The Kingdom of Swaziland is one of the two independent countries within South Africa but the only country with Monarchy in the whole Africa.
The current King Mswati III is very popular to the people and his face can be seen pretty much everywhere, from restaurant, walls and shops to the local textiles and the big advertisements on the side of the roads. Due to Swaziland’s polygamic culture (men are allowed to have multiple wives and get married as often as once per year!), the King has so far 15 wives! Just to mention that in order the man to get married, the family of the woman receives 17 cows, with the price for 1 being around 300 dollars!
Swaziland is a hilly country with a diverse scenery. As you cross it by car or bus, you pass by sugarcane and maize fields that move softly with the wind, banana tree plantations, silvery green eucalyptus and homesteads with exotic trees like papaya trees and the biggest avocados we have seen on a tree before!
The capital of the country is the small but busy Mbabane, which is the starting point for the most touristic destinations and activities. Mini-buses are the vehicles that get everyone, locals and tourists, from one place to another, so you better get used to getting a little bit squeezed up and mingle with the locals. Luckily the ride to the Royal Ezulwini Valley (this is also where we stayed), was a short one, just 10 km, so everything good, hehe!
The Swazi people are very friendly and smiley. Having never experienced the apartheid like the South Africans, their attitude towards foreigners is totally different and they are much more open. From what we saw though, they have linguistic and cultural similarities with the Zulus.
Passing by the Matenga Cultural Village, a village that has been set up mainly for tourists, we learnt a lot about the way the traditional Swazi people live. One village was the home of one single family which includes: The head of the family with all his wives and children plus the grandparents. The hut consists of a wooden frame covered with a layer of reed that does not let the rain come through but filters air and smoke outside.
An another interesting fact is that girls and boys sleep separately from the ages 6-16 and receive different up bring during that period. When they get married, girls are not allowed to eat the head or the legs of the cow due to the men’s fear that they will become more clever than them and they will leave.
An excursion that should not be missed, is the beautiful hike to Sibebe Rock, the second largest free standing rock in the world (after Australia’s Ayers Rock). It takes about 2.5 hours to get to the top of the granite rock and on the way you pass by prairies, aloe plants and little farmhouses. The spectacular view makes up for the strenuous ascent.
It is also very interesting to visit the world renowned Swazi Candles and learn how they shape by hand their colourful candles. You can even make your own elephant-candle!
If you still prefer to be more close to the nature, you can visit one of the many National Parks to see the Big Fives. The prices might be much cheaper than the famous parks in Tanzania and Kenya, but you can still spot lots of animals.
As far as we are concerned, the amazing Swazi culture, the gentle people and the scenery of this small paradise left as with the best impressions from our stay here.
Check out more photos from Swaziland