The Great Zimbabwe ruins are the largest collection of ruins in Africa south of the Sahara, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers. They are testament to a culture of great wealth and great architectural skill.
It was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Late Iron Age. Construction on the monument by ancestors of the Shona people began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century, spanning an area of 722 hectares (1,780 acres) which, at its peak, could have housed up to 18,000 people. It is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The granite walls – embellished with turrets, towers, platforms and elegantly sculpted stairways – seem to have had no defensive function. Great Zimbabwe served as a royal palace for the Zimbabwean monarch and would have been used as the seat of political power. One of its most prominent features were the walls, some of which were over five metres high and which were constructed without mortar.
Although inexpertly restored in many places, the ruins at Great Zimbabwe are still by a good margin the most impressive ancient structures in sub-Saharan Africa. They are also the source of considerable pride for present-day Zimbabweans. After all, the huge chiseled walls of the Great Enclosure, with its soaring stone tower and complex chevron patterns, are a work of high engineering skill.