In college, I was part of an organization comprised of African student and people interested in African history/culture/affairs, etc. This led me cultivate my curiosity about the African continent, curious about what I could learn outside my pre-existing knowledge of West Africa. As I learned more, I started sharing tidbits of information on Facebook in the form of Country Profiles that were short enough to capture the attention of a college student.
Although this information was easily available via Wikipedia, I would look at other sources and pick out some interesting information about various countries to share with my Facebook friends. One of my friends, who was American, very much enjoyed them but had one request: Include more flora and fauna. “What about the landscape and the critters?”, she would comment every time I posted a new one.
I lost momentum quickly and never finished profiling all the different countries. I thought today might be a perfect day to pick it up again, because
today is Monday was her birthday. Sadly, she won’t be able to read this one; she passed away this past summer. This profile, I guess, is my way of remembering those times when we were close and when Facebook was not an alternative for one-on-one conversations, but a great complement to them.
Country Profile: Zimbabwe
What is the largest sheet of falling water in the world? Victoria Falls would be the right answer. With its original name being Mosi-oa-Tunya:”smoke that thunders”, it is situated between Zambia and the country profiled here: Zimbabwe.
What’s it called? Republic of Zimbabwe. The name is derived from “Zimba Remabwe” meaning “Big House of Stone” in Shona, in rememberance of the Empire of the Great Zimbabwe. It used to be called: Southern Rhodesia or Rhodesia
Where is it? In Southern Africa, with neighboring countries: South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique.
What languages do people speak there? English, Shona and Ndebele (These are only official languages, there are many more dialects spoken by different ethnic groups).
And the capital? Harare
I love impressing people by saying a few phrases in their language. How do I say “Thank you” in Shona? – Mazviita. This video will show you what it sounds like.
Let’s talk “landscape and critters”: Mountains in the east, the Limpopo river on the South and the Zambezi river on the North. You’ll also find woodlands and highlands. Here are some animals you might run across if you visit one of Zimbabwe’s parks and sanctuaries: the turquoise kilifish used in ageing research because of its short lifespan and its adaptation to its dry environment, the Zambezi shark and other animals you might expect like zebras, elephants, giraffes and antelopes. It’s important to note that many of the animals, in the past decade or two, have been repeatedly targeted by poachers. Here are a list of parks open to and frequented by tourists and here.
I’m quite clueless about politics in Africa. What’s one basic thing I can throw in a conversation to sound smart? The president of Zimbabwe is Robert Mugabe and has held this position for almost 24 years. You can read more about him here.
Oh yeah, you might want to read a little bit about Great Zimbabwe.
Is there anyone famous that I might know that has a connection with Zimbabwe? Well, the first person that comes to my mind is Tinashe. He’s not well-known in the U.S but in the UK, he’s garnering recognition for his ability to blend traditional instruments (like the mbira) and contemporary ones to create beautiful music.
I’m a Poli Sci major and a history buff. Can you recommend a website where I can get some historical background on Zimbabwe? I would point you to BBC News to get you started on that.
Now, you got me really curious about Zimbabwe. How can I find out what’s happening there right now? I’d start with Yahoo News.
Finally, here are some interesting facts about social norms. According to Wiki Travel, clapping twice is a way of saying Thank you. When you receive something, accepting it with both hands is frowned upon, because it represents being greedy. When you are handing something of significance to someone, you may support your right hand with your left to symbolize the weightiness of the item. (I’ve seen older people do this so many times but I never knew what it meant).