Swaziland is the last absolute monarchy in Africa and trust me it’s good to be King. A beautiful mountainous country, the Swazi people are incredibly friendly and good hearted. A small nation (smaller than Kruger National Park), Swaziland is famous for its cultural heritage…or perhaps specifically for the Umhlanga (Reed) Dance. It would be great to travel around the world from festival to festival, and I think there’s even a guidebook dedicated to festivals around the world, but alas traveling long term we don’t have the money to pick up and go every time a place has a special occasion. The Umhlanga Dance however I think might be different, at least for our male readers. As I said before, its good to be king.
Traditionally Swaziland is a polygamous society, and although the country has modernized in many ways, polygamy is not uncommon in Swaziland today. So who benefits the most from this tradition? Well, the King of course. He currently has 14 wives. Yes, 14. Every August the king has the opportunity to choose another wife at the Umhlanga Dance, where virgins dance bare breasted in front of the Ndovukazi (Queen Mother) and of course, the King. Hundreds perhaps thousands of young ladies. Although he doesn’t have to choose a wife every year, a virgin chosen cannot refuse the honor. Tradition dictates that the chosen women must bare the King a child before they are officially married, proving that they are fertile. So like I said, it’s good to be King.
Every shop, stall and restaurant in Swazi it has a portrait of the King in traditional Swazi dress. Sort of like having a portrait of the President up in government offices, although the King wears brightly colored textiles and arm bands. I’d love to see an official Presidential portrait in that garb. Although Swaziland is still an absolute monarchy, the rumbles of democracy increase every year. A few years ago the King purchased a brand new airplane to go along with this three limousines. It’s good to be King, but its not good to flaunt it when your countrymen are starving from drought. With actions like this, it probably won’t be long before the mounting internal pressure forces the king to abdicate some of his power. Although, I doubt he’ll give up the Umhlanga Dance.