This was a good day: Great Zimbabwe


I’ve posted this photo before, but then it was a very good day all those years ago in Africa. And it’s also good to remember days when I looked a lot younger. (Or maybe not).

As you can see, all was bathed in old-gold light at Great Zimbabwe. The air was dreamily soft – much like a September Indian Summer day in England when all is drowsing except for the buzzing of wasps and bees.

Surprisingly, we had the place to ourselves. There we were, utterly free to wander about, seeking out the spirits of this once thriving African city of cattle herders and gold traders.

I remember pressing my palms on the granite blocks of the Great Enclosure and feeling their warmth, and wondering, too, at the sheer height of the walls that had no mortar to hold them  fast for 700 years. Just imagine the skills needed to build walls like this, and think, too, how the white elite that once ruled Southern Rhodesia attributed this astonishing structure to Phoenicians, Ancient Egyptians, the Queen of Sheba, in fact to pretty much anyone who was not a member of the local Shona people who did construct it.

It was at times like these that I discovered that archaeology was not the benign, gently antiquarian discipline that I had spent three years of my life studying. No indeed. In certain quarters archaeological ‘evidence’ can be grossly perverted to sell false credentials to justify the rule of unjust rulers. I find it both sad and shameful that amongst such self-appointed elites even old stones can become the object of racist bigotry.

But wait. Such thoughts are spoiling the day, and there is still so much to see. There are  mysteries too. Why were these city walls raised up so high when there is no evidence that the entrance gateways were ever closed, or even defendable? What was the purpose of the extraordinary stone tower? Why was this place abandoned, left amid the granite hills as the people simply gathered their cattle and belongings and walked away?

For more of Great Zimbabwe’s history see my earlier post:

Abandoned: Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe general view



copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

Today Was a Good Day

47 thoughts on “This was a good day: Great Zimbabwe

  1. There is no human study that is benign though Tish – we lay our bias on everything we study, and even permit what is perceived to be positive bigotry. But enough – you have conveyed a good day in your youthful enthusiasm – I was instantly reminded me of Bergman in’The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’ so evidently you were exuding such even before I read your words.

    1. That’s very lovely of you to associate me with Ingrid – a trick of the light methinks. And yes, I suppose you are right, tho am a bit loath to admit it – that everything we present has some sort of bias. Hm. You’re making me ponder now. Shall take the ponderings to the much neglected ironing board.

  2. So thoughtful !! Indeed, we can only wonder what skill those artisans must have had that these structures stood the test of time.
    Beautifully captured and written. 🙂

  3. You continue to be beautiful, as do your pictures. I love that one in particular, though I particularly love so many of your stories and pictures. I do not always comment, but I almost always read!

  4. I like you revisited this and your POV on archaeology. Dawn (my wife) has been reading about history in the area in which we’re traveling and it’s no different, how power is established through relationships among men (the church, the kings) and facts, effort, truth, yields to that for history’s sake. Poorly put, but I think you get my meaning, and I get yours. Glad you had the chance to live it and share it with us. And more, to come.

    1. The thing is, we need to look out for what is going on around us now – power-wise/truth-wise; whose narrative are we in thrall to? Wishing you all a good week ahead.

  5. Wonderful post Tish. And of course I had to follow the link and read the other post – fascinating. I had no idea. That was the point of the European colonists of course. It reminds me that Angkor Wat and the rest of the magnificent ruins in that area were attributed to Romans I think. Anyone but the Khmer. White racist European archeologists couldn’t/wouldn’t believe such enterprise and artistry could have built by the Khmer themselves.

    1. It’s interesting, but also very sad the way the so called ‘civilised world’ is so ready to downplay the achievements of others. I don’t need to tell you two that people of the past had different value systems, and cultures, but it didn’t mean they weren’t capable, creative and highly intelligent. Thanks for reading my link too 🙂

  6. What a wonderful image of you, let alone the images of Great Zimbabwe! Did you dress for the photo shoot? That red is perfect against the great freestone wall. Your life has been rich in familiarity with amazing places. I love being a beneficiary.

    1. I was so very lucky to have those 8 years living in Africa. I think it was where I started to become myself. I learned so much. It makes me very happy to know that you enjoy hearing about the things that most struck me/continue to strike me.In reality I haven’t done a great deal of travelling, its just that I do a lot of mental apres-travel, revisiting/researching the places I have been to. It’s so much cheaper than flying, and avoids getting cross in airport security zones.

  7. You look so beautiful standing there with your lovely red dress among the ruins Tish. A spark of light for sure. I’ve never been to Zim and don’t think I will ever go as I am not a traveller, but I do enjoy the virtual travelling. As always you describe everything so well, it felt as if I was there. Thanks for sharing. 😀

  8. I had no idea that there had been a great civilisation in Southern Africa. My image was of grass huts and cattle herding with skirmishes among the natives. Obviously the white, elitist propaganda had worked on me. An interesting and informative post Tish and I followed the link for more of an insight. Now I must ponder and iron too!!!

    1. I think there were quite a few great kingdoms in Southern Africa. It also seems the tradition of building impressive stone enclosures goes right up the continent, and likewise appears to be associated with cattle herders. So much of Africa’s history has been lost.

    1. Likewise the African (Nubian) pharaohs of Ancient Egypt are little known about. An Afican American friend who travelled to Egypt a lot also pointed out to me how often the noses are missing from pharaohs’ statues…

  9. SSS = simply splendid and stunning… ❤ admiration and respect… OMG, Tish, I'm looking at your wonderful pix and superb text, and I do feel "embarrassed" with my amateur photos and dilettante texts… I'm serious!

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