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Harare, Zimbabwe (Photo Diary)

On over ten occasions, when we were stopped by police on the way to Harare, our initial dread was unfounded; all they wanted to know was “So, how are you enjoying Zimbabwe, shaa?”. We were heading for the capital to pick up a sim card, some dollars (it’s cash only here, no credit cards and the Zimbabwean dollar has been replaced by the US) and to plan the next stage of our journey.


Male circumcision is one of the top defenders against HIV billboard, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Mad Bob's advice on billboards on the way in to Harare. Incidentally, we were warned that if we see smart motorbikes with flashing lights, Mugabe's cavalcade is on the move and we must get off the road as far as we can go to make way or his body guards will open fire with RPMs which are like AK47s but with revolving barrels. The ambulance that follows up the rear is not for any other casualties except in the event that Mugabe himself is injured.


Arriving in the city in the late afternoon, we had assumed that we would easily find a safe place to set up camp but with so few tourists coming to Zimbabwe for so many years, every campsite mentioned in our guide books had closed long ago. Thankfully a guard at one of these disused plots of unkempt ground suggested that we try the Cleveland Dam. It is not signposted and has no facilities apart from a tap but what fabulous views and sunsets. As far as we can tell, this is the only place left to camp in Harare.


Lachlan holding Chimbuku with Bow Wow at Cleveland Dam, Harare, Zimbabwe.

We managed to pick up some of the local "brain kicking" beer that the Great Zimbabwe guides had raved about called Scud (apparently as in scud missile as it sends you to the moon) or Chimbuku. It is made from the drought resistant crop, sorghum and they described it as like food and drink - so filling you don't need to eat. On the banks of the Cleveland Dam we gave it a whirl but decided that this foul smelling, sour gruel is definitely an acquired taste.


The following day, there was much excitement when I entered Harare’s almost inactive Information Centre. Someone actually ducked out to buy a pen. Lachlan waited with the car, expecting me to return laden with shiny brochures but I came back empty handed as there was only one of every faded, dog eared pamphlet I picked up and they all read “Do not remove”. The staff, however, were informative and explained that camping around Zimbabwe is now, for the most part, only possible within national parks… where dogs are not allowed. We were going to have to get creative. As I thanked them and said goodbye, all of their screens flicked back to Facebook.


Zimbabwean showing cool clashing clothing in Harare, Zimbabwe.

How to clash on Harare's streets.


Busy market place with truck, fruit and vegetables in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Surrounded by a swarm of begging street kids, we browsed this vibrant market and hoped we might find craftspeople to develop products with for Vagabond Van.


Harare market with beans and cans, Zimbabwe.

Along with these beans displayed in recycled cans there were mounds of dried fish and huge sacks of tobacco.


Lady selling fruit at Harare market

We bet this beauty sells a lot of fruit.


Music stall at Harare market, Zimbabwe.

Harare jukebox featuring the all time greatest hits.


Children playing at Harare Market, Zimbabwe.

Market traders in the making.


African curios at Harare market, Zimbabwe.

Not what we were looking for. The hunt for Vagabond Van products continued.


Interesting patterns at Harare market, Zimbabwe.

Spied patterns through patterns.


Colourful Chinese dress at Harare market with fruit pattern, Zimbabwe.

Gloriously kitsch, but unfortunately most of the textiles were made in China.


Zimbabwean with dollars in front of Play Smile dance love live life mural, Harare, Zimbabwe.

That psychedelic artwork should include the word 'hustle'.


Chimbuku is smart and portable, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Shame it doesn't taste good.

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6 Responses to “Harare, Zimbabwe (Photo Diary)”

  1. Randy says:

    Great photo essay! You guys are definitely off the beaten path. I love it. Can’t wait to see where you go next!

  2. Kathy says:

    Really enjoying your travels! I teach African art history and am planning an exhibition and catalogue at our university (Cleveland State University in Ohio, USA) a few years down the road–I ran into your blog because I was searching “Tonga beer.” I loved your photos of the traditional beer in commercial cartons and wondered if it would be possible to get permission to use it in our catalogue?

    Best wishes in your endeavors! Nigeria was my homeland for a while, and I still miss it.

  3. Hi Kathy, thanks so much for reading :) Of course you can use this, it’s very kind of you to ask. You can also watch me tasting some of the beer in this video, , which I can assure you is no western lager! If you need hi-res pics/video, please let us know. All we ask is that you credit/link us.
    Best wishes, Lachlan (& Lucie & Bow Wow)

  4. Nancy says:

    Hey this is awesome! I am Zimbabwean and it’s so fun to read how you interpret what you see. I am sure you eventually figured out that the arts and crafts sector has all but vanished (at least compared to what it was), however do feel free to reach out to me if you need more information on this sector.
    Tip: Learn to speak the local greetings and you will endear yourself to the locals, including the police :)

  5. Yes we did find it difficult to find much. We still get our copper and zinc bands made there for The Band4Hope Project. We’re selling them to people all over the world now, spreading hope and raising money for charity.

  6. Kathy Curnow says:

    Hi, all! We’re assembling the catalogue now and the designer is asking me to beg you for a higher resolution version of the billboard, if it isn’t too difficult to retrieve. I so appreciate your kindness in letting us use the attributed image! Best wishes, Kathy

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