For a Zimbabwean, it is easy to take some things for granted. I am sure it is the same for a Parisian and the Eiffel Tower! There are some things that you only begin to appreciate once visitors to your country comment on or in my case, meeting different people when I travel abroad who ask me about places or experiences I have no idea exist in Zimbabwe. It is embarrassing when visitors who spent 2 weeks to a month in the country know more about it than a resident. I have made it my mission to travel domestically, and acquaint myself with all our gems!
With this in mind, I thought to compile a few things that I don’t think receive enough attention, and yet makes Zimbabwe the jewel it is – the good, the bad, and the ugly that needs some appreciation! The list below is in no particular order…
Some of the world’s best coffee comes from this unlikely place – the country only grows the premium type of Arabic coffee. The coffee has a rich taste and tempting flavour. Our smallholder farmers are part of the global fair trade movement. The Eastern Highlands, arguably one of the best places to visit on the planet is where most of this coffee is grown by smallholder farmers as well as giants like Tanganda (most known for their teas). It is true that the country does not compete on the global coffee market on quantity, but certainly do so on quality. In another post, I mention the top-notch places to grab a coffee in several cities when travelling in Zimbabwe.
Rastafarianism is well represented in Zimbabwe. The Jamaican music genre; Dancehall has been localised & now known as Zim Dancehall. Winky D was on BBC Africa chart and like so many other artists, has performed in the U.K., continental Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australasia. The great Bob Marley attended and performed a song titled Zimbabwe in 1980; becoming the first international artist to play in independent Zimbabwe.
Travel and tourism in Zimbabwe has more to offer than just the Victoria Falls. With what I have seen recently from some destination marketers, I have to mention that the Victoria Falls is not in South Africa, and so you do not have to travel to South Africa to see the Seventh Wonder of the World. As a side note, the best views of the falls are also not in Zambia, but Zimbabwe, FYI. Guys, beyond the Falls, there are very many gems hiding in plain sight, all you need is an enthusiastic local guide. Binga is one such cultural virgin land, boasting of immaculate beaches, hot springs, caves, and an authentic cultural people. In this post, I highlight my top 10 places to visit in Zimbabwe.
Fun fact: Zimbabwe is home to the most amount of Mercedes-Benz per capita outside of Germany. It is not our love for all things German, certainly not – we love what it represents: the symbolism – class. Surprisingly, after all, having been a British colony, you would think we should have fallen in love with the Range or Land Rover right? However, in return, the Germans are topping the list of the most amount of tourists by country visiting Zimbabwe. Talk about quid pro quo!
Zimbabwe is a cash economy, although it has moved towards paperless during the course of the past year or two. So, when travelling to Zimbabwe, try to bring U.S. dollars in cash, and your MasterCard or Visa becomes backup. Calculate USD$50 per day! Ninety per cent of the economy is informal – what this means is business studies or MBA students will thrive basing their research & work placements in this country, dealing with unique challenges. Nearly half the population is under 25: meaning the youth are the majority and yet most disadvantaged. Clearly, Zimbabwe is a country of many contrasts…
Addiction is a real thing – drug and substance abuse has been on the rise and there is no law or provisions for addiction treatment. At best, an addict is classified as a mental patient although experts say that an addict becomes a mental patient only after being left without treatment. Tiritose is working to set up policy and laws, which will set up a blueprint for addiction treatment. In the meantime, we have facilitated the set up of an addiction counselling centre in Harare called The First Step together with Western Counselling, a U.K. based addiction treatment centre as well as the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Our Global health: Clinical Rotation programme for medical students in their last year of school & nurses works with the psychiatric unit at Harare Central Hospital as well as Highlands Halfway House; a private facility and haven for addiction patient.
African Time, or as the Americans put it: Coloured People Time (CPT) is a real thing! Time is not used in the digital form as it is known elsewhere. You should be okay with hearing things like, ‘I will be there now now’, which means I am in the process of getting ready and will be on my way shortly – the shortly is not defined, and don’t try to define it, you will just end up frustrated! What this means is a 10am appointment could start at noon and in most parts, it is totally acceptable. In business however, it is a bit problematic and only acceptable in the informal businesses, which make up close to 90% of the economy. Moral of the story, bring a book to all appointments, and a fully charged phone!
The PEOPLE, oh! The People are delightful. One of the best in this whole wide world, even if I say so myself! Friendly is synonymous with Zimbabweans, ever so helpful and resilient is a pretty close description of the people as well. You could be hiking in the wilderness of Muzarabani, and your GPS stops working, you should not worry, because you will always find someone willing and happy to open their doors to you and your party for the night! The tours we run often encompass nights within the homesteads of locals.
Street signage and street lights are not a thing, we believe more in darkness haha!! Potholes – we all drive like drunk people trying to avoid the potholes in the streets, so where your GPS says 20 minute drive, prepare for 40 minutes. I met a diplomat at a function hosted at the British residency who on his first day decided to walk along the street from his hotel and would walk only when a car was coming and flashing lights, which was the only way he could see where he was going. Exaggeration? maybe, but all of that make this home to 14 million people, and visitors who want to explore an environment, and culture different from their own!
Food. Yes, Zimbabweans love to eat…we eat passionately! From traditional meals to borrowed delicacies such as hotdogs, we like them all. It’s really fascinating how hotdogs have become insanely popular over the last 3 years. They have always been there but during the course of these years they have become a lunch favourite in the CBD area of Harare, one outlet disclosed that they make an average of $700 on a slow day…What!!!. The beauty comes when we put our own local twist to some of these meals, such as ‘gango’ (a mixture of 3 to 5 different types of meat cooked together with vegetables). When in Zimbabwe, please try this mean dish! You won’t be disappointed!