Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in the world, but is also one of the most beautiful. Its arduous historical journey has not yet brought prosperity to Zimbabwe, but it has rewarded it with magical nature and a true African exoticism that many travelers seek.
And inflation may have wiped out the local currency, but it can’t get to the lakes, canyons and national parks that are a joy to behold.
About the country
The very name “Zimbabwe” means “stone houses” in one of the many local languages. From the ninth to the seventeenth century the modern territory of Zimbabwe was part of the Monomotapa Empire, which occupied the whole of southern Africa.
The empire’s capital was located right here and was called Greater Zimbabwe. After the arrival of Europeans, these lands were in the colonial possession of the Portuguese and British, and in 1980, the country gained its independence.
What you need to know about Zimbabwe:
The capital is Harare;
Area – 390.7 thousand square kilometers;
Population – 15.1 million people;
Language: English, Shona, Ndebele and 13 other languages;
Form of government – a presidential republic;
Currency – U.S. dollar, pound sterling and the currency of neighboring countries;
Russian citizens require a visa to Zimbabwe. It is possible to obtain it on arrival.
Zimbabwe is located in the southern part of the African continent and is landlocked. The country borders Mozambique in the east, South Africa in the south, Botswana in the southwest and Zambia in the northwest.
Today Zimbabwe is divided into eight provinces, which consist of districts. Also there are two cities with special status – Harare and Bulawayo.
Almost all of Zimbabwe’s territory is occupied by plateaus and plateaus with an altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 meters. In the north there is a decline to the Zambezi River valley and in the south to the Sabi and Limpopo rivers.
To the east of the border with Mozambique rises the Inyanga Mountains, where the peak Inyangani (2592 meters) is the highest point of the country.
In Zimbabwe there are two climatic zones – tropical and subequatorial. However from north to south the weather does not change much, except at higher altitudes.
The seasons are more or less clearly marked. Summer is from November to March, with temperatures of +24 ° C to +28 ° C.
Most of the rainfall is in summer – about 500-700 mm in the north-east and 200-300 mm in the south. At higher altitudes, the amount of precipitation reaches sometimes 2000 mm per year.
Winter begins in April and ends in July, is cool (+12 +16 ° C) and the lack of precipitation. And from August to October in Zimbabwe, spring is the hottest time of the year. The temperature rises to +36+40°C. Precipitation during this time is small – 150-300 mm.
In winter in Zimbabwe, even frosts may occur, but this does not happen often. The temperature can drop to a maximum of -3-5°C.
What to see in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is not a country where the main attractions are historical man-made monuments. However, there are a couple of them here, so for lovers of antiquity, too, there is something to see.
What is interesting – museums in Zimbabwe are not concentrated in the capital, or at least in one province. They are fairly evenly distributed throughout the country, and in every corner you can find something interesting.
In the heart of the Midlands and its main town, Kwekwe, are the Gold Mining Museum and the Military Museum. The former features exhibits showing the development of the gold mining industry over the centuries and the latter features military vehicles, aircraft, tanks and more.
To the north, the province of Mashonaland houses the Museum of Humanities with an art gallery, library and ethnographic collection.
West and the province of Matabeleland is represented by the Museum of Natural History and east (Manicaland) – Mutare Museum, which reveals the development of local technology from antiquity to the present day.
In the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare, not a lot of worthwhile attractions. Individual mention can only be the National Gallery, opened in the mid-twentieth century. It contains more than 6000 works of local artists.
The archaeological complex Great Zimbabwe National Monument can be called the main historical treasure of the country. It is located in the province of Masvingo in the south-east.
This monument spreads over 700 hectares and is nearly 1 thousand years old.
The ruins date back to the period when the state of Monomotapa existed here and this site was its capital. Great Zimbabwe is included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO, it is a real historical diamond.
In the west of the country are “younger” ruins – Khami Ruins (Khami Ruins), dating from the XV – XVII centuries. Local buildings are a little richer in terms of decoration and design, which is a consequence of a different era of their creation.
There are a few more excavations to visit, such as the Naletale National Monument in the central province.
