Big Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe, Endless Mystery

Stone vs Plant
Colony of aloe excels high on the slope of the Grande Fenced.
historic grip
Host Philip climbs to the top of the Hill Complex, the oldest of the sections of Great Zimbabwe.
at the foot of the fortress
Stone wall of the Great Enclosure, with the ancestral Mimusops zeyheri treetops above eleven meters of the structure.
Zimbabwean heart
The great enclosure of the Great Zimbabwe, one of the structures that make up the largest of a medieval city in sub-Saharan Africa.
Colony of aloe excels high on the slope of the Grande Fenced.
A colony of Aloes and its Euphorbian rivals (Muhondes, in Xona dialect), precedes the Grande Cercado.
Warm clothing
Dani gazes at the Great Enclosure from the entrance to a small cave below the Hill Complex.
Architectural detail of the Grande Fenced.
providential rest
After the dance exhibition, they hold visitors to Great Zimbabwe.
The Stones of Zimbabwe
Identification of the Hill Complex in Dzimbabwe.
Xona traits
Resident and musician of the replica xona village installed below the Grande Fenced.
Xona dances
Dance group of the villagers of the replica xona village installed below the Grande Fenced.
In expectation
Xona women from the Xona village replica of the Great Enclosure, after the dance exhibition with which they arrest the visitors of Great Zimbabwe.
Between the 1500th and XNUMXth centuries, Bantu peoples built what became the largest medieval city in sub-Saharan Africa. From XNUMX onwards, with the passage of the first Portuguese explorers arriving from Mozambique, the city was already in decline. Its ruins, which inspired the name of the present-day Zimbabwean nation, have many unanswered questions.  

Every civilization gives what it gives. The one in Zimbabwe has had better days for a long time.

We woke up in Masvingo excited about fulfilling a dream of several years. The driver of the Stalion Hotel tells us that we are supposed to pick up a guide from ZTA, the national tourism authority. When we left, there was no breakfast in the hotel.

Zimbabwe's Civilizational Troubles

We took advantage of the fact that ZTA's local offices were next to a supermarket to overcome the absolute chaos in which the country's economy was going, make some purchases and break our fast. We arrived at the box. Once again, they do not accept the US dollar bills with which we want to pay.

They are prior to 2009 and there is an epidemic of this counterfeit cash. The oldest notes are the most copied.

We pay in euros and receive part of the change in dollars, another part in bonds, a financial trick with which the Harare government sought to contain the increasingly atrocious inflation. The purchases turned out to be so complicated that when we walked out to the parking lot, the driver and Dani had been waiting for us for ten minutes.

We introduced ourselves to the young hostess, settled in the back seat. We head south towards Lake Mutirikwi and the Great Zimbabwe National Monument, one of the most regarded monuments in Zimbabwe.

The magical and enigmatic place that inspired the name of the independent nation, long troubled, that emerged after the bloody Bush War, the civil war that, from 1964 to 1979, pitted two liberation movements (later rivals as well) against white government oppressor of Rhodesia.

Return to the Great Zimbabwe of Bygone Times

We turn off the main road into an alley lined with trees much wider and greener than the vegetation of the surrounding hillside savannah. Dani, take us to the reception building. There awaits us Philip, the young resident guide of the complex. Philip and Dani had known each other for some time.

In the good manner of the Xona and Southern Africans in general, Philip immediately opens an intense session of flirting and flirting with Dani that would only end with the end of the visit.

Tight passage in Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

Host Philip climbs to the top of the Hill Complex, the oldest of the sections of Great Zimbabwe.

The host leads the way. It takes us along a steep path that, sometimes wedged between huge polished granite boulders, led to the top of the hill complex, one of the monument's architectural complexes. Unaccustomed to walking, Nadia gasps and complains about the roughness of the route. When it's time to climb to the dizzying top of the fortress, he insists on waiting at its base.

It didn't take long to realize that the privileged view was worth all the effort of the ascent, soon after climbing.

