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The economy and understandable but unfounded concerns about the Mugabe government has put a real dent into the tourist trade, with the result that the craftspeople's stalls at the Victoria Falls open-air market had the most inventory in memory in late 2011.
Although you need a tough skin and ability not to be bothered by everyone trying desperately to get you to buy something -- this is a wonderful opportunity for shoppers and art-lovers. Favorite items are the wood and stone Shona sculptures -- particularly of animals and women. There are also nearby stores selling wonderful hand-carved giraffes of all sizes, as well as small tables and stools.
BE PREPARED: If you're flying back to Johannesburg to go home, that counts as an international flight. If the agent at the end of the security line in Vic Falls or at the ticket desk at the Jo'berg airport thinks you're carrying more than the allotted 35 pounds -- you're going to have to think fast and try to reason with him. Try to find a reliable shipper before you start buying, especially in any quanitity. And this is itself a little strange in Vic Falls. The local Fed Ex manager can be very cooperative with estimates on shipping, but they can keep strange hours and -- require CASH.
This is the hardest thing to get used to, and get around, in Vic Falls and, presumably, the rest of Zimbabwe. Although the country now uses the dollar as currency, everyone you'll encounter remembers the years of hyper-inflation. Shopkeepers (and the Fed-Ex office no doubt) who took credit cards back in those days never knew what the value of their eventual payment from the bank would be in 30-60 days. So now they go through every kind of machination in order not to take your credit card.
There is a nice store called "Elephant Walk" next to the open-air market in Vic Falls. It sells wonderful, great-value crocodile purses (croc leather in Africa is like cow leather in the U.S.), belts and silver jewelry such as elephant-hair bracelets. While more expensive than anything in the market, they are also high-quality and CHEAP relatively speaking.
Take plenty of cash for incredible bargain-hunting in Zimbabwe, and
find out about your cash advance capabilities before you leave for
Africa. Consider old-fashioned travelers cheques. Try to solidify your
shipping options beforehand -- for this you should probably consult either your safari guide or the concierge at your hotel. BUT BUY -- the art and crafts are wonderful, and the
people are SO appreciative. The people of Zimbabwe need the support of
tourists to survive the Mugabe regime. Another very cheap but interesting gift: the old Zimbabwe currency hawked by street vendors everywhere. Take home a handful of authentic old Zimbabwe currency in denominations like "500 Million." This makes a very educational souvenir for people, especially children and young adults, who benefit from learning about the ravages of hyper-inflation on a country.