Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Big Five Cities

The five big cities of Zimbabwe are just as influential and famous as the big-five beasts of tourist haven Zimbabwe. They are Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, and Masvingo.

HARARE: The Lion, King of the National Jungle
Harare (formerly Salisbury) is the capital of Zimbabwe, was founded in 1890, then renamed to Harare in 1982, is the centre of attraction world over, as it houses issues, high and low, in the world of mankind. Just as the Lion is no stranger to controversy, rumours, speculation, and animosity, the city continuous to baffle everyone world over – socio-economically.

It has an estimated population of 1,600,000, with 2,800,000 in its metropolitan area (2006). Rural urban migration is on the rise, with the biggest recipient of rural urbanised folk being Harare; families that move into the markets and streets of the city in search of greener pastures. The lion is known for migrating to make residence near waterholes or reservoirs, in search of a haven of prey so that they do not starve.

Administratively, Harare is an independent city equivalent to a province. It is Zimbabwe's largest city and it is the administrative, commercial, and communications centre. The city is a trade centre for tobacco, maize, cotton, and citrus fruits. Harare is situated at an elevation of 1483 metres (4865 feet) and its climate falls into the warm temperate category. The city is surely the highest on the national food chain as all activities of the nation are determined and influenced by Harare, just as the lion is a stronghold on the Savannah jungle, per se’.

It is said that a wounded lion has the ability to launch more ferocious attacks to its enemies than a healthy lion, as exhibited in the movie Ghost and the Darkness, when a wounded lion kept fighting even without the strength of its three legs. It kept moving using one leg and its stomach. This is true of Harare, as its trade, social life, and people keep bettering their optimism, continuing in trade, commerce, celebration, and advancement. Some of this lion-like attibutes are exhibited in the Stock markets, citizens turned entrepreneurs – many rising from obscurity to significance over the past ten years. Not even a seemingly worsening ten-year wound is able to bring the economic powerhouse to a halt, as life in Harare continuously sets new records unimaginable to mankind world over.

BULAWAYO: The Land of Ndlovu
It is no coincidence that Peter Ndlovu happened to rise from Bulawayo, and surnamed after the majestic Elephant of Zimbabwe, it is no wonder that the elephant is at the top of the coat of arms of the city.

Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe after the capital city, Harare. Bulawayo is a city rich in cultural history and a must visit for anyone coming to Zimbabwe. It is one of the oldest and historically most important of Zimbabwe's towns. Certainly one cannot say that they have experienced the full range of Zimbabwe's diversity if they have not been to this bustling city in the southern ­western part of the country of Zimbabwe. Bulawayo is one of the country's most attractive cities and a major transport hub for Southern Africa.

Bulawayo was the capital of the Ndebele State when Lobengula, son of the King Mzilikazi, ascended to the throne. Lobengula’s initial royal town, established in 1872, was located about 14 miles of the present day city, on a ridge dominated by the Thabas Inyoka - “hill of serpents”. This town has been rebuilt and is known as “old Bulawayo”. Lobengula eventually moved his royal town, and the locality of the modern Bulawayo city was chosen by King Lobengula and he also named his royal town Bulawayo, which is the Ndebele word for “the place of slaughter”, in recognition of an armed struggle that Lobengula was involved in when he ascended to the throne, i.e. “He was being opposed and persecuted by his opponents- and he came out victorious”.

A symbol of Pride, Strength, Majesty, and Stability, Bulawayo is the elephant of Zimbabwe, just as equal in kingship as the lion in majestic ability, as Harare. Side by side, the lion and the elephant have formed the foundations of economics, society, spirituality, and politics, as both opinions and involvement matter in all spheres of the nation.

GWERU: Renown for its Rawhide shoes and meat, as the Buffalo
Gweru (formerly Gwelo) is a city near the centre of Zimbabwe. It has a population of about 137,000 (2002), making it the third largest city in the nation. Gweru is the capital of the Midlands province. Gweru was founded in 1894 by Dr. Leander Starr Jameson. It became a municipality in 1914 and achieved city status in 1971. The name changed from Gwelo to Gweru in 1982.

It is also home to Thornhill Air Base, an airforce garrison, the Zimbabwe Military Museum and the Antelope Game Park. The Nalatale and Danangombe archaeological enclosures lie nearby, the first known for its patterned brickwork, the second for its Portuguese remains.