Below, the deepest furrow of a valley spread. Onward, a verdant slope dotted with large boulders. At the already somewhat sloping foothills of this slope stood out the fulcrum of an old round fortress, surrounded by vestiges of what would have been outer walls, in higher times, now adorned by acacias and a colony of excelent aloe haughty.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins, Zimbabwe

The great enclosure of the Great Zimbabwe, one of the structures that make up the largest of a medieval city in sub-Saharan Africa

Mysterious and Exceptional Structures

Philip gives us some of the many historical explanations we needed. When he detects the first of our successive breaks for photography, he intersperses his speech with new processions to Dani who remained at the foot of the great rocks we had conquered, giving her smartphone a finger.

As the name implied, Greater Zimbabwe was the largest of several Zimbabwean (complexes of ruins) scattered across that vast South African plateau.

Not only was it the largest, but it continues to be considered the largest medieval city in all of sub-Saharan Africa, with walls reaching 11 meters high, 250 meters long, made up only of worked stones and piled up, without any mortar.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins Stones

Identification of the Hill Complex in Dzimbabwe.

Despite its impressive size and the obvious power and influence of the civilization that built it, its origin and authorship remains the subject of heated controversy.

The fact that the people who built it did not use written communication meant that testimonies or graphic records were never found.

Those that exist date back to the XNUMXth century, such as those left by Portuguese explorers who began to venture to those parts, coming from the neighboring Portuguese colony of Mozambique.

The Center of a Prolific Fountain of Gold

Greater Zimbabwe is believed to have been erected over the years between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries by the Gokomere (bantus) ascendants of the Xona civilization (Zimbabwe: dzimba = houses and Mabwe = stones is, by the way, a xona term), the predominant ethnicity in the current Zimbabwean nation.

At one point, the city occupied an area of ​​around 80 hectares. It assumed such an impressive size and importance that, during the Middle Ages, it became notorious in Africa, around the Red Sea – from where Arab merchants arrived – and, moreover, also among European explorers.

Archaeological excavations there have revealed gold and coins from Kilwa, a sultanate in the vicinity of Zanzibar. Also beads and porcelain from China.

The most widespread explanation for the emergence of Greater Zimbabwe centers on the abundance of gold and ivory in the region, which justified the aggrandizement of the kingdom that held those lands, the construction of a throne-fortress at the height of royalty and the protection of the veins that enriched her.

At its zenith, it was inhabited by almost 20.000 inhabitants, the humblest ones housed in conical huts with thatched roofs. After a long time exploring the details of the acropolis of the hill complex, the oldest, we return to its base.

Great Surrounding, the heart of the “low” Great Zimbabwe

Then, we took the trail that led to the valley complex that we had seen from a distance, and then to the elliptical Grande Cercado.

We get close to the aloe colony and its euphorbian rivals (muhondes, in Xona dialect), both spread in an area of ​​preambular walls, rounded but worn by time, which now look more like flowerbeds.

Aloe exalted by the wall of the Great Enclosure, Great Zimbabwe

Colony of aloe excels high on the slope of the Grande Fenced.

A few meters above, we were dazzled by the towering grandeur of the great wall. the hearts of some zeyheri mimusops ancestors seem to peer at us from the top of a stone fence that has been partly tinged yellow by a dense forest of opportunistic lichens. Philip approaches an almost rare outer wall.

Its human smallness helps us to value the civilizational heritage that we were fortunate to appreciate. We didn't take long to move inland.

The Great Enclosure was built during the XNUMXth century in granite blocks. It protected a number of family quarters for families closer to royalty. Their huts were made of granite sand bricks and clay.

Great Enclosure Wall, Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

Stone wall of the Great Enclosure, with the ancestral Mimusops zeyheri treetops above eleven meters of the structure.

They shared a communal area and a connection to a tiny passage that led to a ten-meter conical tower leaning against the wall, still today in the shade of the huge trees that sprout there.

It is not known for sure what its function was. The two most popular theories are quite at variance. One claims to have been a grain reservoir. The other a phallic symbol.

