22 interesting facts about Zimbabwe

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The most interesting facts about Zimbabwe include the ‘the smoke that thunders’ and the capital city of the legendary Queen of Sheba.

Interesting facts about Zimbabwe include Victoria Falls
Interesting facts about Zimbabwe include the thundering Victoria Falls (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name:  Republic of Zimbabwe
Capital city: Harare
Population: 14,546,314
Area: 390,757 sq km
Major languages: Shona, Ndebele, English
Time zone: UTC+2 (Central Africa Time)
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Zimbabwe

1. Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in Africa. A landlocked nation is surrounded by land with no access to the sea. There are currently 45 landlocked countries and five partially recognised nations in the world.
(Source: CIA World Factbook, The Telegraph)

2. There is evidence that Stone Age people inhabited Zimbabwe up to 500,000 years ago.
(Source: Brittanica)

3. The Bantu civilization of the Shona ruled Zimbabwe between the 11th and 15th centuries.
(Source: UNESCO)

Great Zimbabwe ruins
Great Zimbabwe ruins (Shutterstock)

4. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Great Zimbabwe – the capital city of the legendary Queen of Sheba – was built between 1100 and 1450 AD.
(Source: UNESCO)

5. When Europeans discovered the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and its surrounding goldmines, they refused to believe that indigenous Africans could have built such a city.
(Source: The Guardian)

6. Great Zimbabwe inspired several books including H Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and She, as well as Wilbur Smith’s best-seller, The Sunbird.
(Source: The Independent)

7. In 2015, Zimbabwe made global headlines when it emerged that American Walter Palmer had paid $54,000 to hunt Cecil the Lion, an internationally known 13-year-old lion who inhabited Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. The incident caused an international outcry.
(Source: National Geographic)

Cecil the lion
Cecil the lion (Shutterstock)

8. In Zimbabwe, it’s possible to see the renowned ‘big five’ game animals of lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

9. The first European to explore Zimbabwe was Portuguese António Fernandes during expeditions in 1514 and 1515.
(Source: Britannica)

10. Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia after a man called Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes and his British South Africa Company used a British mandate to lead the colonisation of Zimbabwe during the 19th century.
(Source: BBC News)

11. The Zimbabwe flag includes a black stripe that represents the ethnic majority, red for the bloodshed during liberation, green for agriculture, yellow for mineral wealth and white for peace and progress. There is also a red star for socialism and a depiction of the Zimbabwe Bird that appeared on carvings in Great Zimbabwe.
(Source: Britannica)

Flag of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s flag (Shutterstock)

12. Following the independence of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi) in 1964, Zimbabwe became known unofficially as simply Rhodesia until 1979.
(Source: Britannica)

13. During this time, white supremacist Ian Smith declared Rhodesia independent, albeit without international recognition, and continued to enforce white minority rule over Zimbabwe.
(Source: The Independent)

14. In 1980, after a civil war that cost 30,000 lives, a black majority finally took control of the country – formally renamed Zimbabwe – and declared independence.
(Source: The Atlantic)

15. In the 2000s Zimbabwe experienced hyperinflation with its currency suffering from year-on-year inflation that exceeded 1,000%. In 2006 banknotes were issued with three noughts deleted from their values. The country was eventually forced to abandon its currency.
(Source: BBC News)

One hundred trillion dollars bank note
Zimbabwe experienced from hyperinflation (Shutterstock)

16. Robert Mugabe was Zimbabwe’s first president and ruled for nearly four decades (37 years). He was finally forced out of power during a coup in 2017 and died in 2019 at the age of 95.
(Source: The Guardian)

17. Zimbabwe is home to Victoria Falls – the world’s largest sheet of falling water. The falls span the entire breadth of the Zambezi River at more than 1,700m wide and drop approximately 108m.
(Source: National Geographic, Britannica)

18. They were named in 1855 after the British Queen Victoria, by Scottish explorer David Livingstone. They are known locally by the Kalolo-Lozi people as Mosi-oa-Tunya, ‘the smoke that thunders.’
(Source: National Geographic)

19. In 2019, the falls slowed to a trickle after the worst drought in a century in the region.
(Source: The Guardian)

The Victoria Falls during a drought compared to normal
The Victoria Falls during a drought compared to normal (Shutterstock)

20. Zimbabwe is one of the few countries in the world where both white and black rhinos can be observed. Estimated at 766 in 2014, Zimbabwe’s rhino population is Africa’s fourth-largest after South Africa, Kenya, and Namibia.
(Source: WWFWWF)

21. In Zimbabwean folklore, mermaids have supernatural powers. Construction work on a dam was halted in 2011 after reports of sightings. A traditional healer was called in to expel the mermaids.
(Source: ABC News)

22. The mbira is a traditional Zimbabwean small hand-held musical instrument that dates back to the 16th century. It is often referred to as a ‘thumb piano’.
(Source: The Guardian)