Land of the Baobabs – Zimbabwe


We’re visiting Zimbabwe at a time when they’ve just had general elections, and President Robert Mugabe has just been elected for an 8th term as President, amidst allegations of voter irregularities.

I have only ever visited Zimbabwe once to attend a conference, and spent my entire time there closeted in meetings at the capital Harare, so I cannot recount any personal experiences of the country.

Our information for our study is therefore mostly thanks to Wikipedia …

We learn that Zimbabwe has formerly been known as Southern RhodesiaRhodesia, and Zimbabwe Rhodesia. The first recorded use of “Zimbabwe” as a term of national reference was in 1960, when it was coined by the black nationalist Michael Mawema, whose Zimbabwe National Party became the first to officially use the name in 1961.

The name “Zimbabwe” is based on a Shona term for Great Zimbabwe, an ancient ruined city in the country’s south-east whose remains are now a protected site.

The country has 16 official languages, with EnglishShona and Ndebele being most common.

The country is mostly savanna, although the moist and mountainous east supports tropical evergreen and hardwood forests. Trees include teak and mahogany, knobthorn, msasa and baobab. Among the numerous flowers and shrubs are hibiscus, spider lily, leonotus, cassia, tree wisteria and dombeya.

The distinctive Baobab tree seen throughout Zimbabwe.

The distinctive Baobab tree seen throughout Zimbabwe.

There are around 350 species of mammals that can be found in Zimbabwe. There are also many snakes and lizards, over 500 bird species, and 131 fish species.


Some fun facts about Zimbabwe:

  • Zimbabwe was ruled over by Mutapa Empire, renowned for its gold trade routes with Arabs, but the Mutapa Empire was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 17th century. In 1834, the Ndebele people arrived in Zimbabwe, making it a new empire, known as Matabeleland. In 1880s, the British arrived and the name Southern Rhodesia was adopted in 1898. In 1980, the country attained independence, along with a new name – Zimbabwe.
  • Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe are locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders,” and they are the largest waterfalls in the world. See video

    Mosi-oa-tunye - the smoke that thunders

    Mosi-oa-tunye – the smoke that thunders

  • Mapungubwe, located in present-day Zimbabwe, was the largest ancient kingdom in the sub-continent, before it was abandoned in the fourteenth century.
  • Lake Kariba, constructed on the Zambezi River, is one of the world’s largest manmade lakes in the world.

We round off our Zimbabwe study with a traditional Zimbabwean meal of Sadza and Dovi.

Sadza (Cornmeal Porridge)

The cornmeal-based dietary staple of Zimbabwe is the national dish. Sadza is to the Zimbabweans what rice is to the Chinese or pasta is to the Italians. “In fact, sadza re masikati, or ‘sadza of the afternoon’ simply means lunch. Sadza re manheru, or “sadza of the evening” means dinner. Sadza is made from cornmeal or maize and eaten with relish. ‘Relish’ can be any kind of vegetable stew, but nyama (meat) such as beef or chicken is common among families who can afford it. Sadza is cooked slowly until thick, like porridge.”


  • 4 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups cornmeal


Bring 3 cups of the water to a boil in a large pot. Combine 1½ cups of the cornmeal with the remaining 1 cup water. Reduce heat to medium to low and add the cornmeal mixture to the boiling water, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 5 minutes. Slowly adding the remaining 1 cup of cornmeal. When the mixture is very thick and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, transfer to a serving bowl or plate. Use a wooden spoon to shape the mixture into a round shape. You may use wet hands to help shape the sadza . Serve with stew. (This recipe & info came from


Dovi (Zimbabwe Chicken Stew)


  • 2 medium diced onions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 chopped green bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tomatoes (or more to taste)
  • 6 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach (or 1/2 pound fresh)


Cook onions with butter on medium-high heat in a big stew pot until browned. Add garlic, salt and seasonings. Add the green peppers and chicken. And cook until chicken is no longer opaque. Add the tomatoes and mash to soften. Add about 1 1/2 cups water (or use broth if you like) and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add half the peanut butter to the pot, reduce heat, and continue to simmer about 5-10 minutes. Add the rest of the peanut butter and the spinach into the pot. Stir all together and simmer 5-10 minutes more.(This recipe came from

Next:  (The posting of this article was delayed due to a fabulous holiday in Mauritius) Next up therefore – MAURITIUS!


Mozzie-with-a-beak (Mozambique)


Ha-ha! How my husband refers to Mozambique – he says the mozzies (mosquitoes) there are so big they have beaks!

A satellite image of Mozambique

A satellite image of Mozambique

Mosquitoes and malaria are certainly a problem in Mozambique, and something which travellers need to take note of and be sure to take the necessary precautions.

