Zimbabwe has been involved in international trade with China and Persia, even before United States of America was discovered. Testimony to this is the artifacts discovered in the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which (according to legend) is the capital of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba.
It is thought that Great Zimbabwe was built by members of the Gokomere culture, ancestors of modern Shona and the Lemba or Venda peoples. 'Zimbabwe' is the Shona name of the ruins and was first recorded in European history in 1531 by Vicente Pegado, a Portuguese captain. The name contains 'dzimba', the Shona term for 'houses'. When Rhodesia became independent in 1980, the nation changed its name to Zimbabwe after this ancient city.
Construction on the monument began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century. Great Zimbabwe was the capital of the kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country's Late Iron Age and spans an area of 722 hectares. The word 'great' distinguishes the site from the many hundreds of small ruins, now known as 'zimbabwes', spread across the Zimbabwe Highveld.
Great Zimbabwe has monumental, mortarless stone walls and is the largest of 200 such sites in southern Africa, including Bumbusi in Zimbabwe and Manyikeni in Mozambique. The ruins form three distinct architectural groups known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex and the Great Enclosure. The Hill Complex is the oldest, and was occupied from the ninth to thirteenth centuries. The Great Enclosure was occupied from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, and the Valley Complex from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries.
Located south of Lake Mutirikwi, 25 km south-east of the present-day town of Masvingo, the ruins and monument at Great Zimbabwe lies between Bulawayo and Harare, around 4 hours drive from either, and around 8 hours from Victoria Falls.
For travelers by road driving from Beitbridge, Victoria Falls, Bulawayo or Harare, you need to first drive to the town of Masvingo. On arrival in Masvingo, follow the signs to Great Zimbabwe, and turn left off the A4 Beitbridge road to reach the National Monument.