In the town's glory days, the remaining subjects resided in the adjoining valley. They raised cattle, cultivated cereals and tubers. They carried out the gold trade with merchants who arrived mainly from the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Philip tells us that eight soapstone sculptures were found in nearby areas, resting on columns, which depicted figures that combined birds with human features – lips instead of beaks and feet with five fingers. They would be symbols of real power.

Accordingly, after independence in April 1980, they were adopted as a symbol of the new Zimbabwean nation.

Architectural Detail of Great Zimbabwe

Architectural detail of the Grande Fenced.

From Zenith to Abandonment Witnessed by Portuguese Explorers

But as it emerged, Greater Zimbabwe faded away. In the early XNUMXth century, Portuguese explorers began to venture into the interior of Mozambique in search of riches. The tales of the abundance of gold took us to the old city stops.

In 1506, Diogo de Alcáçova even described the place in a letter he sent to King Dom Manuel as part of such a kingdom of Ucalanga.

In 1531, Vicente Pegado, captain of the Sofala garrison, already described the place as a legacy to the time. By 1450, Greater Zimbabwe is believed to have been abandoned. The lack of written records of the Xona people's background makes it impossible for us to know for sure.

Among the most reliable explanations are the fact that the gold in the mines has run out and has led to a sharp decline in the relevance of the place where, at the same time, the abundant population will have also found themselves in serious difficulties to obtain food in the surrounding region, increasingly deforested.

It is known that when the situation became really serious, an emissary, Nyatsimba Mutota, was sent north in search of sources of salt that would preserve the meat. The urgent abandonment of Greater Zimbabwe, will have favored Khami, a rival and competitor state, today ruins of the Great Zimbabwe genre, albeit without its magnificence.

Later, the Portuguese historian João de Barros, referred to a Mutapa empire that succeeded that of Zimbabwe, with the capital in a different place where the stones that made the construction of Greater Zimbabwe viable did not exist.

Grotto overlooking the Great Enclosure of Great Zimbabwe

Dani gazes at the Great Enclosure from the entrance to a small cave below the Hill Complex.

Explanations That Don't Mitigate the Enigma

As always in these cases, the more scientists, scholars and treasure looters arrive, the more theories and certainties emerge. In 1871 Karl Mauch, a German explorer and cartographer saw the ruins for the first time.

He didn't wait long to associate them with King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, as other scholars such as the Portuguese writer João dos Santos had already done. This interpretation spread among the white settler community in Africa. It opened a series of others.

Sponsored by Cecil Rhodes, the determined and self-centered mentor of Rhodesia, J. Theodore Bent spent a stint in the ruins, after which he published  "The Ruined Cities of Mashonaland".

In his work, he argued that the city was built either by the Phoenicians or by the Arabs. It instigated the prejudice of the racist and pro-apartheid Rhodesian government (and population) that they could never have been built by black people.

Residents of the Xona village of Great Zimbabwe

Xona women from the Xona village replica of the Great Enclosure, after the dance exhibition with which they arrest the visitors of Great Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean authorities have always rejected these postulations – and similar ones – which sought to discredit such a remarkable civilization from their predecessors. As a way to liven up the place and illustrate the Xona past, they keep a replica of a Xona village that we found a short distance north of the Grande Fenced.

Its inhabitants show us the prolific craftsmanship of the community. And they show us traditional dances with as much effort as possible, bearing in mind that they do it from sunrise to sunset, whenever new strangers pass by.

We watched the show with the interest it deserved, if only because of its probable descent from the authors of Greater Zimbabwe.

Xona Dance, Great Zimbabwe

Dance group of the villagers of the replica xona village installed below the Grande Fenced

Then we said goodbye to Philip. We leave you to the routine of waiting for visitors to offer your services. And, to the ruins, to the many uncertainties of Zimbabwean history to be cleared up.

More information about Greater Zimbabwe on the corresponding page of UNESCO.