Having said that, it is also where we spent our most memorable holiday to date as a couple; where as a single, I also enjoyed a fantastic diving holiday with friends; and where I enjoyed numerous holidays as a child. Living in Swaziland as a child, it was a hop over the border and a relatively short trip to the beach.

It is these personal experiences that formed the basis for our study of Mozambique.

As a child, our family holidays were spent on one of the lagoons scattered along the Mozambique coast, at a place then known as San Martinho. I can remember the delight of being able to walk out far in to the ‘ocean’ (really the lagoon), which was calm.

We caravanned there with friends, and I recall one year the adults bought a shark from fishermen which we braaied (barbecued) on the beach. I also remember the big cans of cashew nuts which my Dad would buy to take home with us (an important export).

My husband and I spent a memorable holiday at Ponta de Macaneta some 14 years back. To reach Macaneta, we had to take a ferry across the river at Marracuene, and the locals laughed at us and told us we would never make it to the resort in our Mazda.

Many of these traditional sailboats use by local fishermen can be seen along the coast.

Many of these traditional sailboats used by local fishermen can be seen along the coast.

The roads were rough and made more impassable by rains, which had resulted in mud basins in various places on the dirt roads. We negotiated the first few successfully, and when we did finally become bogged down in one of these morasses, an enthusiastic crowd of local children appeared out of nowhere to help extract us in exchange for a handful of sweets.

The effort of getting there was worth it – we spent a week lounging on an unspoilt beach with the river at our backs. The only other visitors were a group of German tourists who spent almost their entire time there (except for mealtimes at the restaurant) cavorting completely stark naked!

The restaurant served simple (mostly) seafood dishes and still the most delicious prawns I have tasted anywhere.

With friends, I spent a diving holiday along the Mozambique coast that I will always remember. The first few days were spent at a resort near Morrumbene. Making use of the dive centre at the resort, we took several excursions to nearby reefs, and on our dives were blessed with a couple of rare experiences.

On one occasion, we had just surfaced from our dive when we were confronted by and privileged to share the waters with a friendly whale shark.

On another occasion, we were returning from a dive when we had a rare sighting of a humpback whale and her calf.

Diving these unspoilt reefs was an absolute pleasure, with great visibility.

We then travelled to Vilankulo, where we boarded a yacht and spent the next few days diving on reefs around the Bazaruto archipelago – a group of five little islands off the Mozambique coast.

Highlights of this cruise were a visit to Santa Carolina, also known as Paradise Island, and Shell (or Pansy) Island.

The abandoned hotel at Santa Carolina.

The abandoned hotel at Santa Carolina.

Santa Carolina’s history dates back to the 1950’s, when Portuguese businessman and entrepeneur, Joaquim Alves, built a grand 250-room hotel on the island for his Mozambican bride, Donna Ana.

Once a well known and much-loved exclusive playground for the rich and famous in the 1950’s and 60’s, when Mozambique was still a province of Portugal, the hotel remained a popular destination for 20 years. The beautiful little chapel built into the rocks was the venue for many weddings.

Bob Dylan is reputed to have composed his song “Mozambique” on the hotel’s piano (the very same piano being carefully stored at Indigo Bay Island Resort and Spa on Bazaruto Island).

I have to wonder if this is the same piano we saw gathering dust in the ruins of the hotel on our visit there, as the resort on Bazaruto was then still in the early stages of development. An old guest book was also still lying in the ruins.

In 1973, Alves abandoned the hotel towards the end of Mozambique’s ongoing struggle for independence. Santa Carolina was then declared a ‘no go zone’ during the civil war and the hotel was left derelict after years of neglect.

Apparently there are plans afoot to build a new exclusive resort and return this bit of paradise to its former glory.

Pansy Island was another highlight. The island is basically a sand bank one can visit only at low tide. Its treasure is the delicate and rare Pansy shells that can be picked up on the shore.

In other parts of the world, relatives of the Pansy are known as the Sand Dollar, Sea Cookie and Snapper Biscuit and the shell has attained mythical proportions and wonderful tales of its origins, including the lost coins of Atlantis or mermaids.

A wonderful little Christian poem tells the legend of

the pansy:


There’s a pretty little legend
That I would like to tell
Of the birth and death of

The delicate Pansy.

The delicate Pansy.

Found in this lovely shell

If you examine closely
you’ll see that you find here
Four nail holes and a fifth one
Made by the Roman spear

One on each side is the Easter lily
its centre is the star
That appeared unto the shepherds
and led them from afar

The Christmas poinsettia
Etched on the other side
Reminds us of His birthday
our happy Christmastide

Now break the centre open
and here you will release
The five white doves awaiting
To spread goodwill and peace

This simple little symbol
Christ has left for you and me
To help us spread His gospel
Through all eternity.


