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Khami National Monument: Inside the Torwa Dynasty

Possessing subtle and mysterious beauty, Khami National Monument is one of Zimbabwe’s five World Heritage Sites. The astonishing dry walled historical site is located 22km west of Bulawayo. Another unique and exceptional testimony to a civilisation bygone, it stands as the second largest built monument after the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, with astonishing Stone Age civilization exhibiting great architecture of the iron age era.

Built around AD1450, Khami was the heart of the Butua State until its destruction around AD1644. After the abrupt collapse of the Great Zimbabwe Kingdom, there arose the Torwa dynasty – the ruling family of the Butua State. Khami Ruins were designated a National Monument in July 1937 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Now a World Heritage site, the ruins are believed to have been built by the Karanga tribe of the Rozwi Section.

With a relaxing atmosphere oozing from the elusive archaic beauty of the heritage site which is like no other, visitors are wowed by a series of protective terraced and highly decorated stone ruins which are a show of power and wealth. The main features at Khami Ruins are the Cross Ruins, Passage Ruins, Hill Complex, Precipice Ruins and Vlei Ruins, reflecting the early African urbanisation prior to colonisation. In as much as the ruins follow the pattern of the Great Zimbabwe Palace, they are a later development possessing own features and expressions, making the site conspicuous. Exploring Khami Ruins gives the tourist an opportunity to experience the picturesque magnificence of both the Zimbabwean cultural and natural heritage.

To add to the scenic rugged beauty, there is also a beautiful camping site for a greater relaxing experience. Khami Ruins also hosts a site museum which provides useful background site information. The museum was recently re-worked and the comprehensive exhibits are awe-inspiring as they give the visitor a window into the past. The friendly guides will help create a memorable experience, making a trip to Khami worth a drive out of town.


With an abundance of spectacular kopjes, massive granite outcrops, boulders and the popular unique “mother and child” balancing rocks, Matobo Hills creates a dramatic cultural landscape that extends approximately 3,000 square kilometres. The beautiful hilly site boasts of over 3,500 rock artworks inside caves, cliffs surfaces and boulders, also featuring the largest concentration of rock art in Zimbabwe and the African continent as a whole.

Located to the south of Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo; Matobo Hills parades the bushmen’s paintings on the walls of caves and rocks using special pigments and natural minerals that have survived the onslaught of climate change and time. The exceptional and extraordinary rock art has displayed the visible remnants of Zimbabwean history.

In 2003, Matobo Hills including the Matobo National Park were also declared a World Heritage. The National Park of international acclaim occupies a total area of 44 500 hectares hosting a number of renowned tourist’s attractions including the impressive Matobo Hills. Conservationists would be delighted to know that the area is an Intensive Protection Zone for endangered black and white rhinoceros and encompasses spectacularly attractive flora and fauna. Nature lovers are treated to escorted walks, fishing, boating, game viewing, bird watching, hiking, rhino tracking and tours of the renowned rock paintings. Bambata, Pomongwe, Nswatugi and White Rhino painted caves have proven to be popular as well as the World’s View, where prominent colonial personalities such as Cecil John Rhodes are buried. Matobo National Park today is sanctuary to the largest population of white rhino, leopards, black eagles to name but a few.

A place of spiritual symbolism and preservation or traditions for some…

The Matobo hills have remained a spectacle to behold as the local community still hold them sacred as the archaic establishment is a reminder of historical events, with sites such as graves, ruins and relics dating back thousands of years through to recent events. Many have been inspired by the hills’ dramatic structure and formation which stand as evidence of the barely uninterrupted relationship between humans and their environs over numerous decades.

Regarded by some as a significant part of the soul of Zimbabwe, today the Matobo Hills are a place of peace; held in reverential awe by local communities. Traditional ceremonies are still performed, believed to assist in the making of rain in what is locally termed ‘mukwerera.’ Holding deep and mystical significance is the Njelele Hill, which is deemed holy, thereby attracting visitors locally and even from across the borders. People gather at the Njelele Shrine at given months for the famed rain making ceremony; consulting spirit medium and rainmaker uNgwali, who is believed to have extra-ordinary powers to bring the rains. In addition to the astonishing granite rock formations, Matobo Hills present emotively beautiful traditional and cultural landscapes which match no other.

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