Unveiling The Great Zimbabwe Ruins. A look at an ancient African Kingdom's capital and secret building style

In the heart of Zimbabwe, lies a hidden city that tells stories of an ancient civilization - the Great Zimbabwe ruins. The Great Zimbabwe Ruins is an ancient archaeological site renowned for being the largest and most significant stone ruins in Africa south of the Sahara. 

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are believed to have been constructed between the 11th and 15th centuries by the Shona people. The site served as the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, which was a thriving trade and political hub. The kingdom encompassed a vast area and had a complex society with a centralized political system.

The Great Zimbabwe ruins are made up of various structures built with granite blocks, that were stacked without the use of mortar. The most notable feature is the Great Enclosure with an enormous stone wall of up to 11 meters in height, encircling an area of about 7.2 hectares.

Within the ruins, there are remnants of stone houses, pathways, and terraces that indicate a well-planned urban settlement for a thriving urban population of the time.

In this article, we'll take a look at all the things that make the Great Zimbabwe Ruins a special place worth visiting. We'll learn all about the times of this ancient city and its incredible architecture.

Great Zimbabwe Enclosure

Why Great Zimbabwe is special

Historical Significance

The Great Zimbabwe ruins are important in understanding the history of Zimbabwe as a country. They give us a glimpse into the advanced civilization that thrived in Southern Africa long ago.

From showcasing their architectural skills to the trade of centuries gone, the ruins provide a great sense of cultural heritage and pride for the people of Zimbabwe. This capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe is a testament to how powerful the kingdom was and its influence on the history, culture and trade in Southern Africa.

Architectural Masterpiece

The stone structures of Great Zimbabwe showcase the architectural brilliance of the Shona people. The big and expansive structures are built in stone and do not use mortar of any kind. 

The great enclosure has a massive wall that stands tall at more than 10 metres high and runs around an area of more than 7 hectares. The skill and precision in building the walls are a great indication of the advanced engineering done by the Shona craftsmen more than 600 years ago.

great zimbabwe ruins

Cultural Heritage & Exploration

At Great Zimbabwe, the remnant stone houses, intricate carvings and artefacts offer a clear glimpse into the way of life during the ancient period. The knowledgeable guides share the captivating folklore and legends, passed down through stories, from periods as long gone as the height of Great Zimbabwe.

Most of Zimabwe's culture has a strong connection to this period, and exploring the Great Zimbabwe Ruins is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture of present-day Zimbabwe, by understanding the history that has shaped what today exists as everyday life.

Old Trade and Prosperity

Great Zimbabwe was an important centre of trade connecting various parts of Africa - both close and distant, for the exchange of goods.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the people of Zimbabwe conducted long-distance trade with other African societies from as far as Mombasa on the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa. Furthermore, the people of Zimbabwe also traded with neighbouring people from places such as present-day Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana.

The Great Zimbabwe, as the capital, was at the centre of all this trade and prosperity, at a period when most of the outside world knew nothing about Africa's inaccessible and landlocked interior.

Great Zimbabwe Ruins Aerial

UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. This was in recognition of the historical significance of the ruins as a remarkable testimony to the advanced civilization that thrived in Southern Africa.

The architectural excellence displayed in the stone walls of Great Zimbabwe is an exceptional achievement of human creativity and engineering.

The UNESCO designation serves to ensure the preservation of these ancient structures for future generations.

Beyond the Ruins

Beyond the Great Zimbabwe, there is so much to explore and enjoy in Present day Zimbabwe. From the incredible wildlife in Hwange National Park where elephants, buffalos, and lions roam free, to the powerful magnificence of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is one of Africa's countries where great adventures can be had.

Whether it is the wilderness, adventure or culture, Zimbabwe is a great destination.

Most safari packages to Zimabwe often include more areas around the country to fit the various needs you might have. It is therefore easy for you to visit the Great Zimbabwe Ruins alongside other top attractions in the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are the Great Zimbabwe Ruins located?

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are located in the southeastern part of present-day Zimbabwe, close to the town of Masvingo.

How old are the Great Zimbabwe Ruins?

The construction of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins began in the 11th century AD and continued over some centuries. The site reached its peak around the 14th century.

How were the Great Zimbabwe Ruins constructed?

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins were constructed using a technique called dry stone walling, where stones were precisely cut and stacked without the use of mortar. This impressive technique allowed the builders to create durable and intricate structures.

Can visitors explore the Great Zimbabwe Ruins?

Yes, visitors can explore the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. There are guided tours available, allowing visitors to see the various structures, learn about the history and culture of the site, and appreciate the architectural marvels of the ruins.

Are there any artifacts or treasures found at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins?

Numerous artefacts, including pottery, beads, iron tools, and gold objects, have been discovered at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. These artefacts provide valuable insights into the trade networks, craftsmanship, and artistic skills of the people who inhabited the site.


Are there any legends or myths associated with the Great Zimbabwe Ruins?

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are surrounded by myths and legends that have been passed down through generations. These stories often attribute the construction of the ruins to mythical figures or describe the site as a sacred place with spiritual significance.

Final Thoughts

Exploring Great Zimbabwe allows you to step back in time and learn about the history and vibrant culture of the people of Zimbabwe.

Zimabwe's recent past can easily overshadow its beauty and diversity for most who don't look well enough or ask questions, but learning about the country's real origins will give you an appreciation for the culture and ways of the people in Zimabwe.

Zimabwe's nature and warm-hearted people await those who plan to visit this incredible place, and the country as a whole.

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