Some quick facts about Mozambique:

  • Mozambique is officially known as the ‘Republic of Mozambique’, but more popularly known as Mozambique. The country was formerly known as Portuguese East Africa.
  • Did you know that the Portuguese who first arrived at Mozambique at the end of the fifteenth century were led by the famous explorer Vasco da Gama?
  • Unfortunately for the country of Mozambique, it has to put up with severe droughts and destructive cyclones and floods that hit the country’s central and southern provinces.
  • Most of Mozambique’s population comprises of Christians, while Muslims make for a sizeable chunk too.
  • Mozambique faced a period of uncertainty and turmoil from the years 1977 to 1992 when war and famine killed around a million people in the country.
  • Although Lake Niassa is a part of the country of Mozambique, the country still shares it with the countries of Tanzania and Malawi.
  • In 2008, thousands of Mozambicans were forced to leave their homes for the sake of higher ground when the mighty Zambezi River overflowed its banks.
  • There are over 1.4 million orphans in Mozambique, a third of them due to HIV/AIDS. Thousands of these children, an estimated 5000, live on the streets.

NEXT STOP:  Zimbabwe

Kingdom of Swaziland


And so to the Kingdom of Swaziland, the country of my childhood.


I lived there as a child, until the age of about 11 – the age my son is now.

I can still clearly remember attending independence celebrations at the age of 5 when Swaziland was granted independence from Britain.

We learnt from Wikipedia that Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/Aids in the world.

On Youtube we watched the reed dances and talked about how the young virgins come every year to dance for the king. As a polygamist, very often he will select a new wife from among the young virgins.

news_20120712 reed dance

We discussed the Sangoma and Inyanga – traditional diviners and healers. The Sangoma is the diviner who will often go into a trance, and is consulted on matters of death and crimes. The Inyanga is a herbalist and pharmacist – a traditional healer.

Swaziland is rich in the creative arts, and we ‘visited’ the Swazi candle factory, where the most stunning decorated candles are crafted, and also watched a Youtube video of glass blowing at the Ngwenya Glass Factory.

swazi candles       swazi glass

We plan to make some Swazi food for supper this evening.

We will enjoy Harira, a mutton dish. These are the directions for making it:


  • 1 pound mutton
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • cooked rice
  • cooked chickpeas
  • one spring parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper


  • Cut mutton in small pieces and roll into balls.
  • Place in pot of boiling water.
  • Add butter and simmer two hours.
  • After you put the butter add remaining ingredients.
  • Cook and mix often until the mixture boils again.
  • Then roast ten minutes.
  • Serve it very hot in rice bowls.

On the side, we will add an avocado salad, with lemon juice, and spiced with ginger.

YUM!! Sounds good!

NEXT STOP:  Mozambique



And so begins our adventure … AFRICA – second biggest continent in the world, with over 50 countries, hundreds of ethnic groups and many different religions and ways of life.

Home to the Sahara, the world’s biggest desert, and also the Nile, the world’s longest river.

A continent rich in culture and natural resources – home also to the world’s biggest goldfield, and the nesting place of the world’s largest diamonds.

Yet also a continent torn by conflict and civil war, and ravaged by famine, poverty and Aids …

Journey with us and discover … AFRICA.

Lesotho – Kingdom in the Sky


First stop on our journey into Africa – today we travelled into the majestic mountains of Lesotho, a landlocked country within the borders of South Africa.


We learned that Lesotho is unique, being the only nation in the world with all of its land situated more than 3,280 feet (one thousand meters) above sea level.

We talked about the traditional huts, which are constructed with walls and floors of mud and dung, with thatched roofs.


We studied the flag, and learned that the white is symbolic for peace ( khotso ), blue for rain ( pula ), and green for plenty ( nala ).

The conical hat depicted in the centre of the flag is that worn by both men and women. It is usually worn with the wool Basotho blanket, regardless of the season.


We learnt that the small, sturdy Sotho pony is to be seen everywhere in Lesotho, and is adept at negotiating the steep mountains.

Cattle represent wealth in Lesotho and the Basotho value cows above money – often motorists are forced to stop while a wandering cow completes its business.

A great number of Lesotho’s population work in the coal and gold mines in South Africa, and it is left to the young boys and older men to herd livestock and cultivate the land.

Next stop: Swaziland

WORLD! Here we come!


I recently read a blog (can’t remember where), of a home-schooling Mom who is travelling the globe with her young son, learning as they go along – what I wouldn’t give to be able to just pack up and hit the road like that! What an awesome experience it must be!

Since that is not our destiny, our travels will have to be courtesy of the internet and the library. Sigh!!

We begin our much-anticipated literary trip around the world this term. As we  journey, I will try to document our travels and share the links and resources we use along the way.

Since we live in South Africa, we will start with the land-locked countries within South Africa – Swaziland and Lesotho.

After that …

Jambo … Bom Dia … Bonjour … Salaam Aleikum … Hello AFRICA!!!