The City of Progress is home to renowned for its industries which include Zimbabwe Alloys, a chrome smelting plant, and Bata Shoe Company (established in 1939). Both are leading employers in Gweru. Gweru is situated in one of Zimbabwe's finest cattle rearing areas and surrounding agricultural activity revolves around the cattle industry (both beef and dairy).

Bata have their own tanning plant for cattle hides and the Cold Storage Commission CSC have an abattoir in Gweru. Flowers are also grown in the area for the export market and Zimbabwe's largest distiller, Afdis, have extensive vineyards in Gweru for the production of wine. Mining is also prevalent, mainly chromite ore from rich deposits along the Great Dyke to the East of Gweru.

MUTARE: The Eloquent Leopard of Zimbabwe
Mutare (known as Umtali until 1982) is the fourth largest city in Zimbabwe, with a population of approximately 189,000. It is the capital of Manicaland province. Mutare (known as Umtali until 1982) is the fourth largest city in Zimbabwe, with a population of approximately 189,000. It is the capital of Manicaland province.

The word mutare means "a piece of metal". The name was probably given to the river as a result of gold being discovered in the Penhalonga valley through which the Mutare River runs. In 1891 the location was moved to a site now known as Old Mutare, about 14 km north of the city centre.

The town lies north of the Bvumba Mountains and south of the Imbeza Valley. It is home to the Mutare Museum, the Utopia House Museum dedicated to Kingsley Fairbridge, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Murahwa Hill, known for its rock paintings and Iron Age village, Cross Kopje with a memorial to Zimbabweans and Mozambiqueans killed in World War I and a nature reserve.

People who come from Mutare or Manicaland, are well known in Zimbabwe for their eloquence in speech, integrity, and modest behaviour, as depicted in folktales and jokes about them. Their province is host to the majestic and eloquent leopard, the lofty beast amongst the big five. Mutare is esteemed, has in recent years been the centre of controversy for its high-grade diamond, popularly known as ngoda in the local dialect Chimanyika.

MASVINGO: as stubborn a people as the Rhinoceros
The Rhinoceros is known as the most stubborn of the big-five beasts, with untameable rages of anger, yet one of the wisest as it is also known for stamping out fires as and when they occur in the wilderness. Masvingo is home to such a proud, wise and stubborn people – Vakaranga, with their horn being the Great Zimbabwe, home of the natives of the land of Zimbabwe – the Mutapa Empire.

Masvingo is a town in south-eastern Zimbabwe and the capital of Masvingo Province. Known as Fort Victoria until 1982, when its name was briefly changed to Nyanda. Within a few months its name was again changed to Masvingo when it was discovered that Nyanda did not translate very well across dialects. It is the oldest colonial settlement in Zimbabwe, and grew up around the encampment established in 1890 by the Pioneer Column en route to their eventual destination, Salisbury.

The Big Five Historical Sites

There are five significant places in Zimbabwe that have helped shape this nation. They are the Big-five significant historical places. These five places have contributed to the shaping of pre-colonial, post, and modern Zimbabwe. Some may not have been recognised, yet others over emphasised, nonetheless, mentioning them helps the reader generate a fresh perspective of their significance in Zimbabwe, and hence call them the Big-five Historical places of Zimbabwe, alongside the Victoria Falls and the Nyanga mountains.

GREAT ZIMBABWE: Beginning of the Kingdom, Empire, and People
The largest ancient stone construction south of the Sahara, Great Zimbabwe was built between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries by the ancestors of the Shona, one of Zimbabwe's many Bantu-speaking groups. The ruins cover nearly 1,800 acres and can be divided into three distinct architectural groupings known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex, and the Great Enclosure. At its apogee in the late fourteenth century, Great Zimbabwe may have had as many as 18,000 inhabitants.

It was one of some 300 known stone enclosure sites on the Zimbabwe Plateau. In Bantu, “Zimbabwe” means "sacred house" or "ritual seat of a king." An important trading centre and capital of the medieval Zimbabwe state, the city controlled much of interior southeast Africa for nearly two centuries.

History records that the last Empire collapsed, with the majority of people moving up north in search of Salt, amongst other things. After the decline of Great Zimbabwe, which had begun in the 13th century, the fragmented Shona tribes allied themselves and created the Rozvi state and encompassed over half of present day Zimbabwe. This state lasted until 1834 when it was invaded by Ndebele warriors and came under the rule of Lobengula.

