I will always remember Swaziland as a little hard to reach, but once you are there, you can’t get enough of its interesting culture and history, lively cities, beautiful nature and the friendliest people. I had no cell phone signal here (later I found out that only Swazi sim cards get signal here), so I was completely dependent on the help from strangers passing by. There is also not that much information about the country on the internet, so the help from its citizens was quite important. All these factors were assuring me that I will have an unforgettable adventure in Swaziland. 🙂
My first stop was visiting Lobamba. Beside school group from Lesotho, I was the only tourist in the city.
Let’s start with the basics
Facts about Lobamba
The Kingdom of Swaziland, a small southern African country, bordering South Africa and Mozambique, has two capital cities. First is Mbabane, the administrative capital and the biggest city, the second is Lobamba, know as the traditional, spiritual and legislative capital city of Swaziland. It is also where the seat of the Parliament is and the residence of the Ntombi, the Queen Mother. Lobamba is located in the Ezulwini Valley, which is also know as the Royal Valley, and it is a must stop when visiting Swaziland.
How to get from Mbabane to Lobamba with public transport?
The easiest way to get around the country is with rent a car, however, if you are alone or don’t want to drive on the left side of the road, you can take one of many vans that serve as the public transport here. Or chose a more expensive option of taxi service. For going with a van you have to get to Mbabane main bus station. You can’t miss it, it is in the center of the city, filled with vans and buses. Just ask someone there where the vans for Ezulwini Valley or Manzini are standing. Then get your sit in the van as soon as possible, it gets quite crowded. And there is no timetable, the van leaves once is fully occupied. On the bus again ask someone to tell you when the stop for Lobamba is. They will be glad to help you. You pay the ride to the guy opening the door, when he starts collecting the money. It cost me 11 SZL to get from Mbabane to Lobamba, which is around 0,70€. Once in Lobamba, all the main sights are in walking distance 5 minutes from each other.
To catch a van back to Mbabane just wave at them and they will stop and pick you up. While waiting for a van go for a tea to the local car shop in Lobamba. I didn’t find any other place and the looked really surprised to see a foreign going for a tea there, but the experience was interesting.
What is there to see in Lobamba?
National Museum of Swaziland
To get meaningful insight in Swazi history and culture, the best place to visit is the National Museum of Swaziland. There you can learn about the traditional way of life, their politics through history, its flora and fauna. You can also see some contemporary artwork. In front of the museum there is a traditional Swazi village with beehive huts. Overall, it is a small museum, but the only of this kind in the country, so it’s worth giving it a chance. You can also buy a combined ticket for museum and the memorial park.
King Sobhuza II Memorial Park
The memorial park was built to honor the King Sobhuza II, who led the movement for Swaziland’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1968 and was also the country’s first prime minister. In the park there is a small museum about his life, his 3 meters tall bronze statue and his mausoleum. I would recommend to get a tour guide when visiting the memorial park. My guide Clement give me an important insight in Swaziland and their admiration of the King Sobhuza II.
Swaziland is an absolute monarchy, however they have constitution and the parliament. The king is the head of state and the Parliament consists of the upper chamber the Senate and the lower chamber the House of Assembly. I read on the internet that there is a possibility of visiting the parliament, however, I did not know when or how. So I just went to the entrance and asked the security guide how to arrange a visit. They did not know either, so they put a chair below a tree, let me sit and talk with them, while one of them went to ask about my visit. They returned with a clerk and he gave me a private tour of the parliament! I have seen the main chambers of both houses – the House of Assembly was in session and everybody was wearing their traditional clothes – their corridor with many stuffed animals, the outside of the parliament and get to know in the details their political system. The clerk was also interested in knowing the politics of Slovenia, so we chatted about politics for a bit. It was quite an amazing experience!
Later, when I was back in my hotel in Mbabane, the owner asked me what I had done that day. I explained all the sights I have seen in Lobamba. She was really shocked how did they let me in the Parliament looking as I did – I was wearing long pants and a sweater, which I considered appropriate for such an institution. However, she told me, that usually women are let in only wearing a skirt. I was really glad they made an exception for me. 🙂