Sometimes what you expect to see and reality can be so dramatically different. Unknown to us, we found Swaziland is a hauntingly beautiful land of undulating mountains. Huge tracts of domesticated forests at different points of growth and harvest dominate most of the country. Amid this striking setting, people cling to life in dire poverty. Nearly a quarter of the county is infected with HIV/Aids. The living conditions and mortality rate is dire.
In prep for our visit we had done our homework on the tiny Kingdom located almost entirely in South Africa. As a part of our research we watch Without the King. A documentary on the Monarcy, and specifically the King’s eldest daughter, Princess Sikhanyiso. The movie portrays the masses as being on the verge of a overthrowing the ruling body. We did not witness any outward evidence of civil unrest. We witnessed a people eking out a meager existence. A people clinging to life in anyway possible.
So why visit Swaziland? We truly count our visit there as a blessing. Amid difficult circumstance there is hope. We met hope in the people with whom we interacted.
We stayed at the Forester Arms Hotel outside the capital, Mbabane. Roughly a 30 min. drive through the mountains and forest to an isolated tree plantation. This charming retreat is very comfortable and the food was very good. They serve both dinner and a full to order breakfast. The hostess of this impressive oasis is an amazing woman. Our interaction was limited, as we only stayed a night, but we witnessed the kindness she exhibited to her extensive staff was only exceeded by her graciousness to us as guests.
You really must visit Swaziland. The natural beauty is compelling. Swazi crafts are also impressive. But most of all, go to Swaziland to learn about yourself. So many life lessons are learned when you witness happiness and hope amid abject poverty. The Swazi situation is difficult to witness, but you will be the better human for the experience.
Really interesting, definitely a country that a lot of people do not cover. I can imagine it would be really draining to visit but equally important to see.
Awesome that you guys had an opportunity to visit Swaziland. Thanks for recommending that documentary, I’m going to check it out!
Amazing! I’ve only been to South Africa’s Cape Town and Cape of Good Hope. I should have ventured out but was advised against it, anyway this was back in 1998.
We didn’t make it over to Cape Town. Sound really beautiful. We were like you. Everything we read, and all the advice we recieved told us to avoid Swaziland. In this case we are glad we didn’t avoid.
Swaziland was the first country I ever visited when I was growing up in Sri Lanka. I spent a little more than an year there while my dad was a lecturer there. It really opened my eyes to different cultures and my experience became my college essay when I was applying to college in the US. Now I’m settled in NY and try to visit a couple of unique places every year. I’m really enjoying your blog. Thanks!
Great that you covered such an ‘unknown’ place. I have been fortunate enough to visit Swaziland some years ago and was so impressed.
im not sure ive ever met someone who has been to swaziland, and didnt know anything about it. i like how you mentioned hope and learning. so true when visiting impoverished countries like this.
Thanks. Not an easy place to visit, but a lot of lessons learned.
I went to Swaziland a few years ago – but only for 20 minutes. I was doing some work at the Oshoek Border crossing and wanted the passport stamp. I’d like to go back if I get the opportunity. It’s a great country.
You really should. We wish we could have spent more than a couple days there. the terrain is so beautiful.