Zimbabwe Basic Facts:Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, rich in resources and hardworking people. It is home to the magnificent Victoria Falls, the mighty Zambezi River and Hwange National Park, one of Africa's best safari destinations. But political mismanagement in the past decade has plunged the country into economic catastrophe, turning a once rich country into a desperate one. Things improved in 2009 when the US Dollar replaced the local Zimbabwe Dollar, and the two main political parties found some common ground (more below).
Location: Zimbabwe lies in Southern Africa, between South Africa and Zambia, (click here for a map).
Area: Zimbabwe covers 390,580 sq km, slightly larger than Montana, US, about the same size as Japan and slightly larger than Germany.
Capital City: Harare
Population: Around 13 million people live in Zimbabwe.
Language: English (official), Shona, Sindebele (the language of the Ndebele, sometimes called Ndebele) and numerous but minor tribal dialects.
Religion: Syncretic (part Christian, part indigenous beliefs) 50%, Christian 25%, indigenous beliefs 24%, Muslim and other 1%.
Climate: Zimbabwe is blessed with an excellent tropical climate because much of the country is on a high plateau, so it does not get quite as hot as its neighbors. The rainy season is from November to March.
When to Go: The best time to travel to Zimbabwe is from April to October during the dry season.
Currency: US Dollar, (replaced the Zimbabwe Dollar in April 2009).
Zimbabwe's Main Attractions:
Zimbabwe used to be a premier tourist destination in Southern Africa, affordable with excellent hotels and lodges, good restaurants, plenty of wildlife and lots to do and see. It still is all these things, but with fewer visitors.
- Victoria Falls -- One of Africa's most impressive natural sights, a mile-wide curtain of falling water, it is not to be missed. There's lots to do besides admiring the waterfall in the Zambezi river area... Read more
- Great Zimbabwe -- Great Zimbabwe is one of sub-Saharan Africa's most important and largest stone ruins. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1986, the large towers and structures were built out of millions of stones balanced perfectly on top of one another without the aid of mortar. Great Zimbabwe gave modern Zimbabwe its name as well as its national emblem... Read more
- Hwange National Park -- Hwange National Park is one of Africa's best wildlife parks, home to vast herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and giraffe. Endangered species like the African wild dog, brown hyena and gemsbok are also plentiful... Read more
- Harare -- Zimbabwe's capital is great place to hear live music any night of the week, and don't miss the annual Harare International Festival of the Arts. The Shona sculpture is exquisite, as are many of the crafts for sale in markets dotted around the city... Read more
- Matopos (Matobo) National Park -- Matopos is a very spiritual place, with lots of ancient bushman rock paintings as well as wildlife to enjoy. Cecil Rhodes is buried here... Read more
Travel to Zimbabwe:
Zimbabwe's International Airport: Harare International Airport (code: HRE) lies 7 miles (12km) southeast of Harare.
Getting to Zimbabwe: By air, visitors usually arrive in Harare, or Victoria Falls. Regional flights service the small Vic Falls airport, and Air Zimbabwe and KLM service Harare from Europe. Most longhaul visitors stop in Jo'burg en route to Zimbabwe. By land, border crossings with South Africa and Zambia are easily navigable, but can get busy. Many cross over the bridge at Victoria Falls, and locals flocking to South Africa for work use the Beitbridge Border that links to the N1. Botswana and Mozambique are also accessible by land, there are long distance buses servicing Harare - Blantyre (Malawi) as well. More...
Zimbabwe's Embassies/Visas: Visa requirements change frequently for visitors to Zimbabwe, check with their embassy for up to date information.
Zimbabwe's Politics and Economics
Politics - The UK annexed Southern Rhodesia from the [British] South Africa Company in 1923. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. Robert Mugabe, the nation's first prime minister, has been the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) and has dominated the country's political system since independence. His chaotic land redistribution campaign, which began in 2000, caused an exodus of white farmers, crippled the economy, and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities. General elections held in March 2008 contained irregularities but still amounted to a censure of the ZANU-PF-led government with the opposition winning a majority of seats in parliament. MDC opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes in the presidential polls, but not enough to win outright. Difficult negotiations over a power-sharing government, in which Mugabe remained president and Tsvangirai became prime minister, were finally settled in February 2009, although the leaders have yet failed to agree upon many key outstanding governmental issues.
Economy - The government of Zimbabwe faces a wide variety of difficult economic problems. The government's land reform program, characterized by chaos and violence, has badly damaged the commercial farming sector, the traditional source of exports and foreign exchange and the provider of 400,000 jobs, turning Zimbabwe into a net importer of food products. Until early 2009, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe routinely printed money to fund the budget deficit, causing hyperinflation. The power-sharing government formed in February 2009 has led to some economic improvements, including the cessation of hyperinflation by eliminating the use of the Zimbabwe dollar and removing price controls. The economy is registering its first growth in a decade.