But Zimbabwe’s main treasure is not in the concrete walls, or stone ruins, but in the vast expanses of national parks, with their natural beauties.
There are indeed many places in Zimbabwe where nature is simply fascinating, and where you can feel a part of the very, real and wild Africa.
Perhaps the most important place, which all tourists must visit in Zimbabwe, is the legendary Victoria Falls. The country shares the falls with Zambia as the border runs directly along the Zambezi River.
The falls are more than 100 meters high and draw millions of travelers every year. The Victoria Falls National Park downstream and a natural depression at the edge of the falls, known as Devils Pool, complete the picture.
It is impossible to visit Zimbabwe without visiting this place. Some tourists come to the country just for this.
Another type of leisure, without which it is difficult to imagine a stay in Zimbabwe is a safari. Numerous tours and programs take tourists through protected areas and bring them closer to the wildlife.
The main places where you can do such a tour are the Masuwe and Matetsi reserves in the west and Kyle Game Park. All three have full infrastructure for travelers, hotels, campsites, and cafes.
In addition to seeing lions, elephants, hippos, giraffes, buffalo, rhinos and antelopes, in Matetsi, for example, you can go boating on the Zambezi River and even go fishing.
Zimbabwe is not without its caves. There are about 2,000 of them in the country. The main cave complex is called Chinhoyi, located in the north of the country.
In addition to cave paintings from ancient times, there is also present an underground lake of incredible beauty, depth of 100 meters.
Returning to the landmarks, Lake Kariba, which Zimbabwe also shares with Zambia, can be mentioned. In fact, this is a piece reservoir on the Zambezi River, an area of more than 5 thousand sq. km.
It’s a great place to relax on the shore, go yachting, water-skiing, fishing, and even play in a casino.
Numerous national parks in Zimbabwe can be listed for a long time. All of them are very hard to travel around, so that every tourist can choose your favorite pair or three.
The largest park is called Hwange, its area exceeding 14 thousand square kilometers, located near the western borders.
In addition to the incredible wealth of wildlife, it also has one of the largest populations of African elephants on the entire continent.
A little further south is Matobo Park, famous for its rock formations, cave paintings and caves.
On and around the Zambezi River there are many parks. First, the Zambezi Park of the same name, upstream from Victoria Falls. Matusadona Park is located on the south shore of Lake Kariba.
It combines the land and water nature of Zimbabwe. Near the lake is the Chizarira Park. Its peculiarity is that it is almost undeveloped, here is exactly the virgin nature, untouched by civilization.
At the northernmost point of the country is Mana Pools Park, which is rich in bird life, particularly flamingos.
On the opposite side of Zimbabwe, in the southeast, there is Gonarezhou Park, which is not so much about wildlife as it is about the red-red rocks framing the Limpopo River.
Finally, in the east of the country is Chimanimani Park, Zimbabwe’s most mountainous park.
It is a paradise for rock climbing and mountain biking enthusiasts. However, do not forget about safety, because in the mountains can be quite extreme conditions.
The Republic of Zimbabwe [zɪmˈbɑːbweɪ]; before 1980, it was called Southern Rhodesia. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the west, Zambia to the north, and Mozambique to the east.
The country’s name indicates its continuity with the first state on the territory – the Monomotapa Empire, whose capital was Great Zimbabwe, and the main population – the Gokomere people, ancestors of the now-dominant Shona.
The time in Zimbabwe is two hours ahead of Greenwich time.
Originally the territory of Zimbabwe was inhabited by peoples who spoke Khoisan languages, close in culture to their contemporary speakers.
From about IX century A. D. there is evidence of settlement of the present Zimbabwe with rather developed culture which is considered to belong to the Gokomere people, the ancestors of the present Shona. They founded the Munhumutapa empire, the capital of which was a city, the ruins of which are now known as Great Zimbabwe (in modern Shona dzimba dzemabwe means ‘stone houses’).
By the middle of the fifteenth century, when the Portuguese arrived on the Indian Ocean coast, this state covered almost the entire territory of Zimbabwe and part of Mozambique. After the clashes with the Portuguese, the empire collapsed, although its remnants in the form of the Karanga tribal states persisted until the early 20th century. By the 17th century, some of the Shona tribes had reunited into the Rozvi Empire, which succeeded in driving the Portuguese from the Zimbabwean plateau.
