Bulawayo was Southern Rhodesia’s first capital, founded in 1897. A charming, slightly run down town full of colonial buildings, bungalows with overgrown gardens and a relaxed, laid back atmosphere. In its heyday, Bulawayo Station was known to have the world’s longest railway platform…and to keep adding a few feet every time its record was broken !
Bulawayo is the present day capital of Matabeleland, home to the N’debele tribe, descendants of a breakaway Zulu faction which migrated here in the 19th century. The N’debele were at the losing end of a power struggle with the dominant Shona after Independence in the 1980’s and the government has essentially abandoned Bulawayo for the past 30 years.
We stay at the Nesbitt Castle, an anachronistic medieval castle built by an eccentric Rhodesian in the 1920’s, full of hidden nooks and crannies, crenellated turrets and secret passages.
With hardly a modern building in town, Bulawayo has a languid, slightly decrepit colonial air to it. It’s an easy town to like and we promised ourselves to visit again.