Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare is a metropolitan poster-child for the prosperity of post-Independence Zimbabwe. Since the nation gained its freedom in 1980, Harare, with its population of 680,000, has been transformed from Colonial outpost to capital metropolis, with gleaming modern high-rises, Westernized shops, and hordes of businesspeople and tourists.
Much about the city seems new; even its name is a major change from Salisbury, the British moniker given the town when Cecil Rhodes claimed the country and town for theEngland in 1890. The area had been known as Harara when it was ruled by Chief Neharawa of the Seki. At the time, there wasn't much there; the British South Africa Company (BSAC) built the community up as a base for gold mining in the Zambezi Valley; though the glittering quarry never paid off as expected, Salisbury became a center of commerce and industry.
Much of the Colonial residue has been wiped off the face of the city -- even street names have been changed to reflect the return of African rule. Yet, many British landmarks remain, from the Anglican Cathedral, built between 1913 and 1963, to the Queen Victoria Museum, with its natural history exhibits.
Harare is a clean, vibrant city with plenty worth seeing; visitors also take time to stroll through Harare Gardens and take in the historic buildings along Robert Mugabe Road. Ona decidedly more modern note, the gold the British longed for can be found, at least skin deep, at the Sheraton Hotel and Harare International Conference Center, where everythingfrom the windows (tinted) to the fixtures (gilded) have a golden sheen.
Perhaps the city's most impressive attraction is the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, which showcases the world-famous stone sculptures of Joram Nyanga and the Shona sculptors of Tengenenge. The gallery also exhibits a wide range of African art from around the continent. On the more up tempo side of things, the famous Zimbabwe music scene can be enjoyed at a number of Harare clubs.
Beyond Harare's city centre, attractions include the Dombawasha (ancient rock paintings), the Lake Chivero Recreational Area, and a variety of game parks with safarilodges. To the south, travelers set out for the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, the remains of an ancient civilization that are being preserved as a World Heritage Site.