The Rozvi empire ceased to exist in the middle of the 19th century, when the Zulu expansion under the leadership of Chaka resulted in the migration of the Ndebele tribes under the rule of King Mzilikazi (see Mfekane) into what is now southwestern Zimbabwe. At the same time gold deposits were discovered in Zimbabwe, and the land fell within the British Empire’s zone of interest.
In 1888, Cecil Rhodes made a treaty with Lobengula, the Mzilikazi heir, which allowed the British to intervene in the economy of Matabeleland (southwestern Zimbabwe, inhabited by the Ndebele people). In 1899, through the efforts of the same Rhodes, the British South African Company obtained the right to develop the vast territories comprising what are now Zimbabwe and Zambia, since then known as Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia, respectively. In 1895 the company’s troops entered Mashonaland (central and northern Zimbabwe), marking the beginning of the colonization of these lands.
In 1896 – 1897 the black population (primarily Shona and Ndebele) rebelled against British rule, but this rebellion, known as the (First) Chimurenga failed completely, primarily because of the disastrous technological gap. As early as the twentieth century the settlement of Southern Rhodesia by white settlers began.
In 1922 the British South African Company ceased to govern Southern Rhodesia. As a result of a referendum held mainly among white settlers, it did not become part of the Union of South Africa, but became a self-governing colony within the British Empire.
After the end of World War II and the beginning of the collapse of the colonial system, many newly independent African countries chose a socialist path of development, while in South Africa (South Africa, Angola, Mozambique) power went exclusively to the white minority. To avoid both extremes, in 1953 the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was organized, including Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (today’s Malawi), with the status of a federal territory (no longer a colony, but not yet a dominion). However, ten years later, in 1963, the Federation fell apart when Zambia and Malawi gained independence.
The white government of Southern Rhodesia also demanded independence, but London refused to grant it before power was fully given to the black majority (NIBMAR policy: No Independence Before Majority African Rule). In response, on November 11, 1965, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, Ian Smith, declared independence, which was not recognized by Britain. In 1970 Smith proclaimed Rhodesia a republic, which also failed to gain international recognition.
Smith’s government pursued a segregationist policy in Rhodesia that is often compared to apartheid, although, strictly speaking, this is not entirely true. For example, instead of the “racial” census, Southern Rhodesia often used the property census, the presence of black members of parliament was maintained, there were racially mixed units in the army, and there was no South African-style territorial segregation in Rhodesia. In reality, however, all power belonged to the white minority, and there was a regime of racial discrimination. Many public institutions catered only to whites, and much of the fertile land was in the hands of white farmers.
Armed guerrilla warfare against the Rhodesian government was led by the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) under Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) led by Joshua Nkomo, leader of the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), which had bases in neighboring countries (such as Botswana and Zambia) and enjoyed Soviet and PRC support. After the FRELIMO socialists came to power in Mozambique in 1975, the country became the main base for ZANLA sorties. The armed struggle against white minority power, which had been waged since 1964, was called the Second Chimurenga.
Smith, to avoid a full-scale civil war, began negotiations with moderate black leaders such as Abel Muzorewa of the United African National Congress or Ndabaningi Sitole of ZANU-Ndonga in 1978. The country was named Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, and parliamentary elections resulted in a black majority for the first time, although the judiciary or the army, for example, were still mostly white. Abel Muzorewa, supported by both Smith and the South African government, became prime minister, but he did not gain the full confidence of voters in Zimbabwe.
In accordance with the decisions of the Lancasterhouse Conference of December 12, 1979, power in Rhodesia-Zimbabwe was temporarily transferred to the British governor, Lord Arthur Christopher John Somes, the guerrilla units were to cease armed operations and were placed in special isolated camps  . In the 1980 general elections the radical wing of ZANU, the African National Union of Zimbabwe, led by Robert Mugabe, won a convincing victory.
