Bulawayo and Matopos
Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe, with a population of more than a million people. Known as “The City of Kings”, Bulawayo is a multicultural city with residents able to speak at least three languages (including English, Ndebele, Zulu, Xhosa, Kalanga, Sotho and SeSwati). Bulawayo has been considered the business capital of Zimbabwe and is strategically close to Botswana and South Africa. It is the nearest large city to Hwange National Park, Matopo National Park and Victoria Falls.
The Bulawayo area has been populated since prehistoric times. The San (Bushman) people created their unique rock art in the caves of the Matobo Hills, the Rozvi kings built a stone city at Khami and the Ndebele nation gave the city its name. The city of Bulawayo was founded by the Ndebele king, uMzilikazi kaMatshobana around 1840 after the Ndebele people's great trek from Zululand. During the 1893 Matabele War the invasion by British South Africa Company troops led the then king, Lobengula to flee from his burning capital and head north. British troops and white settlers then occupied the town, and in November 1893, Leander Starr Jameson declared Bulawayo a settlement under the rule of the British South Africa Company. Cecil John Rhodes ordered that the new settlement be built on the ruins of Lobengula's royal town, which is where the State House stands today. In 1897, the new town of Bulawayo acquired the status of municipality, and in 1943, Bulawayo became a city.
Bulawayo boasts several interesting tourist attractions, including: the Museum of Natural History, showing magnificent displays of human history, minerals, African birds, insects and mammals, including the second largest mounted elephant in the world; the Railway Museum, with its collection of historical steam locomotives, rolling stock and station buildings, and a variety of exhibits dating from the earliest days of railway history; the Centenary and Central Parks, which were originally designed and constructed for the 1953 Central Africa Centenary Exhibition. The parks feature many palm-lined paths and expansive lawns, colourful flower displays, an aviary, putting course and a miniature railway which runs at weekends. There is also the National Art Gallery, which displays the beautifully restored colonial Douslin House, with a collection of traditional and modern art. A number of handmade batiks can be purchased here, as well as artwork, curios, sculptures, beadwork and genuine tribal artifacts.
In addition to these, there are a number of fantastic sites that are all within short distances from Bulawayo. These include: The Matobo Hills National Park, with its spiritual history, incredible natural beauty, and a very important White Rhino conservation program; The Khame Ruins, showing extensive terraces and passages supported by massive, late Iron Age stone walling, with relics and artefacts on display that are dated at over 10 000 years old; The Tshabalala Sanctuary, which is just 10km from Bulawayo, and contains herds of Zebra, Giraffe, Kudu, Impala, Wildebeest and Hartebeest and other smaller species; The Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage, which is a wildlife breeding and research centre, and home for orphaned, sick or abandoned wild animals, including lion, leopard, cheetah, black rhino and numerous antelope; and Mguza Nature Reserve, with hundreds of bird species. And just a few hours to the north is the world-famous Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls.