Harare is the capital city of Zimbabwe, the country affectionately named as the jewel of Africa by Julius Nyerere. Home to over a million people from various cultures and ethnicities, it offers experiences that are diverse and memorable for visitors to the city. Nicknamed as the Sunshine City, for its beautiful weather that shines through the tree lined streets that provide an umbrella of shade with rays of light shining through.
When most people think of Harare they imagine a very hostile population, given all the economic woes reported in the media. When Ghanaian singer Rocky Dawuni visited Harare for a festival for the first time, he said “Harare is a very relaxed, calm and welcoming city.”
Most visitors travel for business and therefore have little time to explore the whole country. There is a little bit of everything to enjoy in Harare, from authentic art, culture and food. Listed are my top five picks of places to visit in Harare.
WHERE HARARE BEGAN – HARARE KOPJE FITNESS FANATICS
What better way to start your day around town than a good workout at Kopje Hill? Open to the public, it is home to fitness fanatics from the city who like to exercise in the area. One can visit with their gym gear and join in on the fun. You can also enjoy clear views of the central business district through a toposcope at the top of the hill. This is where the city was founded by the British Pioneer Column in 1890, and was called Fort Salisbury. The rocky hill is covered in trees and other plant life. Annually for Independence celebrations the torch is lighted at the top of the hill to the national gathering. Once the home of Fort Salisbury is the same place we celebrate our independence. It is also important to take note that the Kopje area is a high security zone, guarded by the Zimbabwean military, hence, it is important to keep to the rules of the area while visiting as some parts of the road are off limits. The advantage of the presence of military forces is that it is a safe place to visit.
JOIN THE AFRO FITTERS FOR A WORKOUT CALLED AFRO ZUNZA (SHONA FOR SHAKE OFF)
THE FESTIVAL AND CULTURE LOVERS
If you so happen to be here during festival time, you’re in luck. The city plays host to several festivals throughout the year. Harare is named after a Shona chief who, according to legend, could not sleep. True to this, the city never sleeps as locals have taken this to heart and always have something to celebrate into the small hours of the morning, inculding a variety of festivals. The biggest in Harare, and one of the biggest in Southern Africa is the Harare International Festival of the Arts – HIFA, which takes place annually in April. Local and international artists alike take to the stage to give live performances of music and theatre. Art and crafts are also available for sale. September brings the urban culture festival, SHOKO, featuring comedy shows, hip-hop and urban music and complementary community programmes. During the rest of the year there are monthly festivals hosted with set dates. Foodies can enjoy the Market at Queen – held at Queen of Hearts restaurant in Highlands. Music lovers looking for something a little different can look out for the Unplugged Zimbabwe Music Festival, hosted at various venues. You will be treated to live performances by urban Zimbabwean artistes.
THE HIFA IS UNDOUBTEDLY THE BIGGEST HIGHLIGHT OF THE YEAR!
FOODIES AND COFFEE FANATICS
Zimbabwe’s culinary scene has a wealth of local food brands and culinary artisans. The absence of many international franchises has given Zimbabwean brands an opportunity to innovate. Foodies will especially enjoy the Asian foodmarket at Maarsdop Market on Friday nights. It provides many tourists and locals an opportunity to enjoy gourmet and multicultural cuisine. Food artisans to look out for include, Dhonanzi, the first gourmet doughnut gurus, who also retail at Bread and Co Bakery at Arundel Village. The gourmet burgers and hot wings stall, Burger Boys, has a unique selection of burgers. Ice-cream lovers can indulge in rolled gourmet ice cream from Treat and Co. They also have a stall in Food Lovers Market, Avondale. For the carnivores, arguably the best steak Zimbabwe has to offer is at Chop Chop Grill House in the Avenues area of Harare. Those with a taste for cocktails can enjoy Pariah State, in Pomona for the finest mixology skills in town. For an alternative to restaurants, visit Mbare Musika market for the best local fruits and veg.
HARAREANS LOVE THEIR MEAT, STOP BY CHOP CHOP GRILL HOUSE FOR SOME OF THE BEST STEAKS
FASHIONISTAS AND LOCAL HIPSTERS
A memento is a must when ending your visit to any country. Take a trip to Avondale flea-market, which is open seven days a week, to find a great bargain on local fashions, arts and crafts.
Hot ticket items are the sadza batik designs and block print home décor items. A tie and dye headwrap and wrapskirt set for the ladies and kaftan for the men. African print outfits and items are also available, as well as T-shirts emblazoned with patriotic slogans, ‘I am proudly Zimbabwean’ and ‘AMA ZIM ZIM.’
Follow these young creatives on Instagram for more, @hambanow and @amazimzim_official
MAKE SURE TO GRAB YOURSELF SOME HOT FASHION ITEMS OR CURIOUS CURIOS FROM THE MARKETS
NATURE AND ANIMAL LOVERS
One can escape the concrete jungle when the city buzz gets too hectic, to enjoy the vegetation surrounding Harare. While a prime safari can be found in Hwange National Park, Harare has game parks where one can still experience wildlife. Mukuvisi Woodlands in Msasa provides such a haven for the urban dwellers, with wild animals and a bird sanctuary. Tree huggers and yogis can enjoy the serenity of the Harare Botanical Gardens in Alex Park area, another hotspot for nature and fitness lovers. Those yearning for beautiful rocky hills will find Chiremba Balancing Rocks in the Epworth Settlement as the next best thing. The balancing rocks appear on the Zimbabwean currency and the famous last series of bank notes during the hyperinflation era (one can find these bank notes as a souvenir now). Take a drive to Lake Chivero for picnics, camping, boating and fishing.
THE BALANCING ROCKS ARE SEEN AS A NATIONAL MONUMENT AND FEATURE ON THE NATIONAL CURRENCY