Mutare is the third largest city in Zimbabwe, with an urban population of around 188,243 and rural population of around 260,567. It is the capital of Manicaland province.
Mutare was founded in 1897 as a fort, about 8 km from the border with Mozambique, and is just 290 km from the Mozambican port of Beira, earning Mutare the title of "Zimbabwe's Gateway to the Sea". It is sometimes also called "Gateway to the Eastern Highlands". Many Zimbabwean locals refer to it as 'Kumakomoyo' (place of many mountains).There is a border railway station on the railway line from Harare to Beira with a railways mechanical work shop.
The area was the site of Chief Mutasa's kraal. In 1890 A.R. Coquhoun was given concessionary rights and Fort Umtali (the fort later became Mutare) was established between the Tsambe and Mutare Rivers. The word mutare originates from the word 'Utare' meaning iron (or possibly meaning gold). The name was probably given to the river as a result of gold being discovered in the Penhalonga valley through which the Mutare River runs.
In 1891 the location was moved to a site now known as Old Mutare, about 14 km north of the city centre. In 1896 the construction of the railway between Beira and Bulawayo led to the town being moved a third time so that it was closer to the railway line - compensation was paid by the British South Africa Company to the townspeople for the cost of moving. The town was proclaimed a municipality in 1914 and in 1971 it was granted city status. The name was officially changed from Umtali to Mutare in 1982.
There used to be a tramway, which transported passengers from the Railway station up to the (then Umtali Club) now Mutare Club. The Tramway was at the centre of Main Street where the palm trees now stand
There were plans to set up a Stock Exchange in Umtali. The main post office was at the site where CABS centre now stands. There is a siren which has a horn audible in almost any location in the city. It rings at the National Railways of Zimbabwe Complex at 7:50 am, 7:00 am 12:00 noon 1:00pm and 4:30pm.
Despite its tropical location, the city has a temperate climate. The average annual temperature is 19 °C, surprisingly low for its moderate altitude (about the same as Harare which is 360 metres higher.) This is due to its sheltered position against the mountain ridge of Cecil Kop which encourages cool breezes from lower altitude to the east and south. The coldest month is July (minimum 6 °C and maximum 20 °C) and the hottest month is October (minimum 16 °C and maximum 32 °C). The annual rainfall is 818 mm. Rain falls mostly in the months December to February although heavy showers are possible before and after this period. The wettest month on record was January 1926 which received 580 mm while January 1991 received only 24 mm.
The town lies north of the Bvumba Mountains and south of the Imbeza Valley. Christmas Pass is a mountain pass that leads into the city from the west. The pass was so named by some of the colonial pioneers who camped at the foot of the pass on Christmas Day 1890.
Mutare is home to the Mutare Museum, the Utopia House Museum dedicated to Kingsley Fairbridge, the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, Murahwa Hill, known for its rock paintings and Iron Age village, Cross Kopje with a memorial to Zimbabweans and Mozambicans killed in World War I and a nature reserve Cecil Kopje and Tigers Kloof. The Mutare Boys' High Chapel was constructed in honour of former Old boys who perished in World War II, situated on a hilly knoll at Mutare Boys High then Umtali Boys High
Mutare is served by rail with daily passenger and freight links to the towns of Nyazura, Rusape and Harare. There are two small Aerodromes the smallest is at Mutare Provincial Hospitall a very small light aircraft strip for emmergency evacuation (now defunct) and a light plane Aerodrome in Sakubva near Mutare Teachers College. There is yet a third airport constructed in Chiadzwa to carry diamonds for processing in Harare..
The population is predominantly Shona, the majority of them speaking the Manyika dialect. Manyika people are locally known as Samanyikas. According to the 2012 preliminary census data, Mutare has a population of 188 243 ; 88 957 being male and 99 286 females . This marks a rapid increase from a population of 69,621 in 1982 and 131,367 in 1992.