Bulawayo Club – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe - Atlas Obscura

Bulawayo Club

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

A time capsule from 1934 Rhodesia, showing the grace and disgrace of a bygone era. 

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The Bulawayo Club building is a time capsule of a colonial gentlemen’s club. The building was erected in 1934. It remains an extravagant piece of Zimbabwean history. The distinction is still visible, showing the grace and disgrace of a bygone era. 

Like other similar establishments in ex-colonies, the club was established as a social hub for the male white elite; officers of the armed forces and other gentlemen. The club is like a museum, with thousands of hunting trophies and historic paintings, lithographs, prints and other artifacts showing military grandeur, from Napoleon to the British occupiers of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). 

Ladies were allowed in once or twice a year on special occasions, but they had to enter through a side door. The ground floor did not have a women’s restroom. Ladies were not expected in the restaurant, main bar, snooker room or library. On the first floor, a ladies restroom was established, named the Marilyn Monroe Room because of its quirky decor. 

The bar on the first floor is a cozy rugby bar, showcasing decades of Southern African rugby history, with rugby shirts, awards, team photographs, logbooks, and other curiosities. 

While the building was erected in 1934, the Gentleman’s Club itself was established in 1895, a year after modern Bulawayo was founded. The old Bulawayo capital city of Ndebele (Matabele) was burnt down in 1893 by King Lobengula. He fled to Zambezi, after British troops slayed down 10,000 Indigenous warriors with machine guns at Shangani and Bembezi. The reconstruction of Bulawayo began almost as soon as the fires were out, with a new British South Africa Company-run city rising atop the ruins of Lobengula’s former residence. The company was run by Cecil Rhodes and his brother, who established goldmines and a railway connection to Cape Town, South Africa, in 1897. Rhodes named his new territory Rhodesia.

On April 18, 1980, Southern Rhodesia became the independent Republic of Zimbabwe within the Commonwealth of Nations. It took three more decades until the Bulawayo Club was opened to the public in 2009. The place has 15 hotel rooms that are a bit quaint, multiple functional rooms, a library, two bars, and a restaurant open for any visitor—including all genders.

Know Before You Go

The club is open for all genders. Formally, a dresscode exists (see picture).

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