MATOPOS: Rhodes, Lobengula, and Zimbabwe
The Matopos area contains some of the most majestic granite scenery in the world, and has great cultural and religious significance. The Matopos Hills comprise an extraordinary collection of huge bare granite hills with gravity-defying boulders scattered all over the countryside to create a quite unique and rather mysterious landscape. The most spectacular areas are within the Matopos National Park. The local Matabele people call it Malindidzimu (the place of ancestor spirits). The national park is famous for its outstanding views, San (bushman) painted caves, wildlife (especially the Black Eagle) and as the chosen burial place of Cecil Rhodes who named it his favourite spot.

Annually, on the 4th of November Bulawayo remembers the flag raising ceremony by the British South Africa Company, as this represents the official founding of Bulawayo as a town. But by one of those coincidences in which history rejoices, on that same day the City also commemorates the death and funeral of Mzilikazi, the founder of the Matabele nation. This is wholly fitting, since Bulawayo is a city belonging to Africans and to Europeans alike, and its history cannot be divorced from that of the province of Matabeleland. Mzilikazi led the Matabele nation to the high veld around Bulawayo in 1840, and he ruled it until his death in late September of 1868. After prolonged ritual ceremonies his interment began on 2 November 1868 at Entumbane in the Matopo Hills and was concluded two days later, exactly twenty-five years before Jameson's frontiersmen nailed their flag to a tree.

This is historically significant, and Zimbabwe has never been the same ever since then.

SALISBURY: Birth of the Nation of Zimbabwe
Pioneer Column, a military volunteer force of settlers organised by Cecil Rhodes, founded the city in 1890 as a fort. They originally named the city Fort Salisbury after the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, then British prime minister, and it subsequently became known simply as Salisbury. It was declared to be a municipality in 1897 and it became a city in 1935. Salisbury was the capital of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1953 to 1963. After that point, it was the capital of Southern Rhodesia.

The government of Ian Smith declared Rhodesia independent of Great Britain on November 11, 1965, and proclaimed the Republic of Rhodesia in 1970. Subsequently, the nation became the short-lived state of Zimbabwe Rhodesia; it was not until April 18, 1980, that the country was internationally recognized as independent and renamed the Republic of Zimbabwe. The capital city retained the name Salisbury until 1982.

The name of the city was changed to Harare on April 18, 1982, the second anniversary of Zimbabwean independence, taking its name from the Shona chieftain Neharawa. It is also said the name derived from the European corruption of "Haarari" ("He does not sleep"), the epithet of the chief whose citadel was located in the area known today as the Kopje (pronounced "Koppie"). It was said that no enemy could ever launch a sneak attack on him. Prior to independence, "Harare" was the name of the Black residential area now known as Mbare.

This is how the centre of the modern nation of Zimbabwe was born.

KARIBA DAM: Powering the Nation of Zimbabwe
The double curvature concrete arch dam was constructed between 1955 and 1959 by Impresit of Italy at a cost of $135,000,000 for the first stage with only the Kariba South power cavern. Final construction and the addition of the Kariba North Power cavern by Mitchell Construction was not completed until 1977 due to largely political problems for a total cost of $480,000,000. Some 86 men lost their lives during construction.

The Kariba supplies 1320 MW of electricity to parts of both Zambia (the Copperbelt) and Zimbabwe and generates 6400 GW·h (23 PJ) per annum. Lake Kariba, the reservoir created by the dam, extends for 280 km with a storage capacity of 180 km³.

Since its construction, Zimbabwe has never been the same before, as it has shaped economics, and social life of the inland country.

BEIT BRIDGE: Border Post or Bridge of Life
The bridge is named after Alfred Beit, founder of the De Beers diamond mining company and business associate of Cecil Rhodes. He was also a director of a number of companies, among them the British South Africa Company and Rhodesia Railways. The bridge was constructed in 1929 at a cost of $220 000 and financed jointly between the Beit Railways Trust and the South African Railways. A new bridge was constructed in 1995. The 24th November 1995 marked the official opening of the new Beit Bridge. It was built by the Zimbabwean Government, which now benefits from the tolls levied on crossings. The new bridge can accommodate much greater trans-border traffic than the old one could, which is now for rail traffic only.