Harare, Zimbabwewe

The Last Rales of Surreal Mugabué

In 2015, Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe said the 91-year-old president would rule until the age of 100 in a special wheelchair. Shortly thereafter, it began to insinuate itself into his succession. But in recent days, the generals have finally precipitated the removal of Robert Mugabe, who has replaced him with former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
luxor, Egypt

From Luxor to Thebes: Journey to Ancient Egypt

Thebes was raised as the new supreme capital of the Egyptian Empire, the seat of Amon, the God of Gods. Modern Luxor inherited the Temple of Karnak and its sumptuousness. Between one and the other flow the sacred Nile and millennia of dazzling history.
Lijiang, China

A Gray City but Little

Seen from afar, its vast houses are dreary, but Lijiang's centuries-old sidewalks and canals are more folkloric than ever. This city once shone as the grandiose capital of the Naxi people. Today, floods of Chinese visitors who fight for the quasi-theme park it have become take it by storm.
Tulum, Mexico

The Most Caribbean of the Mayan Ruins

Built by the sea as an exceptional outpost decisive for the prosperity of the Mayan nation, Tulum was one of its last cities to succumb to Hispanic occupation. At the end of the XNUMXth century, its inhabitants abandoned it to time and to an impeccable coastline of the Yucatan peninsula.
Great ZimbabweZimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe, Little Bira Dance

Karanga natives of the KwaNemamwa village display traditional Bira dances to privileged visitors to the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. the most iconic place in Zimbabwe, the one who, after the decree of colonial Rhodesia's independence, inspired the name of the new and problematic nation.  

Matarraña to Alcanar, Spain (España)

A Medieval Spain

Traveling through the lands of Aragon and Valencia, we come across towers and detached battlements of houses that fill the slopes. Mile after kilometer, these visions prove to be as anachronistic as they are fascinating.

Machu Picchu, Peru

The City Lost in the Mystery of the Incas

As we wander around Machu Picchu, we find meaning in the most accepted explanations for its foundation and abandonment. But whenever the complex is closed, the ruins are left to their enigmas.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwee

Livingstone's Thundering Gift

The explorer was looking for a route to the Indian Ocean when natives led him to a jump of the Zambezi River. The falls he found were so majestic that he decided to name them in honor of his queen
San Ignacio Mini, Argentina

The Impossible Jesuit Missions of San Ignacio Mini

In the century. In the XNUMXth century, the Jesuits expanded a religious domain in the heart of South America by converting the Guarani Indians into Jesuit missions. But the Iberian Crowns ruined the tropical utopia of the Society of Jesus.
PN Hwange, Zimbabwe

The Legacy of the Late Cecil Lion

On July 1, 2015, Walter Palmer, a dentist and trophy hunter from Minnesota killed Cecil, Zimbabwe's most famous lion. The slaughter generated a viral wave of outrage. As we saw in PN Hwange, nearly two years later, Cecil's descendants thrive.
Serengeti, Great Savannah Migration, Tanzania, wildebeest on river
Serengeti NP, Tanzania

The Great Migration of the Endless Savanna

In these prairies that the Masai people say syringet (run forever), millions of wildebeests and other herbivores chase the rains. For predators, their arrival and that of the monsoon are the same salvation.
Aurora lights up the Pisang Valley, Nepal.
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 3rd- Upper Banana, Nepal

An Unexpected Snowy Aurora

At the first glimmers of light, the sight of the white mantle that had covered the village during the night dazzles us. With one of the toughest walks on the Annapurna Circuit ahead of us, we postponed the match as much as possible. Annoyed, we left Upper Pisang towards Escort when the last snow faded.
shadow vs light
Architecture & Design
Kyoto, Japan

The Kyoto Temple Reborn from the Ashes

The Golden Pavilion has been spared destruction several times throughout history, including that of US-dropped bombs, but it did not withstand the mental disturbance of Hayashi Yoken. When we admired him, he looked like never before.
The small lighthouse at Kallur, highlighted in the capricious northern relief of the island of Kalsoy.
Kalsoy, Faroe Islands

A Lighthouse at the End of the Faroese World

Kalsoy is one of the most isolated islands in the Faroe archipelago. Also known as “the flute” due to its long shape and the many tunnels that serve it, a mere 75 inhabitants inhabit it. Much less than the outsiders who visit it every year, attracted by the boreal wonder of its Kallur lighthouse.
orthodox procession
Ceremonies and Festivities
Suzdal, Russia

