When you talk about Eswatini, the first thing that comes to minds of people is a small country that is filled with Mountains and then the second thought goes to the king who has many wives and keeps on adding a virgin wife every year but the country is more than what meets the eye especially when it comes to their culture.
The Swazi people are known for the preservation of their culture and this is what has kept them together since the colonial rule ended and they got their independence. Land locked between countries that seem to have more development, Eswatini has been overlooked by many tourists but one of the things that will keep you entertained while here is the Zulu culture.
Eswatini is known for her rich culture and there are so many places that you can go to in order for you to be able to experience this unique culture and some of the things that you can engage in include the many festivals that are held that is the Incwala festival, the Umhlanga reed dance, the Marula festival, the village tours and not forgetting the many museums that will give you a glimpse into the Swazi culture.
The Marula festival
The Marula festival that is celebrated mostly in the month of February and it is a festival that is used to celebrate the harvest of the first fruit that is known as the Marula. The Marula is a green fruit that is collected by the women and children in Eswatini and it is stored until it ripens to a yellowish color before it is placed in water as it ferments. After the fermentation, it is brewed into an Eswatini local brew known as the Marula beer. The Marula fruit is not only used to prepare the Marula brew but it is also considered to be a fertility fruit in Eswatini and that is why it is given more importance of being more than just a fruit.
The King of Eswatini that is Mswati III with the Queen mother travel to the different districts in the country celebrating the first fall of the Marula fruit and everywhere they go, there is always merry and dancing before they head back to the Royal palace where the main festivities of the Marula take place. When they get to the royal palace for the festivities, every household presents a taste of their brewed beer to the king and queen mother and it is only after they have had their first taste that everyone gets to have a taste as well and after that it is all about singing and dancing. Below is what you should expect when you go to the Marula festival.
- The first day finds many women dressed in their traditional wear holding baskets filled with the Marula fruit as they present it to the queen mother at her royal palace.
- The king joins the Queen and they get to taste the Marula brew before the merry making begins.
- The third day of the festivities is for blessing of the brew so that the whole country can partake in drinking it.
- And the last day, the festivities are taken to the king’s palace.
The Umhlanga reed dance
The Umhlanga reed dance is a cultural celebration that is carried out in Eswatini to honor all the virgin girls in the country. The festival is annually celebrated and girls across the country gather at the Queen mother’s palace with the reeds that they cut out in order to present to the king on the final day of the dance and on the final day the week, the king comes around and picks out a girl that he has liked but note that the festival is all about encouraging the girl child to remain celibate until marriage, sanitation among them and all this is done by the older women who sensitize the young girls.
The Incwala festival
The Incwala festival which is used to welcome the new moon and the New Year is one of the cultural festivities that will make your cultural trip to Eswatini worth it. It is a festival that is used to taste the first fruit by the king and there are also other private rituals that are carried out by the king and by the final day of the festivals, the people who are gathered for the festivals join the singing and dancing. Note that without the king, there will be no Incwala festival to celebrate.
Besides attending the festivals to get a clear insight while on your cultural trip to Eswatini, you can also visit museums and cultural villages where you can get more tangible information about the unique culture of the Eswatini people.
The Mantenga cultural village
The Mantenga cultural village also known as the Swazi village is where you can go to the cultural tour while in Eswatini. The Mantenga village is located in the Mantenga nature reserve and it was opened up by the king to show tourists and locals what the culture of the Swazi people is all about. When you get there, you will be greeted by locals at the entrance in siSwati and once you get inside, a tour guide will take you around the huts that were constructed without using only local materials and after that you will be introduced to what the Swazi culture through folk songs and dancing from the locals.
These are tours that every tourist who is interested in culture should participate in if they want to learn more about the Swazi culture. This cultural trip will take you around the different villages and if you so wish, you can stay with the locals and get to know more about their ways of life as you participate in the different activities they carry out.
Staying with the locals needs someone who is open minded when it comes to adventure because not every home you will stay in will have all the essential things that you will need like hot water, rooms with en-suite bathrooms and that is why you need to be open to whatever you find as this is the best way to learn more about the culture in Eswatini.
The Ngwenya Mine Centre
The Ngwenya mine is considered to be spiritual by the eSwatini people and it is also the oldest mine in the country dating back for over 43,000 years old. Red iron ores was mined here and till today it still is being mined and it is used by the locals to communicate to their dead ancestors and spirits. The Centre has information about the early settlers in the area that is the San, then the colonialists until when the country got her independence. And no to forget the red iron ore also known as the Ochre is used in traditional weddings by the locals as it is believed to bring good luck in the marriage to both the bride and the groom.
The Umsamo Wesive museum
The Umsamo Wesive museum which is located in Lobamba is filled with artifacts that showcase the Swazi culture in full display. The museum showcases ancient traditional clothing for the Swazi people especially the ones that were used during the first Umhlanga reed dance, crafts and everything that was used in the country from the colonial times until when the country got her independence.
The Nyonyane Mountain
Also known as the Execution rock, this was the punishment Centre during the ancient times by the locals for all those that were considered to be criminals. The criminals would be forced to jump off the cliff at the point of a spear so that they would not survive. The Nyonyane Mountain also acts as the Royal burial grounds for the kings of Eswatini and although the place has no museum, the graves will give you enough of a culture that you will not forget and your tour guide will also help by telling you the stories that surround the rock and how the first settlers who came into the country first settled here.
The King Sobhuza II memorial Park
The King Sobhuza II memorial Park is located right next to the National Museum and this Park which was formerly a royal garden is now the place where the remains of the great king Sobhuza II are preserved from. The remains of the king are in a glass coffin from where you can easily see them and note that no one is allowed to take photos of the remains and they are guarded 24/7 although you can look at them for as long as you want. The memorial Park also has a statue of the king that was constructed facing the eastern part of the country where his father was buried. Around the Park you will find a museum showing all the royal regalia that was used during his reign and other cultural information about the king and his reign in Swaziland now known as Eswatini.