Formerly known as Swaziland, the Kingdom of Eswatini is the second smallest country in continental Africa, the last remaining absolute monarchy in Africa, and a spectacular country full of rich and colorful culture. It is also home to some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets I have ever laid eyes on.
The Kingdom of Eswatini gained independence from its British colonizers in 1968. However, it retained the name given by the British, Swaziland, until 2018. With the 50th anniversary of its independence, King Mswati III renamed the country Eswatini as a powerful move to break with its colonial past and return to its original name.
There have been many changes throughout history for the people of Eswatini, but their vibrant culture and joyous people remain unmoved. Everywhere you visit, there are glimpses of Eswatini’s past, but despite the trauma of a kingdom created from conflict, this is a nation that celebrates the best of its people and its culture. Here are some of the highlights to include in your travels to this magical African kingdom.
The Mantenga Craft and Lifestyle Centre - from clothing and fabrics to jewelry to sculpture, there is much to love about this center of art. With bright colors, bold patterns, and beautiful handcrafted items to adorn your body or your home, this is the perfect place to experience the vibrance of the Eswatini culture.
The Eswatini National Museum - Umsamo Wesive is the best place to understand the rich history of the nation of Eswatini. Whether you’re interested in cultural practices like betrothal and dowries, weaponry and warrior attire, or the music and movement of celebrations, this museum is engaging and informative and well worth a visit.
King Sobhuza II Memorial Park & Statue - Featuring a life-size statue of the man who became king at just 4 months old, this park is a peaceful tribute to the life of a man and of a kingdom. Learn more about this revered King, the origin of the Eswatini flag, and the journey that Eswatini took throughout the lifetime of King Sobhuza II.
Maguga Dam Boat Ride - There are few better ways to experience the scenery of the Maguga Dam than from on the water. Whether you choose a self-drive experience or a guided tour, this dam is a must-have on your list of things to see. Why not stay at Maguga Lodge and package it up?
Malalotja Nature Reserve - This massive highland reserve offers the absolute best of Africa. Ancient hills and deep river gorges lead to a 95m waterfall. While you may not see the volume of wildlife you might find elsewhere, there are some uncommon animals to be found here, and if the scenery is more your style, the sunsets from the fall's viewpoint are breathtaking.
The colorful attire - Emahiya is the name of the fabric worn by both men and women in Eswatini culture. It comes in many colors, all bright and vibrant, which you know your girl loves! The women wear emahiya as a full-length wrapper over the shoulders and a skirt underneath. Headbeads, necklaces, and jeweled ankle wrappers (or the more traditional ones made with dried bamboo and shells) are usually added to enhance the look for a stunning appeal.
Umhlanga Reed Dance Festival - The Swazi tribe is known for its rich cultural heritage and one of their most celebrated traditions is the Umhlanga Reed Dance Festival, which takes place annually. Umhlanga is a celebration of womanhood where tens of thousands of young Swazi maidens participate in an incredibly beautiful and traditional experience, which spans over 8-days. During that period, the maidens cut and delivered reeds to the Queen Mother to repair the reed windscreens around the royal residence. They sing songs and perform cultural dances in unison while dressed in traditional clothing, which consists of beaded necklaces, rattling anklets made from cocoons, a sash, and a skirt. Many also carry bush knives as a symbol of their virginity.
The women of the Yabantu tribe - I met these beautiful women at the Umhlanga Reed Dance Festival and was immediately mesmerized by their beauty, tribal marks, warm spirit, and rich culture. These women are actually from a South African village, but they come to celebrate with the women of Eswatini each year in late August-early September for the Umhlanga festival. They wear tribal marks of clay to signify entering womanhood and animal skins to signify power. These women are truly remarkable and beautiful to witness as they dance and celebrate being women together.
Eswatini is a beautiful country with more highlights than I can count. With culture, scenery, and experiences that will take your breath away, this incredible African kingdom is well worth a visit. If you would like to join me on a group trip next year to visit Eswatini and experience the Umhlanga Reed Dance Festival, DM me so I can add you to the priority list!
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