Khami Ruins Zimbabwe
Khami ruins, often called lesser Zimbabwe in reference to Great Zimbabwe ruins, was, to me, equally as impressive as its larger more important sister.
About 20km west of Bulawayo, Khami ruins is dominated by a series of stone ruins, terraced into the hillside. At one point it was the home of the Zimbabwean king and his family so I can’t quite figure out why it’s thought of as a “lesser” site than Great Zimbabwe. It is thought to have been in use from around 1450 to the early 1800’s.
Near to the largest platform which was home to the royal family, is a large stone that has a Dominican cross carved into it. Actually, the cross is carved out of the rock. The rock has been carved away leaving the cross. The cross and its design seem to be quite a mystery, mostly with regard to its relevance to ancient Zimbabwean culture. The strongest train of thought is that it shows early contact between local Zimbabweans and Christian missionaries.
Landscape of the Khami Ruins Zimbabwe
What will you see at Khami Ruins?
Not as well preserved as Great Zimbabwe, Khami Ruins are however still quite clear in their use and purposes. There have been some incredible archaeological finds at Khami ruins including Ming dynasty porcelain, some Portuguese replicas of Chinese artifacts (which is a little strange I think), some Rhineland stoneware, and even 17th-century Spanish silverware. Khami’s proximity to the ports on the East African coast along with these discoveries suggests it was a major player as a central trading post for this region of Zimbabwe.
The History of Khami Ruins
It is thought to have been abandoned during the Ndebele incursions in the mid to late 1800’s. Moving up from the Transvaal in what is now South Africa, the Zulu forces moved into the region closely followed by the British and Portuguese. This article explains the Ndebele Incursions and is the easiest one to read that I’ve found.
The main population of Khami lived in daga huts comprised of a composition of mud brick and stone. Our guide told us that they thought the difference between mud-brick and stone might reflect the standing of that particular family, or possibly whether the structure was mean to be temporary or permanent. There is one line of thinking that the mud-brick constructions may have happened after a marriage and during a time when both families were working hard to bring in a harvest or survive a harsh summer. It is assumed that a more permanent structure would have then been build during a quieter time in the year. The commoner’s village was surrounded by a series of stone walls that both separated and protected the community. Built with a very high level of workmanship, the walls were not simply for separation and protection. They held (and still do in some areas) a very impressive range of decorations and design work.
There is a little museum which I would also recommend checking out. It is only small but it has some great historical photos that are worth a look.
A modern-day damn exists close to the ruins and is worth a look. It’s just a dam but the surrounding vegetation is a great example of what would have existed prior to a lot of this region being destroyed by farming.
The Drum Rock
There is also a very interesting rock on the site. You will need to do the guided tour to find it of course, however, it is well worth it. Your guide will take you up to an area with some massive stone boulders and then show you how one stone, that looks no different from the others, rings if you hit it. Yes, you read that correctly. This stong dongs like a bell if you hit it with another rock. None of the surrounding ones seem to do it and if you can tell me why it does this I would be eternally grateful. Researching “ringing rock” seems to have got me nowhere.
A video of Chris ringing this massive rock is below. I took it into the sun so poor Chris is but a shadow of himself, but it shows really distinctly the difference in the sound that this one particular stone makes in comparison with the others in the area. Maybe it’s an alien rock??
Getting to Khami Ruins
From Bulawayo you can grab a Kombi or taxi. A Kombi would be your best bet and I would suggest asking at one of the local cafe's where you might get onto one. There are buses as well in Bulawayo, as it is a bigger town, however you would have to check if they head out on the road to Khami Ruins. I don't imagine they would go direct but there is most likely one that goes past. ZUPCO buses are the main bus company however their website was down last time I checked.
Accommodation in Bulawayo
There are a lot of accommodation options in Bulawayo from hostels and mostly affordable hotels to more upmarket establishments. I stayed at this Breeze Guest house for a night just to get off the truck and loved it. It even had a pool! They do have rooms with shared bathrooms and rooms with an ensuite (only about $3 more when I booked) so just be aware what you are selecting. Its also only about 1km from the center of town which is a little rare in affordable accommodation in Bulawayo. Be aware however that Bulawayo is not cheap. Hostels ran about $40 per night which is why I spent $41 and did the guest house. A few of the hostels are also around 6-8 km from the center of town so it will pay to check that.
Search in the box below for something that suits your dates and price range.