Great Zimbabwe © Jan Derk
The capital of Zimbabwe during the Iron Age and dating back to the 11th century, Great Zimbabwe was home to the royal palace and an estimated 18,000 people in its heyday. At some point the city was abandoned, and now it stands empty and ruined, with its most prominent features being the mighty stone walls that reach 16 feet (5m) high, and the famous Zimbabwean Birds that were perched on top of eight monoliths around the city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ruins are majestic and impressive, and form the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert. Exploring the ruined city is extremely thrilling; it is a mysterious place, inviting flights of the imagination and with a palpable sense of age.