Bulawayo is the second-largest city in Zimbabwe after the capital Harare, with, as of the 2012 census, a population of 653,337. It is located in Matabeleland, 439 km (273 mi) southwest of Harare, and is now treated as a separate provincial area from Matabeleland. The capital of Matabeleland North is now Lupane, as Bulawayo is a stand-alone province.
Colloquially Bulawayo is also known by various names, these being the "City of Kings", "Skies", "Bluez", "Bulliesberg" or "KoNtuthu ziyathunqa" – a Ndebele phrase for "a place that continually exudes smoke". This name arose from the city's historically large industrial base. The majority of the Bulawayo's population belongs to the Ndebele ethnic and language group.
For a long time in Zimbabwe's history Bulawayo was regarded as the industrial centre of Zimbabwe and the city served as the hub to the country's rail network with the National Railways of Zimbabwe headquartered there because of its strategic position near Botswana and South Africa. It is the nearest large city to Hwange National Park, Matobo National Park and Victoria Falls.