Landlocked, mountainous, and immensely beautiful, Swaziland is not for everyone. The infrastructure lags behind other African countries and luxurious accommodations are nowhere to be found.
Yet, for the inquisitive traveler seeking a window on traditional African culture as a way of life in the 21st century, Swaziland is immensely rewarding.
Because Swaziland is completely surrounded by South Africa, it is thought by many to be a relic of apartheid. Swaziland is in fact the very opposite. It is one of the last remaining true kingdoms in Africa. As such, it offers a unique perspective on a world often beyond our Western imaginations.
Certainly, the Swazis have adopted some elements of modernity. Don’t be surprised to see a Swazi businessman in a colorful amahiya (toga-like robe), with a leather briefcase in his hand.
Yet, in their private lives and in their homes, the belief in the ideals of family and clan and the old way of life is unbreakable.
The Swazi maintain a strong conviction in and reliance upon the rules, rituals, and ceremonies of their heritage. For ceremonies and even everyday occasions, Swazis wear traditional garments: feathered headdresses, wild animal skins, shields, knobkerries, spears, and the amahiya.
While this small country is the last in sub-Saharan Africa to be ruled by an absolute monarch, currently, Mswati III, it is the Queen Mother who presides over the spiritual life of the nation.
Age-old festivals like Umhlanga – or Reed Dance – gather over 100,000 young marriageable Swazi girls to collect reeds and repair the Queen Mother’s house. On the sixth day, the Reed Dance is performed and the King may choose another wife by the mere touch of his hand. The father of the current king, the late Sobhuza II, had 70 wives.
Swazi people are proud and welcoming. The majority of the population is rural. Most people live in simple round huts in family homesteads and villages, surrounding a cattle pen, a kraal. Swazi society puts great emphasis on the role of the healer and diviner.
We will take you down dirt roads to some of these unmarked villages for a truly unique insight into what Africa is all about. And we will take you to hectic, colorful markets in the capital city of Mbabane where many Swazis still purchase their needs for the week.
Smile at the local people and be open to the magic of Swaziland. It is simply different from other African destinations. It’s a great piece of the African puzzle.