During the 13th-16th centuries, there arose in southern Africa a powerful Shona empire centered on a walled city located in the southeast of Zimbabwe. The city is known as Great Zimbabwe. It was a major trading centre which traded actively with the Arabs and the Portuguese. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and yes, this city gave the modern state of Zimbabwe its name.The grandeur of Great Zimbabwe was a pleasant surprise. I had anticipated nothing more than a pile of stones with a hyped Unesco listing. Instead I learnt about a little-reported civilization with wonderful stone masonry and a rather chic sense of aesthetics.