Centuries of Devotion to a Devoted Monk

Euthymius was a fourteenth-century Russian ascetic who gave himself body and soul to God. His faith inspired Suzdal's religiosity. The city's believers worship him as the saint he has become.
Sydney, Australia's exemplary criminal city, Harbor Bridge
Sydney, Australia

From the Exile of Criminals to an Exemplary City

The first of the Australian colonies was built by exiled inmates. Today, Sydney's Aussies boast former convicts of their family tree and pride themselves on the cosmopolitan prosperity of the megalopolis they inhabit.
Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan

The Fish Market That Lost its Freshness

In a year, each Japanese eats more than their weight in fish and shellfish. Since 1935, a considerable part was processed and sold in the largest fish market in the world. Tsukiji was terminated in October 2018, and replaced by Toyosu's.
Efate, Vanuatu, transshipment to "Congoola/Lady of the Seas"
Efate, Vanuatu

The Island that Survived “Survivor”

Much of Vanuatu lives in a blessed post-savage state. Maybe for this, reality shows in which aspirants compete Robinson Crusoes they settled one after the other on their most accessible and notorious island. Already somewhat stunned by the phenomenon of conventional tourism, Efate also had to resist them.
4th of July Fireworks-Seward, Alaska, United States
Seward, Alaska

The Longest 4th of July

The independence of the United States is celebrated, in Seward, Alaska, in a modest way. Even so, the 4th of July and its celebration seem to have no end.
Fruit sellers, Swarm, Mozambique
Enxame Mozambique

Mozambican Fashion Service Area

It is repeated at almost all stops in towns of Mozambique worthy of appearing on maps. The machimbombo (bus) stops and is surrounded by a crowd of eager "businessmen". The products offered can be universal such as water or biscuits or typical of the area. In this region, a few kilometers from Nampula, fruit sales suceeded, in each and every case, quite intense.
Native Americans Parade, Pow Pow, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
Albuquerque, USA

When the Drums Sound, the Indians Resist

With more than 500 tribes present, the pow wow "Gathering of the Nations" celebrates the sacred remnants of Native American cultures. But it also reveals the damage inflicted by colonizing civilization.
Rainbow in the Grand Canyon, an example of prodigious photographic light
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Natural Light (Part 1)

And Light was made on Earth. Know how to use it.

The theme of light in photography is inexhaustible. In this article, we give you some basic notions about your behavior, to start with, just and only in terms of geolocation, the time of day and the time of year.
Armenia Cradle Christianity, Mount Aratat

The Cradle of the Official Christianity

Just 268 years after Jesus' death, a nation will have become the first to accept the Christian faith by royal decree. This nation still preserves its own Apostolic Church and some of the oldest Christian temples in the world. Traveling through the Caucasus, we visit them in the footsteps of Gregory the Illuminator, the patriarch who inspires Armenia's spiritual life.
Playa Nogales, La Palma, Canary Islands
La Palma, Canary Islands

The "Isla Bonita" of the Canary Islands

In 1986 Madonna Louise Ciccone launched a hit that popularized the attraction exerted by a island imaginary. Ambergris Caye, in Belize, reaped benefits. On this side of the Atlantic, the palmeros that's how they see their real and stunning Canaria.
Geothermal, Iceland Heat, Ice Land, Geothermal, Blue Lagoon
Winter White

The Geothermal Coziness of the Ice Island

Most visitors value Iceland's volcanic scenery for its beauty. Icelanders also draw from them heat and energy crucial to the life they lead to the Arctic gates.
Baie d'Oro, Île des Pins, New Caledonia
Île-des-Pins, New Caledonia

The Island that Leaned against Paradise

In 1964, Katsura Morimura delighted the Japan with a turquoise novel set in Ouvéa. But the neighboring Île-des-Pins has taken over the title "The Nearest Island to Paradise" and thrills its visitors.
Preikestolen, Pulpit Rock, risky throne
Preikestolen - Pulpit Rock, Norway