The bridge was originally a crossing point for the pioneer column, but has given birth to a town called Beitbridge. Beitbridge is a border post town between South Africa and Zimbabwe, and has become the busiest border in Southern Africa, as it gives Zimbabweans, Congolese, and other neighbours, access to South Africa. Since inception this town has generated traffic of goods that has fed millions of people in Zimbabwe, and continues to do so by the day.
This is why Beitbridge is a historical place, worthy of recognition as BIG-FIVE.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Big Five Trees

There are five trees in Zimbabwe, that are as significant as the big five beasts. These trees have legends, myths, and wealth surrounding them, as they have played a major role in the lives of the Zimbabwean for as long as the people have existed on this land.

The Baobab Tree: Strong as the Elephant
Baobab is the common name of a genus (Adansonia) containing eight species of trees, native to Madagascar (the centre of diversity, with six species), mainland Africa and Australia (one species in each). The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that country.

It can grow to enormous sizes and carbon dating indicates that they may live to be 3,000 years old. The baobab can store more than 120,000 litres of water, (32,000 US gallons), to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region. One ancient hollow Baobab tree in Zimbabwe is so large that up to 40 people can shelter inside its trunk. Various Baobabs have been used as a shop, a prison, a house, a storage barn and a bus shelter.

Baobabs are very difficult to kill, they can be burnt, or stripped of their bark, and they will just form new bark and carry on growing. When they do die, they simply rot from the inside and suddenly collapse, leaving a heap of fibres, which makes many think that they don't die at all, but simply disappear.

The leaves are commonly used as a leaf vegetable throughout the area of mainland African distribution, including Malawi, Zimbabwe, and the Sahel. They are eaten both fresh and as a dry powder. The fruit is extremely nutritious and is known as sour gourd or monkey's bread. The dry pulp of the fruit, after separation from the seeds and fibres, is eaten directly or mixed into porridge or milk. The fruit was once used in the production of tartar sauce. The seeds are mostly used as a thickener for soups, but may also be fermented into a seasoning, roasted for direct consumption, or pounded to extract vegetable oil. The tree also provides a source of fibre, dye, and fuel.

Mopane Tree: The Buffalo of Trees
The mopane or mopani (Colophospermum mopane) tree grows in hot, dry, low-lying areas, 200-1,150 m, in the far northern parts of southern Africa, into South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Angola and Malawi. The species name mopane is taken from the local name for the tree.

It is found growing in alkaline (high lime content) soils which are shallow and not well drained. It also grows in alluvial soils (soil deposited by rivers). In South Africa and adjacent areas of Botswana and Zimbabwe, the trees tend to vary between 4 and 18 m, often called mopane scrub but also sometimes taller and forming woodland, where further north the trees are taller and form tall woodlands referred to as cathedral mopane. This tree does not grow well outside hot, frost-free areas with summer rainfall.

Its distinctive butterfly-shaped leaf and thin, flimsy seed pod make it easy to identify. To man it forms, together with camel thorn and leadwood, one of the triad of definitive firewood trees. Mopane wood is one of southern Africa's heaviest timbers and is difficult to work because of its hardness. However, this also makes it termite resistant. For this reason it has long been used for building houses and fences, as railway sleepers and as pit props. The termite-resistance and rich, reddish colouring also make it popular for flooring.

The tree is a major food source for the mopane worm (Amacimbi in Sindebele or Madora in Shona), the caterpillar of the moth Imbrasia belina. The caterpillars are rich in protein and are eaten by people, and the sale of roasted or dried mopane worms can contribute significantly to rural economies.

The Jacaranda Tree: Its leaves and flowers are like the Lion’s mane
The species are shrubs to large trees ranging in size from 2 to 30 m tall. The leaves are bipinnate in most species, pinnate or simple in a few species. The flowers are produced in conspicuous large panicles, each flower with a five-lobed blue to purple-blue corolla; a few species have white flowers. The fruit is an oblong to oval flattened capsule containing numerous slender seeds. The genus differs from other genera in the Bignoniaceae in having a staminode that is longer than the stamens, tricolpate pollen, and a chromosome number of 18.

