Zimbabwe is located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. The country's name was taken from a ruined mediaeval city known as Great Zimbabwe. The word is thought to derive from "Dzimba dza mabwe," meaning "great houses of stone" in the Shona language.
Great Zimbabwe was the capital of the Empire of Zimbabwe. The 12th-15th century stone ruins extend over a 722 hectare area, near the town of Masvingo (previously Fort Victoria). The word "Great" distinguishes the site from the many smaller ruins, or Zimbabwes, spread across the highveld.
The monumental walls of Great Zimbabwe were built without mortar. Construction continued for over 300 years, and the ruins are some of the oldest in Southern Africa. The site's most formidable edifice, commonly referred to as the Great Enclosure, has walls as high as 36 feet (11 m) and extends approximately 820 feet (250 m), making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert.