Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Kingdom of Swaziland

Swaziland is a small independent kingdom tucked between South Africa and Mozambique. It has vast fields of sugar cane as well as lush, rugged mountains. It is a gorgeous country with wonderful crafts, lovely people, and a rich culture, however, it is also one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, among the poorest countries in the world, and has one highest rates of HIV infection in the world. King Mswati III has ruled the country since 1986 and has immense personal wealth, as do the privileged few in his inner circle. It is a country of contradictions that I found difficult to reconcile

We entered Swaziland at the Jeppe’s Reef/Mastamo Border Post, where service on both sides of the border was fast and efficient. We left through the Golela post, which was equally straightforward.

We stayed just outside the capital in Ezulwini at the Lugogo Sun Hotel. Our room was fungible, at the end of a dark hall, and had no internet. We ate dinner in the bar, as the restaurant only does buffet service. The ribs I ordered were also fungible – tasty, but needed to cook a lot longer. The best option outside the hotel appeared to be the nearby casino, which didn’t have a lot of appeal either. It was all pretty forgettable. It’s not that this was a horrible hotel, just not a particularly good one. The sign on the elevator sort of summed it up – close is good enough! 
A better option might have been the “traditional” beehive hotel “rooms” available at Nisela Safaris.  They look pretty welcoming.

Note: Swaziland allows smoking in bars and hotel rooms.

Shopping
Our main activity in Swaziland was shopping and it is a good place to shop if you like good quality local crafts. There were lots of really beautiful things available, regardless of whether you were interested in clothing, jewelry, household items, or just souvenirs. A few of our favorites:
  • Ngwenya glass, which uses recycled glass to create functional glassware and decorative objects galore.
  • Gone Rural, featuring beautiful and unique jewelry, accessories, and household items made by Swazi women. 
  • Tintsaba, with an amazing collection of beautiful and unusual jewelry made of sisal and silver. 
  • Quazi Design, where scrap paper becomes high fashion jewelry.  
All of these shops are part of the Pure Swazi crafts marketing group. Best of all, some items can be purchased over the web! 
We also visited Swazi Candle, which is not your ordinary candle shop. Beautiful designs that barely resemble traditional candles capture the feel of Africa. There are additional stores in the complex, some of which have really wonderful pieces (I found some wonderful necklaces there), a large batik shop, and a crafts market of mixed quality.

Additional Swazi posts:
All Africa posts

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