In many parts of the world, such as Mexico and Zimbabwe, the blooming of this tree is welcomed as a sign of spring. The tree is known for its mane-like flowers and leaves that fill the city streets with their beautiful carpet of blue/purple in October.

The Musasa Tree: Leopard’s nap area
In the Shona language, Musasa is a tree and it also means a temporary place of residence. The tree, when green, gives very good shade and people can sit and rest, then continue to their destination. People build a “musasa” as a temporary shelter until their main shelter is built. The Musasa tree is well known for its lush green leaves that provide a very cooling shade and shelter from the blazing African sun. In areas where timber is scarce, this tree is used to make furniture, but the timber is not very durable. It is also used for charcoal and medicine. The inner bark from young tree is used for rope and cloth.

Like the people, the Zimbabwean leopard loves to take naps high up on the branches of the Musasa tree. The Musasa tree is also a good dining place for the leopard as he is known to pull up game as big as buffalo up the tree onto one of the branches and have a private feast, away from unwanted visitors like the lion or hyena.

The Marula Tree: Precious Fluid, just as the Rhino horn
The marula tree, a member of the same family as the mango, grows widely in Africa. Its sweet, yellow fruit is used for making jam, wine, beer, and a liqueur called Amarula. The Marula is a medium-sized dioecious tree, indigenous to the miombo woodlands of Southern Africa and the Sudano-Sahelian range of West Africa. The tree is a single stemmed tree with a wide spreading crown. It is characterised by a grey mottled bark.

The seed kernels are high in protein and fat with a subtle nutty flavour and constitute an important emergency food. Fruits are commonly eaten fresh or used to prepare juice, jelly and alcoholic drink. Marula oil, made from the seed kernel, is a delicious additive to meals in Africa, and can be used as a type of skin care oil. It contains antioxidants and oleic acid. The bark is used both as treatment and a prophylaxis for malaria. Gums exudates from the stem are mixed with water and soot to make ink by certain tribes in the region.

Featured Nyanga National Park

Our feature is the majestic Nyanga National Park. This majestic park is situated in one of the most scenic areas of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands. With its stunning mountainous views, numerous waterfalls, varied activities and unique flora and fauna, Nyanga National Park will provide the visitor with an unforgettable holiday experience.

Why Visit?
Nyanga National Park is known for two things – its scenic views, and its cool refreshing environment. Amongst many scenic views are Mount Nyangani, Nyangombe Falls, Rhodes Museum, and Trout Hatchery.

The legendary Mount Nyangani is Zimbabwe’s highest point at 2593 metres. It offers a challenging climb and spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The Nyangombe Falls are a beautiful series of cascading waterfalls located on the western edge of the Park, a 15-minute walk from the carpark. Rhodes Museum is found near the Park entrance and is housed in part of Cecil John Rhodes’ Nyanga summer home. Trout Hatchery found near Purdon Dam provides an up-close view of the source of game fish stocked in many of the Park’s rivers and dams.

Logistics & Statistics
Rolling green hills and perennial rivers transverse the 47 000 hectare Park. Altitudes between 1800 and 2593 metres provide cool weather and fresh mountain air, perfect for rest and relaxation. Nyanga National Park is located 260 kilometres east of Harare. Visitors may take the Harare – Mutare Road east for 170 kilometres to Rusape and turn left. Follow the Nyanga road for 90 kilometres and turn right at the Main Park entrance. From Mutare, visitors should take the Harare – Mutare Road west for 11 kilometres and turn right at the Juliasdale road. Follow this road for 85 kilometres to the end and turn toward Nyanga Village. Turn right at the Main Park entrance, 13 kilometres further.

Most of the Park lies at an altitude of between 2000 to 2500 metres and remains cool throughout the year. Maximum summer temperatures can reach 26 degrees Celcius and minimum temperatures in winter can be as low as -3 degrees Celcius.

Accommodation & Facilities
There are lodges available at three camps in Nyanga National Park. The lodges are self-catering facilities with fully equipped kitchen, refrigerator, stove and cooking utensils. Cooking facilities are available on wood fires. Ablution and toilet facilities are provided in communal blocks. Tents and camping equipment are not available for hire. Electricity is available at certain caravan sites. The camping site is situated near the Nyanombe River. Entrance is approximately 3 kilometres west of Rhodes Tourist Office on the Nyanga Village Road. The site is well sheltered and has plenty of trees.