eaten as they are, without cleaning.

  • Maize Meal Drink - Maheu/Amahewu

Maize is a central part of Zimbabwean cuisine, and it can be found in mains, desserts, and drinks. This refreshing non-alcoholic drink is so popular, in fact, that it has been commercialized.

Historically, Maheu was drunk by workers in the fields to give them energy. To make Maheu, you simply add water, chimera, and sugar to leftover Sadza, and then let it rest in a warm place. After a day or two, it will be ready and will have a layer of froth.

African Beer - Masese/Umqomboti

The most common type of Zimbabwean beer is sorghum beer, sometimes called opaque beer. It can be found commercially under names such as Chibuku.

Masese is made by mixing maize meal, sorghum, starter, brown sugar, and water, then allowing the mixture to ferment. The longer it ferments, the stronger the drink.

Beer is an important part of many spiritual traditions, including memorials, ceremonies as a gift to the ancestors.

Art from Zimbabwe:

Art from Zimbabwe dates back thousands of years to the San people who used the rock faces and caves across the country as a canvas for their unique and extraordinary art known as Bushmen paintings. Also in ancient times were soapstone carvings into sculpture, particularly those found at Great Zimbabwe dating over 5 centuries ago.

Animals in Zimbabwe:

Zimbabwe with its diverse landscape is home to some of Africa's largest game reserves. Within these reserves or national parks, there is a wide variety of animals. For this reason, Zimbabwe is considered to be one of the best safari destinations in Africa. It is also possible to see all of the "Big Five" (Lions, African elephants, buffalos, Leopards and Rhinos), although rhino are extremely rare and can only be found in certain game parks.

Loss of habitat and poaching are the biggest threat to Zimbabwe's animals. Corruption and complete mismanagement by the Zimbabwe National Parks Authority, which was once a leading light in animal conservation, has been a contributing factor to this destruction.

Fortunately independent organisations have stepped in, to setup and maintain conservation programs and anti-poaching units. These gallant organisation have, against the odds saved Zimbabwe's wildlife to a certain extent. The battle is ongoing, relentless and far from won, but we applaud them for all that they have done and are doing to save Zimbabwe's animals.

The best National Parks & Reserves in Zimbabwe:

  • Hwange National Park Matusadona

  • Gonarezhou (elephants paradise)

  • Mana Pools National Park

  • Matobo Hills

  • Victoria Falls National Park (The Rainforest)

  • Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve

  • Nyanga

  • Chizarrira

  • Kazuma pan

  • Zambezi National Park

  • Matusadona National Park


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