Home Travel Key Visitor Tips: Zimbabwe

Key Visitor Tips: Zimbabwe

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Sculpture Of Zimbabwe
Sculpture Of Zimbabwe

Making the most of your trip to the ‘Jewel of Africa’.

Zimbabwe officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a country in Southern Africa. It is located between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers. South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the north, and Mozambique to the east. The capital and largest city is Harare, the second largest is Bulawayo and the travel capital is Victoria Falls.

The name ‘Zimbabwe’ stems from a Shona term for Great Zimbabwe, a medieval in Masvingo, the country’s south-east. Two different theories address the origin of the word. The first theory derives from ‘dzimba-dza-mabwe’, a translation from the Karanga dialect of Shona as ‘houses of stones’ (dzimba = plural of “imba/house”; mabwe = plural of “ibwe/stone”). The Karanga-speaking Shona people lived around Great Zimbabwe between the 13th to 15th centuries. The second theory claims that ‘Zimbabwe’ represents a contracted form of “dzimba-hwe”, which means ‘venerated houses’ in the Zezuru dialect of Shona and usually references chiefs’ houses or graves.

Travelling to a new place always carries some risk. Plan your trip carefully and be sure to read our up-to-date, relevant travel information both before and during your stay in Zimbabwe.

Geography

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country covering a total area of about 390 580 square kilometres. Most of the country is a highland, consisting of a central highveld plateau stretching from the southwest northwards. The high plateau has an altitude of between 1000 and 1600 metres. It straddles northwards to the Zambezi Valley forming the Zambezi escarpment. The Zambezi River flows along the northern boarder with Zambia.

To the extreme east, the country is mountainous, with Inyanga and Udzi mountains together with the rugged Eastern Highlands bordering the country with Mozambique. Mount Nyangani is the country’s highest point at 2592 metres, around the Eastern Highland. The highlands are a natural environment, with tourist destinations such as Nyanga, Troutbeck, Chimanimani, Vumba and Chirinda Forest at Mount Selinda.

Southern areas of Zimbabwe feature savannah grasslands, while in the southwest the lands slopes towards Limpopo river which borders the country with South Africa. About 20% of the country consists of low-lying areas, lowveld under 900 metres. To the southwest, Shashe River a major left-bank tributary of the Limpopo River rises northwest of Francistown borders the country with Botswana. Amongst the spectacular landmarks, Zimbabwe boasts water landmarks such as Lake Kariba and the Victoria Falls, one of the world’s largest waterfalls. Over geological time Zimbabwe has experienced two major post-Gondwana erosion cycles, the African and post-African, and a very subordinate Plio-Pleistocene cycle.

People

The current population of Zimbabwe is 16 904 030 as of Tuesday, March 5, 2024. This is about 0.21% of the world population with the country ranking number 74 in the list of countries and dependencies by population. The population density is 43 per square kilometre, with 36.7% of the population (6 269 464) living in urban areas. 98% of the population belong to the two major Bantu-speaking ethnic groups: the Shona (82%) and the Ndebele (15%). Up to one million Ndebeles have left the country over the last five years, mainly for South Africa.

Other ethnic groups include Venda, Tonga, Tsonga, Kalanga, Sotho, Ndau, Nambya, Tswana, Xhosa, and Lozi. The remaining population consists largely of white ethnicities, namely the British, Afrikaner, Greek, Chinese, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and Indian communities. The average life expectancy at birth for both sexes is at 61.9 years, for females it is at 64.3 years whilst for males it is at 59.2 years.

Languages

Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, with English, Ndebele and Shona as primary. English is the predominant in business, education and government affairs. The Shona Language is stretches across the country, while the Ndebele language is dominant in Western Zimbabwe. Other languages include Venda, Tonga, Tsonga, Kalanga, Sotho, Ndau, Nambya, Tswana, Xhosa, and Lozi together with Portuguese, French and sign language.

Money

The Zimbabwe Gold (ZiG) is the legal currency. Most use cash, although major credit cards also operate at leading hotels, airports and supermarkets. Withdrawing cash from ATM or banks is unreliable and as a traveler you ought to confirm in advance.

Travel & Health

A passport is valid for at least 6 months from your date of entry is mandatory. It should have three blank pages to enable you to enter and exit Zimbabwe via a neighboring country if you have to leave at short notice.

Travelers must be up to date with all routine vaccinations before traveling to Zimbabwe. Malaria preventatives are a recommendation. Some vaccines are also a requirement depending on outbreaks at the time of your visit. Modern private and public hospitals and clinics are available in all major cities and towns. Health insurance is also high recommendation!

Local Time

Greenwich Mean Time plus two hours (GMT +2)

National Dialing Code

+263

Climate

Zimbabwe has a tropical climate, so it tends to be hot and humid all year round, with seasonal rains. The dry season typically runs from April to October, with the whole country experiencing little or no rain. Throughout the year, temperatures can be expect to range from about 25 degrees to high 30s even low 40s in some areas. Night temperatures are usually about 15 to 20 degrees. During the winter months of May to August temperatures can drop to a slightly cooler average. Regardless of the time of the year, visitors should pack loose, cool clothing when visiting Zimbabwe. It is best to avoid revealing clothing or items with suggestive slogans. Rainwear is useful between November and March. Both men and women should wear long trousers for safaris.

Driving

Visitors require an international driving license and insurance to drive in Zimbabwe. Remember, Zimbabweans drive on the left side!

Culture

Zimbabwe has many different cultures, which include sculpturing, carvings and celebrations. National celebrations characterize of doves released to symbolize peace, fighter jets fly over, the national anthem sung and the flame of independence, lit by the president after parades by the presidential family and members of the armed forces of Zimbabwe. The president also gives a speech to the people of Zimbabwe which shows on national television for those unable to attend the stadium. There also is national beauty pageant, the Miss Heritage contest, which runs annually since 2012.

Arts

Traditional arts in Zimbabwe include pottery, basketry, textiles, jewellery and carving. Among the distinctive qualities are symmetrically patterned woven baskets and stools carved out of a single piece of wood. Most subjects of carved figures of stylized birds and human figures among others are made with sedimentary rock such as soapstone, as well as harder igneous rocks such as serpentine and the rare stone verdite.

Zimbabwean artefacts can be found in countries like Singapore, China and Canada. e.g. Dominic Benhura’s statue in the Singapore’s Botanic Gardens. World-renowned Zimbabwean sculptors include Nicholas, Nesbert and Anderson Mukomberanwa, Tapfuma Gutsa, Henry Munyaradzi and Locardia Ndandarika.Several authors are well known in Africa and abroad. These include Charles Mungoshi Catherine Buckle, Dambudzo Marechera, Doris Lessing, NoViolet Bulawayo, Doris Lessing, and Tsitsi Dangarembgwa.

Cuisine

Like in many African countries, the majority of Zimbabweans depend on a few staple foods. ‘Maize-meal’ is used to prepare sadza or isitshwala, as well as porridge known as bota or ilambazi. Sadza is usually eaten as lunch or dinner. It is usually eaten with sides such as gravy, vegetables (spinach, chomolia, or spring/collard greens), beans, and meat (stewed, grilled, roasted, or sundried). Sadza is also commonly eaten with curdled/sour milk, or dried tanganika sardines, known locally as kapenta or matemba. Bota is usually flavored with peanut butter, milk, butter, or jam. Bota is usually eaten for breakfast. Graduations, weddings, and any other family gatherings will usually be celebrated with the killing of a goat or cow, which will be barbecued or roasted by the family.

As Zimbabwe was a British colony, some people there have adopted some colonial-era English eating habits. For example, most people will have porridge in the morning, as well as 10 o’clock tea. They will have lunch, often leftovers from the night before, freshly cooked sadza, or sandwiches. After lunch, there is usually 4 o’clock tea (afternoon tea), which is served before dinner. It is not uncommon for tea to be had after dinner.

Rice, pasta, and potato-based (French fries and mashed potato) also make up part of Zimbabwean cuisine. A local favorite is rice cooked with peanut butter, which is taken with thick gravy, mixed vegetables and meat. A potpourri of peanuts known as nzungu, boiled and sundried maize, black-eyed peas known as nyemba, and Bambara groundnuts known as nyimo makes a traditional dish called mutakura.

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