Pilgrimage to the Pulpit of Rock of Norway

The Norway of the endless fjords abounds in grand scenery. In the heart of Lyse Fjord, the prominent, smooth and almost square top of a cliff over 600 meters forms an unexpected rocky pulpit. Climbing to its heights, peering over the precipices and enjoying the surrounding panoramas is a lot of revelation.
Mother Armenia Statue, Yerevan, Armenia
Yerevan, Armenia

A Capital between East and West

Heiress of the Soviet civilization, aligned with the great Russia, Armenia allows itself to be seduced by the most democratic and sophisticated ways of Western Europe. In recent times, the two worlds have collided in the streets of your capital. From popular and political dispute, Yerevan will dictate the new course of the nation.
Merida cable car, Renovation, Venezuela, altitude sickness, mountain prevent to treat, travel
Natural Parks
Mérida, Venezuela

The Vertiginous Renovation of the World's Highest Cable Car

Underway from 2010, the rebuilding of the Mérida cable car was carried out in the Sierra Nevada by intrepid workers who suffered firsthand the magnitude of the work.
Sanahin Cable Car, Armenia
UNESCO World Heritage
Alaverdi, Armenia

A Cable Car Called Ensejo

The top of the Debed River Gorge hides the Armenian monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat and terraced Soviet apartment blocks. Its bottom houses the copper mine and smelter that sustains the city. Connecting these two worlds is a providential suspended cabin in which the people of Alaverdi count on traveling in the company of God.
female and cub, grizzly footsteps, katmai national park, alaska
PN Katmai, Alaska

In the Footsteps of the Grizzly Man

Timothy Treadwell spent summers on end with the bears of Katmai. Traveling through Alaska, we followed some of its trails, but unlike the species' crazy protector, we never went too far.
El Nido, Palawan the Last Philippine Border
El Nido, Philippines

El Nido, Palawan: The Last Philippine Frontier

One of the most fascinating seascapes in the world, the vastness of the rugged islets of Bacuit hides gaudy coral reefs, small beaches and idyllic lagoons. To discover it, just one fart.
Mauritius Island, Indian voyage, Chamarel waterfall

A Mini India in the Southwest of the Indian Ocean

In the XNUMXth century, the French and the British disputed an archipelago east of Madagascar previously discovered by the Portuguese. The British triumphed, re-colonized the islands with sugar cane cutters from the subcontinent, and both conceded previous Francophone language, law and ways. From this mix came the exotic Mauritius.
Flam Railway composition below a waterfall, Norway.
On Rails
Nesbyen to Flam, Norway

Flam Railway: Sublime Norway from the First to the Last Station

By road and aboard the Flam Railway, on one of the steepest railway routes in the world, we reach Flam and the entrance to the Sognefjord, the largest, deepest and most revered of the Scandinavian fjords. From the starting point to the last station, this monumental Norway that we have unveiled is confirmed.
Sentosa Island, Singapore, Family on Sentosa Artificial Beach
Sentosa, Singapore

Singapore's Fun Island

It was a stronghold where the Japanese murdered Allied prisoners and welcomed troops who pursued Indonesian saboteurs. Today, the island of Sentosa fights the monotony that gripped the country.
the projectionist
Daily life
Sainte-Luce, Martinique

The Nostalgic Projectionist

From 1954 to 1983, Gérard Pierre screened many of the famous films arriving in Martinique. 30 years after the closing of the room in which he worked, it was still difficult for this nostalgic native to change his reel.
Esteros del Iberá, Pantanal Argentina, Alligator
Iberá Wetlands, Argentina

The Pantanal of the Pampas

On the world map, south of the famous brazilian wetland, a little-known flooded region appears, but almost as vast and rich in biodiversity. the Guarani expression Y bera defines it as “shining waters”. The adjective fits more than its strong luminance.
Napali Coast and Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii Wrinkles
Scenic Flights
napali coast, Hawaii

Hawaii's Dazzling Wrinkles

Kauai is the greenest and rainiest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. It is also the oldest. As we explore its Napalo Coast by land, sea and air, we are amazed to see how the passage of millennia has only favored it.