The country of Zimbabwe is home to one of the most spectacular and intriguing monuments in the world. Great Zimbabwe was an ancient kingdom built from stone, which is now in ruins. The mystery of the ancient world still attracts tourists to its stunning views.
According to Ancient Origins, “The name ‘Zimbabwe’ is an anglicized form of an African word meaning ‘stone houses,’ for the ruins of the Great Zimbabwe are comprised of several stone walls, monuments, and buildings built mainly of granite.”
The monuments are wonderful structures that give the appearance of natural rock formations across the landscape, according to CNN. “Spread around in every direction, great jumbled blocks of granite rise from the ground to create spectacular rock formations, their fantastical shapes fashioned by centuries of wind and rain, of heat and cold.”
Though the monuments appear to have been naturally shaped over time, they were actually originally constructed by humans long ago. According to Great Zimbabwe Ruins, “Built between the 11th and 15th centuries, Great Zimbabwe was home to a cattle-herding people who also became adept at metal-working.”
Ancient Origins estimates that it took over 300 years for the construction of the ancient city to be complete. All of the stone structures likely held about 18,000 people in total.
It is believed that the monument would have been home to a monarch who ruled over the Zimbabwe region. According to PBS, the earliest discoverers of the ruins thought that the Great Enclosure, one of the structures of the ancient city, “must have been built by the Queen of Sheba.”
According to Great Zimbabwe Ruins, however, those beliefs are inaccurate. “Much about Great Zimbabwe is still a mystery, owing in large measure to frenzied plundering of the site around 1902, but it can be stated with certainty that the Queen of Sheba never drew breath here.”
Although the region may not have been home to the Queen of Sheba, it was almost certainly a place for royalty. Great Zimbabwe Ruins says that there are “eight birds carved in soapstone that were found in the ruins … It is unsure what the birds symbolized. The most prevalent theory is that they were the emblems of the royalty.”
NYMM intern Elissa Title, who had the opportunity to visit the ruins, discussed her exploration of the king’s palace. “The ruins are in a very strategic location for trading and protection, especially since the king had his place on top of the hill overlooking the valley below … He would have been able to see people approaching from all directions,” she explained.
One of the paths for visitors who want to see the king’s palace is the same route that villagers would have taken. “Not only was the ancient path route super steep and made up of wobbly rocks, at times it was so narrow you had to turn sideways and duck because the ceiling was so low,” Title said.
Title added that “the passage was probably short in height on purpose, because it was a way of bowing down to the king when you entered through that passage.”
A trip to the Great Zimbabwe ruins sounds like it would be well worth the travel. Experience the adventure of walking around an ancient kingdom, exploring the palace of royalty, and counting the eight soapstone birds.
In addition to giving tourists this opportunity to see the breathtaking views of the monument, Zimbabwe as a whole makes the list of must-see vacation destinations.
Images by Elissa Title
Title Image by Elissa Title
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