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Lost kingdom

The deep mystery and architectural mastery of Great Zimbabwe’s towering walls spark questions about ancient civilisations and who built these remote ruins. Mike Main gives us a short history

Rightly a World Heritage Site, cornerstone of Zimbabwe’s attractions, matching if not exceeding the magnificence of the country’s national parks and the Victoria Falls, the iconic ruins at Great Zimbabwe should be on everyone’s agenda. They are unique and extraordinary. Monolithic, grand, awe-inspiring, enigmatic — one cannot walk among them without being profoundly touched by the past and by a sense of wonderment at the achievements of humankind more than 800 years ago. The story of the ruins’ survival to the present day is one of curiosity, luck, utter thoughtlessness and patient perseverance.

Where time stands still. Local children pose before the ancient walls of the Great Enclosure, constructed with nearly a million pieces of carefully carved granite
Peter Groenendijk / Robert Harding Picture Library

The discovery

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