Zimbabwe is nestled comfortably between Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa but is often overlooked by tourists. Here are ten reasons to include it in your next itinerary:
1. It has the craziest currency.
A few years ago they went through hyper-inflation, reaching up to 12 zeroes on a single note:
When they switched to the US dollar, the economy leveled out a bit, but currency became a problem. No one seems to have enough change, but that’s half the fun! Sometimes you’ll get a South African rand, US quarter, or a Zim ‘bond coin’. And if they don’t have any of those options, you get bubble gum!
2. The transportation resembles a circus act.
Kombi's are shared taxi-vans that can fit maybe 12 people safely, but drivers usually aim for 18-20. The Kombie slows down, slides its door open as two or three people hang out the side shouting the destination. The passengers then have to run along the van and jump on.
Chicken Buses get their lovely name from packing in as many people inside as possible- stuffing them in like chickens.
3. Zim’s food is super corny (and so is this category).
Zim’s main crop is maize and you’ll see it everywhere...
Walking down the streets of Harare:
In your drink:
Or on your plate, in the traditional form of ‘sadza’. Sadza and meat are a staple dish here.
4. Visiting the countryside is like entering a new era.
The huts are made from clay which is extracted from nearby anthills. They know exactly which part of the anthill to gather the clay from. Too close to the anthill, and you have sticky clay- too far, and it’s dry.
5. The traditional music of The Mbira unifies people, black and white, young and old.
The Mbira is a traditional instrument of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. You can find them everywhere, hand crafted with each artists unique style. Harare has live music every night at different venues, the most famous location is The Book Cafe.
6. The best place to shop is on the sidewalk.
The stalls on the sidewalk and vendors in the street show the enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit of the country selling anything from bananas to pirated dvds to paintings. It’s these makeshift shops that show the true essence of a place and make it so interesting to walk around.
7. Mugabe has redefined politics.
Whatever your political feelings are, experiencing the reign of Mugabe is an interesting one. He turned 91 during my time in Harare and state officials toured the restaurants to make sure everyone sang him Happy Birthday. It is forbidden to take photos outside of government buildings and when I wanted a photo of a mango tree nearby, I had two escorts watching me.
8. It's environmentally friendly!
Because electricity and fuel are so expensive here, a lot of businesses in Zim rely on solar power.
A shining example of sustainability and green architecture is Eastgate Shopping Centre, in Harare. It is modeled after a termite mound, using vents and tunnels in the walls to control the air flow.
9. The natural wonders are jaw dropping.
Zimbabwe has some of the most beautiful, accessible scenery in Africa. Two of the most visited sites are Antelope Park and Victoria Falls, but there are dozens others that deserve a visit.
At Antelope Park, a private game reserve just outside Gweru, you can see wildebeests, antelope, zebras and giraffe, all in an hour drive. The best part of Antelope Park is the lion walk.
And of course Victoria Falls:
10. Everywhere you go you are greeted with smiles. The people are the most notoriously friendly in Africa.