Even though for years now, Zimbabwe has been the headline of economic retrogression and a beautiful destination that has been listed by various media as having to be entered at one’s own risk, today a sweep through the capital city will show you that the sun has not totally set on the “Sunshine City”, Harare. In fact, a new dawn arises for the metropolitan and capital city of Zimbabwe, Harare.
Interestingly, Harare is a city of many faces, with unlimited opportunities for the discerning tourist. It is a splendid mix of the old and new combined. Different places within the city tell different stories of the same place; and no matter how one would like to see Harare, it still stands out as the “Sunshine City of Africa.”
Harare generally has pleasant temperatures throughout the year and wears different faces depending on the season.
In spring, the city wears a splendid purple bloom of the Jacaranda that lines most of the City’s avenues, which lasts not more than 7-8 weeks of every year. This vibrant bloom is quickly replaced by a lush green overcoat with the coming of the rain season and through winter.
Though most roads in Harare have been long stripped of meaningful advertisements, and you are most likely to stumble through potholes at some point, and even have to risk going through non-functional traffic lights, Harare still offers a pot-luck of fascination.
A view of the city from Harare Kopje or simple night drive along Samora Machel Avenue with the beautiful neon lights hanging from the skyscrapers exudes an ambience that is phenomenal in the almost empty streets.
Around the parameters of the central business district, are two garden parks, the lovely Africa Unity Square and Harare Gardens. Though the fountains of Africa Unity Square are rarely working, the garden still offers a pleasant stop-over from the sun during the hotter seasons.
On the same hand Harare Gardens, besides offering a good nature break from the hustle and bustle of the city, is a good venue for so many events. It is the traditional home of the world renowned Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), and also the back garden of the Zimbabwe National Gallery where one can experience the diversity of Zimbabwean arts and crafts. It also houses the famous Theatre in the Park, which showcases some of the most interesting and witty theatrical acts mostly produced by Zimbabweans to tell certain stories of life in Zimbabwe.
A trip to the National Archives, Queen Victoria Museum, or the National Heroes Acre, where there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, will be a worthwhile visit for the history loving tourist.
First Street Mall, which is in the heart of the CBD has its own unique face from most parts of the city. It is a hype of activity throughout the day. The havoc of vendors touting to make an air time sale, against the sympathetic but yet sweet music of a blind beggar, muffled by the parched voice of the Pentecostal preacher who is trying to be heard and yet still competing for an audience with a usually drunk tight rope walker, who mocks at the audience in an attempt to make jest. This beautiful chaos is complemented by amateur actors who have created a new genre of acting duly dubbed street theatre, have won the hearts of a quite a multitude who have a few minutes to spare for vain frivolity.
Other shopping malls like Joina City, which is the newest mall with 24 floors of office space, Arundel Village, Sam Levy Village, Borrowdale Brook, Newlands, Avondale and Westgate provide unique shopping experiences.
Downtown Harare, towards the city’s oldest township Mbare, the tempo quickens. Everything is a whole lot faster and louder. It is like going to a totally different country or town altogether. There are no high rise beauties like the Joina City Mall, but rather small old buildings that tell stories of the past era.
Here touts bid for customers to get into shops over the sound of loud banging beat boxes usually churning out the local Sungura music or at times kwaito from SouthAfrica.
Speedy reckless taxi drivers with touts clinging on the commuter omnibus doors jump on and of the ride and literally fight for customers. Everything is just a mad, crazy race.
Mini markets are set up along the road and human barricades of vendors selling air time, sim cards, candy and all sorts shout on top of their voices selling their wares seemingly unaware of the heavy sewer stench that hangs over them. Multitudes loaf around the footpaths window-shopping and not really in any rush, probably confirming that there really isn’t any rush in Africa but altogether filling the place in completing the picture of down-town Harare.
At the end of a day is a rush hour as multitudes upon multitudes flock the various commuter omnibus termini in a bid to get home for a well deserved rest. It is all in a day’s work for the typical Hararian but a spectacle not easily forgotten by a visitor to the “Sunshine City’ – Harare