26 interesting facts about Zimbabwe

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From ‘the smoke that thunders’ to the capital city of the legendary Queen of Sheba, these are the most interesting facts about Zimbabwe.

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
Major religions: Christianity
Time zone: UTC+2 (Central Africa Time)
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Zimbabwe

1. Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in Southern 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. Zimbabwe borders four countries: Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia.
(Source: CIA World Factbook)

3. Evidence suggests that Zimbabwe has been inhabited since the Stone Age – up to 500,000 years ago.
(Source: Brittanica)

A map of Zimbabwe and its bordering countries
Zimbabwe borders four countries (Shutterstock)

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

5. 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)

6. 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)

Great Zimbabwe ruins
Great Zimbabwe ruins (Shutterstock)

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

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. 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)

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

11. 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)

12. The Zimbabwe flag includes a black stripe representing 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: Moira Butterfield (2019) The Flag Book. Lonely Planet Kids: London)

Flag of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s flag (Shutterstock)

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

14. 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)

15. 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)

16. 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: New York Times)

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

17. 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)

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

19. 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)

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

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

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 world’s largest man-made lake in the world is in Zimbabwe. Lake Kariba, along the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, was created between 1958 and 1963 when the 579m-long Kariba Dam was built across Kariba Gorge. With a maximum width of 40km and length of 223km, the lake holds approximately 180 billion tons of water.
(Source: Discovery Channel)

A long shot of Kariba Dam and the surrounding greenery
Kariba Dam (Shutterstock)

23. 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)

24. 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)

25. Zimbabwe has one of the world’s highest rates of HIV-AIDS infection. As of 2019, it is 11.8% per 100 people – the eighth-highest in the world.
(Source: IHME, Global Burden of Disease via Our World in Data)

26. Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, was formerly known as Salisbury, named after Lord Salisbury, the British prime minister at the time of its founding in 1890. The name Harare derives from the Shona Chief Neharawe, whose name meant .he who does not sleep’.
(Source: CIA World Factbook, Britannica)

These facts about Zimbabwe have been carefully verified using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.