This World Heritage site is one of Zimbabwe’s enigmas and the largest single ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert. Located on an open, wooded plain and surrounded by rolling hills, The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are around 700 years old and consists of a series of intricate dry stone walled enclosures and walls covering 720 hectares. It is thought that the people who built the impressive structures were wealthy cattle owners, and not traders from North Africa as some historians have suggested. After two centuries of prosperous living, with around 20,000 people being based in this area, and trading relations with Swahili gold merchants, the population had depleted the local resources and moved to more productive land.
The Zimbabwe Ruins Great Enclosure is thought to have been a royal residence originally, and has a large conical structure in the centre which may have been a grain store, or even a treasury.
Some of the walls are 5m thick and 11m high, the circumference of the Great Enclosure is an impressive 243m. The name of these ruins was that given to the country at Independence, and the original soapstone birds that once perched atop the walls have been adopted as one of the country\’s National symbols.
A museum exists on site, and exhibits range from the soapstone birds to archaeological finds ranging from gold, bronze and copper items to pottery fragments. The nearby Mutirikwi Recreational Park offers water sports on the lake and is home to a wide variety of animal and birdlife including white rhino, kudu, wildebeest, giraffe, collared sunbird, lanner falcon and miombo rock thrush.