The ruins of the Great Zimbabwe are a declared World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1986 and are among the oldest and most impressive architectural structures of pre-colonial sub-Saharan Africa; this huge archaeological site is one of the testimonies of the development and organization of the African medieval society.
It covers an area of 7 square kilometers at an altitude of 1,100 meters and the many buildings present suggest a well thought out urban planning and an organized society.
The site includes a conical tower, several bastions, some temples and other smaller buildings all built in stone; the stones used are different but it is not clear whether there was any motivation, such as a different social status; all building material was also worked with tools made of stone.
In the buildings there are no elements, such as mortar or concrete, useful to tie together the blocks of stone; it is argued that the stability of the buildings was obtained by exploiting the conformation of the ground or using large rocks present on site, at times, however, some support bleachers were created.
The ruins reveal a development plan divided into two areas: the complex of the hill and the complex of the valleys.
It is believed that the complex on the hill was the ritual center of the city, here you can still see some areas enclosed by stone walls; while downstream it is located the building where the king lived, the imba huru, that is sometimes improperly called "temple"; its imposing walls, almost perfectly preserved, is 250 meters long and 10 meters thick, it has been estimated to have been used around 15,000 tons of stone to build it.
The royal palace is located in a secluded area in the valley than the rest of the complex and it was probably built here because they wanted to avoid the sovereign contagion in case of diseases and epidemics.
The name of Great Zimbabwe National Monument comes from "dzimba dza mabwe" that in Shona language means "great stone houses"; this site also gives its name to the whole country.
The Great Zimbabwe is believed to be the political and religious capital of the Mutapa or Monomotapa Empire, that extended its domain as well as on Zimbabwe, also on part of today's Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa.
Its construction began in the X and XI centuries and has seen its heyday from the XII to the XIV century; it is unknown why it was abandoned, there are several theories about it but none has been proven by facts.
The site is easily accessible from the town of Masvingo, about 300 km South of Harare and it is accessible all year round.
The mysterious history and presence in this place of the Shona people make this site yet to be studied thoroughly and it is also to an attentive visitor to discover the mysteries that surround these walls.