Shona Cattlemen of Zimbabwe

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Shona Cattlemen of Zimbabwe

People travel for a variety of reasons, but few reasons are more noble or intriguing than the urge to trace the years of history and walk through worlds now lost to us. With a history tracing back to the 11th Century, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins are a destination as radiant in historical standing as they are impressive. Built entirely from rectangular granite stones placed carefully on top of one another, the structures of the Ruins have lasted over seven centuries without mortar or regular maintenance to keep them standing.

The Ruins are so fascinating because…

Spread across a stretch of beautiful Zimbabwean landscape, the Zimbabwe Ruins are revered to hold the key to the mystery of the Ancient African civilisation of the Shona cattlemen. Due to the impressive proportions of the Ruins, as well as the proliferation of ancient iron tools, ceramics, gold, carvings and pottery that have been found there, it’s unclear whether the Shona people built the Ruins entirely of their own accord, or were influenced in some way by an external force. It is known, however, that this majestic collection of Ruins took around 300 years to build and housed over 10 000 people.

So many questions remain unanswered…

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are steeped in mystery and speculation. There are many things about the Great Zimbabwe Ruins that have yet to be discovered, if their discovery is at all even possible, with the passages of time ever distancing us from the truth, now centuries old. The source of its wealth remains uncertain: was it a trade centre for gold, copper and ivory sold to Arab merchants in return for ceramics and cloth? Was its building influenced by Indians who sailed to the region in catamarans on the monsoon trade winds? And was its decline the result of a wild and romantic link between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon’s Mines? Nobody knows for sure, but this mystery and speculation only adds to the regal air that emanates from the Ruins into the surrounding countryside.

GREAT ZIMBABWE RUINS
GREAT ZIMBABWE RUINS

Renowned the World ‘round…

Designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins are a unique treat for all visitors to Zimbabwe, and an attraction quite unlike anything else on Earth. Not only do the towering granite walls, foreboding fortresses and conical towers leave an impact on all who encounter them, but they’re also renowned as the largest ancient structure to be found south of the Sahara, making them as unique as they are impressive.

GREAT ZIMBABWE RUINS
GREAT ZIMBABWE RUINS

Be prepared to have a lasting impression made upon you…

The Ruins comprise of two main areas of stone-walled enclosures: the Hill Complex and the Great Enclosure. The Hill Complex sits atop a granite dome that overlooks the Ruins, and consists of narrows twisting passages that lead to small enclosures. The Great Enclosure is arguably the most impressive part of the Ruins – a large stone enclosure with a diameter of 89-metres. The wall surrounding the enclosure is 244-metres long and, at its greatest, 5-metres thick. Towering 10-metres in height, the walls are interjected by turrets and monoliths, where carvings of birds, chevron and other designs faintly decorate their ancient surfaces.

A myriad of words come to mind as you walk amongst the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, words such as majestic, lofty and timeless. There’s no denying that to see these ancient constructions, nestled amidst the rocky outcrops and hilly terrain of Zimbabwe, is to feel as if you’re meeting face-to-face with an ancient civilisation whose footsteps are now entirely vanished from the Earth’s surface.

And while the reasons for the abandonment of the Ruins remain hypothetical, the buildings that remain are truly remarkable.

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