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Zimbabwe Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is home to a diverse range of cultures, with the predominant group being the Shona (of which most Zimbabweans belong). The ancient Shona tribal culture is rich in mythology and symbolism. Dance, song and crafts are prevalent in most African cultures but even more so in Zimbabwe where traditional soapstone carving, weaving, painting and beadwork are important features of Shona culture and folklore. The arrival of European settlers changed the face of Zimbabwe, with English cultural influences evident throughout contemporary Zimbabwe. Christianity is practiced by the majority of Zimbabweans, but ancestral worship and traditional beliefs endure, with many locals practicing animist rituals in tandem with church-attending.
Other British influences are evident, with sports like cricket and rugby having a following and the British custom of tea drinking common throughout the country. Even though most Zimbabweans live in poverty and have endured many struggles, generally they still have a huge amount of kindness to bestow upon visitors. Travellers can expect to receive warm hospitality from most locals, who have a humble and somewhat inspiring approach to life.
The name Zimbabwe is derived from 'dzimba dza mabwe', which means 'great houses of stone'
Geography and Environment of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is landlocked in southern Africa and bordered by Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and just meets the corner of Namibia. Although without access to the coast, Zimbabwe has access to water through the presence of the Zambezi and Limpopo river systems. The topography is a mixture of mountains and plateaus, which are home to wide range of flora and fauna. With grasslands and evergreen forests covering the land, Zimbabwe is home to a diverse variety of birds, mammals and plant species. With majestic mountains covered in emerald green forest, serene lakes and epic waterfalls, visitors will be treated to some of the most beautiful, unspoilt landscapes in the world while travelling through the countryside in Zimbabwe.
History and Government of Zimbabwe
The land of Zimbabwe has been occupied since the 9th century, with tribes first emerging in the Limpopo Valley before starting to occupy the highlands. Zimbabwe's early society developed into a series of kingdoms which traded commodities such as gold and copper with other nations. The Great Zimbabwe ruins are a remnant of this illustrious time in Zimbabwean history and can be visited while travelling in the Masvingo area.
Portuguese settlers arrived in the 16th century, having a devastating effect on the empire. Trade was halted and a series of wars rendered the empire near collapse at the dawn of the 17th century. The British arrived in the late 19th century, by way of Cecil Rhodes' British South Africa Company, which lobbied to colonise the area and control the land (and precious minerals within). By 1898 the area of Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia (with modern day Zambia known as Northern Rhodesia).
The Shona and Ndebele (along with other indigenous tribes) staged revolts against their colonisers, which were largely unsuccessful and lead to displacement, with land unfairly being allocated to European settlers, rather than local tribal people whose ancestors and families had lived there for centuries. In part, this issue of disproportionate allocation of land would return to haunt modern Zimbabwe many years later.
Although controversial, colonial rule endured until Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, with Canaan Banana serving as the first President. In 1988, changes to the constitution enabled Robert Mugabe to become President. By the 1990s ethnic tensions, confrontation and political instability were changing the face of modern Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans had endured demonstrations, displacement, violence, drought, food shortages and forcible land removal. The unstable economy, wildly fluctuating currency value and drop in tourism revenue translated into widespread poverty for many Zimbabweans. With the highest inflation rate in the world, Zimbabwe still suffers economic difficulties mainly due to the collapse of the once-strong agriculture sector. Despite this, Zimbabwe's people are irrepressible, the landscapes are as beautiful as ever and tourists have begun to return to experience the natural wonders and exotic wildlife of this great land.
Zimbabwe at a glance
- Harare (population 1.6 million)
- 12.9 million
- English, Shona, Ndebele
- (GMT+02:00) Windhoek
- Type D (Old British 3-pin), Type G (Irish/British 3-pin)
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