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Harare is the capital city and the base of operations for all incoming flights, trains and even self-drive trips around the country. With a wonderful climate – warm to hot in summer and cool and dry in winter, the city has a natural tendency to look attractive with its wide streets and lovely trees and champagne air.
Of main interest are the craft markets and the unique Shona sculptures which are prolifically created throughout the region from wood or soapstone. The city is built in the highveld, 1,500m above sea level and was first developed by early pioneers looking for gold. Originally called Salisbury in Cecil John Rhodes’ time, the city has seen three dramatic changes in government; from the British to the Rhodesians to Robert Mugabe’s Shona party ZANU-PF.
The name “harare” is borrowed from the first Shona inhabitants called Ne-Harawa after the regional chief – Haarare (“one who does not sleep”). Built on top of a kopje (inselberg), it was controlled by the Mbare people who inevitable fought with the next tribe to come along; Chief Gutsa and his followers. The Mbare people eventually moved up north of the Zambezi Valley while the Chief Gutsa was overtaken by the arrival of Major Frank Johnson who led the British South Africa Company.
Used mainly as an overnight stop before or after a safari, as it has several very good hotels convenient to the airport. There are a few safari lodges which are not far from the city that offer game viewing activities as well as great opportunities for day trips.