Ep05 Swaziland or Eswatini
Welcome to episode 5.
This morning, we leave Kapama Game Lodge and travel to Swaziland, an independent Kingdom within the borders of South Africa. For some of us, we knew little about Swaziland. Our tour guide gave a brief description of Swaziland.
Is Swaziland part of South Africa? Answer: No, it is a monarchy.
This means there are border crossing gates and we would need to show our passports when we cross the border of two different countries. It is like crossing from Canada to the USA at the border crossing.
When did Swaziland gain independence? On September 6th, 1968, Swaziland was granted formal independence within the Commonwealth.
If you want to learn more, Wikipedia explains it well. Eswatini (/ˌɛswɑːˈtiːni/ ESS-wah-TEE-nee; Swazi: eSwatini [ɛswáˈtʼiːni]), officially the Kingdom of Eswatini (Swazi: Umbuso weSwatini) and also known as Swaziland (/ˈswɑːzilænd/ SWAH-zee-land; officially renamed in 2018), is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It is bordered by Mozambique to its northeast and South Africa to its north, west, and south. Swaziland is small and is no larger than 200 km north to south and 130 km east to west. The population of Eswatini is 1.1 million, while South Africa is 59 million.
Our travel journey would take us over 360 km. Along the way, we would be entertained with an interactive cultural experience to introduce us to the charming people of Swaziland and their traditions. The Eswatini people are uniquely different from the South Africans. Eswatini is known for its lovely scenery, crafts, and colorful indigenous culture.
Rather Interesting Facts about Eswatini.
Just before reaching the border between Swaziland and South Africa, our tour guide shared with us a few remarkably interesting facts about the country.
- In April 2018, the Swaziland King Mswati III announced that he was renaming the country “the kingdom of Eswatini”. The new name, Eswatini, means “land of the Swazis”.
- The king decided to change the name, saying: “Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland.”
- Eswatini is Africa’s last remaining absolute monarchy.
- King Mswati III currently has 15 wives; his predecessor had 125.
- Has the world’s highest prevalence rate for HIV/Aids.
- Low life expectancy with 54 years for men, 60 for women.
Landscape of Eswatini
We observed that Eswatini looked less developed than South Africa. The people were less wealthy and along the way, we saw less developed, rich, and fertile plantation areas. We did see some banana plantations. There is a high poverty rate in Swaziland and it is not as “rich” as Soth Africa.
At the border crossing, we had to disembark from the bus to go through border checks. We each had to show our passport, and walk over a border gate. It was a very friendly and casual checkpoint, a rather interesting checkpoint experience.
Matsamo Customs and Tradition Center
After passing the border crossing, we arrived at the Matsamo Customs and Tradition Center. Here is a place where they showcase Swazi arts, culture, and lifestyle.
Swazi Traditional Meal (Lunch)
We were served a traditional Eswatini lunch. The cuisine of Swaziland is largely determined by the seasons and the geographical region. Staple foods in Swaziland include sorghum (cereal grain) and maize, often served with goat meat, extremely popular livestock in the Swazi region. The menu was remarkably interesting, with food that we were not entirely used to, such as, thick porridge, ground corn, dried uncooked meat (biltong), whole maize, traditionally brewed beer.
Swazi Traditional Village
At the heart of the center, we were introduced to two Swazi villages. Our excellent guide (she spoke excellent English) from the cultural center gave us a walk around explaining the village lifestyle. It was most enlightening and eye-opening.
Our delightful local Swazi guide was very extremely cheerful and comical. She spoke very good English. She gave us some interesting lifestyle descriptions about the Cultural Village and how the family unit works. It was very educational to see and hear about a totally different culture, compared to where we came from in North America.
- A traditional African village is organized around family relationships and creates household activity areas and places for special occasions.
- The grandfather, or the oldest male family member, would have the main say in what goes on in the family.
- The male members are usually separated from the female members and children.
- We could walk around the village. The main hut (Indlunkulu) or grandmother’s hut, with her kitchen (lidladla) and storeroom (silulu).
- Usually, the man has several wives, and they would live in the same village and are united as an entire family unit.
- In the village, we saw there was a main hurt (Grandmother’s hurt), girls’ hurt, boys’ hurt, kitchen, brewing hurt, wives’ hurts, First and Second wives’ hurt, master hurt, a men’s kraal, maize creep, chicken nests and crop field. The lifestyle was so foreign to all of us, but it was a most enjoyable tour of the village and the African lifestyle.
- Cattle and goats are important animals too as they resemble the wealth of the family and are kept in small cages right in their village.
We enjoyed a live Swazi dance with a full show with very colorful costumes. The dances performed several traditional Swazi dances and along the way, they told stories of the famous legend of the tribe and Swazi fairy tales. We were all so appreciative of the entertainment and learned a lot from what we saw, heard, and experienced. Thank you to the cultural center for educating us tourists to the Swazi people, culture, and tradition. The impactful dance video can be seen in this video.
Video of Dance and Song from the Swazi Culture
We hope you will have an idea of the Swazi Dance and Song from this video. We found their languge so different from English. Their dance movements were very interesting and reflects their lifestyle.
A most educational visit to Matsamo Customs and Tradition Center (Swaziland)
We ended our educational and enlightening visit at the Matsamo Customs and Tradition Center by visiting their Curio Shop, where they sold Swazi cultural products. Creative basket ware, wood and stone carvings, glassware, batik, and jewelry. We bid farewell to our new Swaziland friends as we boarded the coach to our next Eswatini destination.
Shopping at the Ezulwini Craft Market, Swaziland
We traveled via the capital city Mbabane, and on the beautiful Ezulwini Valley for a true African shopping experience at the Ezulwini Craft Market, which is packed with woven baskets, beadwork, and carvings. It is at this market that Peter bought an elephant skin waist belt. We also bought several miniature wooden carvings of African animals. These animals sit on our staircase landing, reminding us of our memorable trip to Africa and the beautiful country and people of eSwatini.
Royal Swazi Spa, Swaziland
After a tiring but rewarding journey, we arrived at the Royal Swazi Spa. The resort is situated in a tranquil setting of the Ezulwini Valley. This is Swaziland at its finest. This resort has an 18 hole championship golf course. For those golfers in our contingent, they could only lookout to admire the beauty of the golf course. We enjoyed the dinner and the ambiance of the resort.
Summary of the Day
We had a full day, but I was interested in the Song and Dance of the Swazi women. There is so much more than meets the eye. As I researched the meaning of the song and dance of the Swazi women, I came to understand a little more of the significance and meaning in the Swazi women’s traditional songs. Patriarchy, capitalism, and colonization have intersected in the struggle to maintain control over women. The Swazi rural women’s traditional songs are recorded partly as a way to communicate women’s experiences and, in so doing, to interrupt patriarchal relations. There is so much to learn about the lives of Swazi rural women. To truly understand the country, it is deep-rooted in women’s lives, traditions, and culture over many centuries.