Zimbabwe has a generous sampling of the Africa that many people hope to see: exotic scenery, interesting cultures and a good variety of game parks. It also has a few things you might not expect to see, including Great Zimbabwe, the most extensive ruins in sub-Saharan Africa.
Without a doubt, the highlight of Zimbabwe is the dramatic Victoria Falls, which the country shares with neighboring Zambia. There, the mighty Zambezi River crashes into the Batoka Gorge and is deservedly one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.
Despite these attractions, however, Zimbabwe experienced a variety of self-inflicted political and economic problems in the 2000s, largely backed by longtime President Robert Mugabe. The government's plan to redistribute white-owned land to black Zimbabweans threw the country into turmoil and led to violence. Additionally, a crackdown on any criticism of the government resulted in the imprisonment of opposition leaders, newspaper shutdowns, elections riddled with accusations of intimidation and vote rigging, white flight (particularly of residents holding British passports) and a weakening economy.
President Robert Mugabe remains in power and some of the political problems persist today—albeit on a smaller and less frequent scale. The good news is that Zimbabwe's economy has improved greatly and therefore so has the quality of everyday life for most Zimbabweans. Economic reform was instigated when the country abandoned its own spiraling currency (the Zimbabwe dollar) in favor of the U.S. dollar in 2009. This led to food, fuel and other basic products being imported again, along with growth in the employment market and a renewed interest in investment in the country. It also made Zimbabwe attractive for those spending foreign currency, which in turn provides local jobs, especially in the tourism sector.
Zimbabwe has plenty of attractions of its own, but its location in southern Africa also means that travel here can easily be combined with visits to neighboring Botswana, Namibia and Zambia—these countries are just over the border from the town of Victoria Falls. They also offer equally compelling and impressive game parks, such as Botswana's Chobe National Park or Okavango Delta, Namibia's Zambezi Region (formerly the Caprivi Strip) or Zambia's colonial town of Livingstone and lodges along the lower Zambezi.
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