In 1982, Nkomo was expelled from the government (because of the discovery of his arms cache), which provoked discontent among his fellow Ndebele tribesmen, resulting in massive riots. The government sent the Fifth Brigade, composed mainly of Shona, to Matabeleland to fight them, during which many crimes were committed: up to 20,000 people were killed. It was not until 1987 that negotiations between ZANU and ZAPU resumed, and in 1988 they merged into a party called ZANU-PF.
After the 1992 drought and the ensuing famine, a state of emergency was declared; the IMF reconstruction program only led to more discontent. The flow of refugees out of the country intensified, especially against the backdrop of the ongoing persecution of Ndebele and the ANC’s rise to power in South Africa. As a result, the government decided to accelerate land reform.
Up to 70 percent of the land suitable for cultivation in the country was in the hands of the white minority, who had acquired it largely after independence. Great Britain allocated millions of pounds to the Zimbabwean government’s voluntary buyout of this land, but the transfer to blacks was very slow. As a result, in 1999 a forced eviction of white farmers began with the transfer of their land to blacks (mostly political supporters of Mugabe), which provoked strong criticism from the international community and especially from Britain, which imposed economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.
As a result of migration, the white population increased before independence: in 1927 there were 38,200 whites for 922,000 blacks; in 1939 the number of whites rose to 60,000; in 1946 there were 80,500 whites for 1,640,000 blacks. In 1952, the number of whites reached 135 thousand, and in 1963, 223 thousand. Now, because of the mass exodus from the country, there are about 100 thousand white residents, less than 1% of the population.
In 2002, the Commonwealth suspended Zimbabwe’s membership due to human rights violations and election fraud; in 2003, Mugabe himself announced that Zimbabwe left the Commonwealth.
After the 2005 elections, in which a divided opposition failed to oppose ZANU-PF, Mugabe announced Operation Murambatsvina (“kick the trash out” shona), ostensibly aimed at clearing the country of slums. Critics point out that it mainly affects the poorest segments of the population, especially the Ndebele.
The redistribution of land led to a sharp decline in agricultural productivity and a catastrophic rise in prices and unemployment (up to 80%  of the adult population).
Republic. The head of state is the president. Elected by the population for a 5-year term, the number of terms is unlimited. Since 1987 the head of state is Robert Mugabe.
The parliament is bicameral. The Senate consists of 93 members (60 are elected by popular vote, 10 provincial governors are elected ex officio, 16 are elected by the council of chiefs, 5 senators are appointed by the president, and the senate also includes the chairman and deputy of the council of chiefs). House of Assembly – 210 deputies, elected by the people every 5 years.
Movement for Democratic Change (Morgan Tsvangirai) – 30 Senate seats, 109 House of Assembly seats;
ZANU-PF (Robert Mugabe) – 30 Senate seats, 97 seats in the House of Assembly.
More than 20 parties were registered, the most influential among them: Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) -Zimbabwe African National Union-Ratriotic Front, the ruling political party of the country, founded in 1963;
Movement for Democratic Change (MDS, actually two organizations); National Alliance for Good Governance (NAGG);
United Party (UP) – United Party; Zimbabwe African National Union-Ndonga (ZANU-Ndonga); Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU).
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), founded in 1981; Zimbabwe Trade Unions Federation (ZTUF).
Army strength: 39,000, of which – ground troops – 35,000, aviation – 4,000. Commander-in-Chief – the president. The number of police officers is 19,500. Moreover, there is a paramilitary police force of 2.3 thousand (2000). Spending on the Army is 3.7% of GDP (2006, estimate).
Since independence Africa has become the key direction of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy. Zimbabwe played an active role in the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth of Nations, the struggle against apartheid, as a member of the “frontline states”. The Zimbabwean leadership supported the Mozambican government in its struggle against RENAMO; from 1992 to 1995 Zimbabwe participated in the UN peacekeeping missions in Mozambique, Rwanda, Angola, Somalia.
Mugabe’s relationship with the West deteriorated after the government began requisitioning the land of white farmers in the country and after observers from Western countries recognized the 2000 elections as unfair. The IMF and World Bank stopped lending to Zimbabwe, citing misuse of funds by officials as well as the cessation of debt repayment. Another reason was the adoption of the “Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act” (December 2001) in the United States, under which R. Mugabe could normalize relations with international financial institutions only if troops were withdrawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and transparent and fair elections were ensured. The actions of the Zimbabwean authorities against the opposition before the presidential elections of 2002 were considered by the EU as a threat to democracy, which led to the imposition of limited sanctions against Zimbabwe. The Commonwealth of Nations suspended Zimbabwe’s membership in the organization, after which the country withdrew from it.
Mugabe’s government enjoyed fairly stable support from the regional leader, South Africa, although the situation temporarily deteriorated after Zimbabwe’s troops entered the DRC. South Africa voted to expel Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth for one year but opposed international sanctions. The South African leadership has been actively involved in resolving Zimbabwe’s political crisis.
In 2006 the government of Zimbabwe formally announced the “Look East” program as part of the government policy of reorientation from the Western markets to the markets of China, India, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the DPRK.
Most of the territory of Zimbabwe is located at an altitude of 1000-1500 m within the vast Precambrian Mashona and Matabele basement plateaus, which descend in steps to the high sandy plains of the middle Zambezi River (in the north) and the Limpopo-Sabie River basin (in the south). The highest point of the country is Mount Inyangani (2,592 m) in the Inyanga Mountains of eastern Zimbabwe.
Platinoids and chromites, for which Zimbabwe ranks III in the world. There are also numerous deposits of iron ores, gold, rare metals, copper, nickel, cobalt, bauxite, hard coal and precious stones (diamonds, rubies, emeralds).
The dense river network belongs to the Indian Ocean basin, except for a small area of inland flow in the west. The Zambezi River, flowing along the northwestern border of the country, collects tributaries from half the territory of Zimbabwe (Gwai, Sengwa, Sanyati, Hunyani…). The Shashe, Umzingwani, Bubye, and Mwenezi rivers flow into the Limpopo, which flows along the southern border. In the southeast, the Savee River receives the Runde and Sabi tributaries. In the west, the Nata River and its tributaries dry up on their way to the Kalahari. Zimbabwe’s rivers are few and dry in the dry season, with numerous rapids and waterfalls, the most famous of which is the Victoria on the Zambezi River. Many rivers have reservoirs, the largest of which is the Kariba. Only some sections of the Zambezi and Limpopo are navigable.
Due to the catastrophic rate of deforestation, woody vegetation now occupies less than half of the country. The relict wet evergreen forests remain only on the slopes of the Inyanga Mountains in the east. Dry deciduous teak forests grow in the west. Dry sparse Miombo and Mopane forests are common on the Mashona Plateau. Tree and shrub savannahs occupy the Matabele Plateau. In the Zambezi Valley flooded savannahs are developed.
Elephants, antelopes, zebras, giraffes, lions and crocodiles are still numerous in Zimbabwe. Rhinoceroses, cheetahs, oryxes and pythons are not numerous. 10% of the country’s territory are reserves and national parks.
Zimbabwe’s climate varies from subequatorial in the north to tropical in the south. There are three seasons of the year: warm humid summer (from November to March, 21-27 ˚С), cool dry winter (April to June, 13-17 ˚С, sometimes with frosts in the mountains) and hot dry spring (August-October, 30-40 ˚С). Rainfall ranges from 400 mm per year in the southern plain to 2,000 mm in the mountains in the east.
The average annual temperature in the central part of the plateau is 18.89°C; the average annual maximum is 25.56°C, the minimum is 12.22°C. June and July are the coolest months of the year. During this time most of the country is characterized by light frosts, but severe frosts (-5 °C and below) are rare. From mid-August temperatures rise gradually, reaching their peak in October, so September and October are the least pleasant months. Although in regions above 1,200 meters above sea level, temperatures above 37 °C are infrequent – usually in these months the temperature is between 29 and 35 °C. The relative humidity in October and September does not exceed 35-40%. Beginning in November, the daytime temperatures fall because of the increasing cloudiness that marks the beginning of the rainy season, and the humidity increases  .