Culture, vibrancy, and tradition sweep through Eswatini throughout the year. The thrill of celebration grips the nation and bands of warriors & maidens adorned in full traditional regalia are often seen heading to these festivals. These deep-rooted traditions are balanced by internationally renowned modern festivals dedicated to the arts, music and even motorsport. What you will see in our next five reasons to visit Eswatini is how tradition and progression sit side-by-side seamlessly through the expression of events in the country.
26. Reed Dance
The Umlangha Reed dance is Eswatini’s best-known cultural event and is an eight-day ceremony where young girls cut reeds, present them to the Queen Mother (Indlovukazi), and dance in celebration. Up to 40,000 girls take part, dressed up in bright coloured attire – making it one of the biggest and most spectacular cultural events in Africa. Little can prepare you for the sheer scale of the pageantry on the grounds of Ludzidzini. The warrior escorts, adorned with cow tails and clutching knob-stick and shield, are sternly intent on their duties. The festival takes place at the end of August with this year’s Main Day recently confirmed as Monday 3 September. 27. Incwala
Incwala is one of Eswatini’s most important cultural event and is often translated as ‘first fruits festival’. It has a spiritual power that is largely lost on outsiders, and indeed many of its inner workings remain veiled in secrecy and signifies cleansing, renewal and celebrating kingship. Day four is the pinnacle of the festival when the feasting and dancing reach a climax, and you will see thousands of people – including warriors in full battle regalia – crowding the royal parade grounds. The songs, dances and ritual that take place inside the royal kraal remain a matter of utmost secrecy and may not be recorded or written down. This renowned festival is by far a most authentic festive experience in Eswatini that shines a light on ancient rituals of Africa’s past. The festival takes place the last week of December.
28. MTN Bushfire
Named as BBC’s Top African Festival, the MTN Bushfire Festival draws a multi-generational global community of up to 20,000 to the scenic Malkerns Valley to experience an eclectic Pan-African and international line-up of live music, theatre, poetry, film, circus, dance and visual arts. A vibrant handcraft market, family-friendly performances & KidZone as well as the recently introduced interactive art and dialogue space, create a truly eclectic & magical three-day entertainment experience. Though it’s thoroughly innovative, the festival gives back to the people of Eswatini with 100% of profits donated to two Swazi charities; Young Heroes, a child sponsorship programme assisting Swazi orphans, and Gone Rural boMake, a charity that assists rural Swazi women and the communities with information and infrastructure development, addressing health, education and social concerns.This festival is a must for music & art lovers and a great way to experience modern Africa at its finest. The festival takes place at the end of May. 29. Marula
The festival is a celebration of the harvest of the marula fruit and is locally known as ‘Emaganwini’. Once the green fruits fall to the ground, women and children gather and store them until they ripen to a creamy yellow colour. The fruits are then placed into water, sugar is added and it is fermented, and distilled into a beer. This potent alcoholic mixture is called buganu, or marula beer. The fruit is a high source of vitamin C and other minerals that help the body both internally and externally. The largest of these festivals is held at the royal residence at Ebuhleni where the royal family joins the nation in song and dance. Seen by the nation as much more than a food source, the Marula is regarded as a magical healing ingredient, with huge fertility properties. The King and Queen Mother are presented with Marula gifts and some Marula beer from each household. The festival takes place in February. 30. Swazi Rally
Swazi Rally is situated at Riders Ranch in Sidvokodvo, the pioneering home of motorcycling in Eswatini, just south of Manzini. This large biking event attracts bikers from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Mozambique and Eswatini who cram the entire site for a weekend of fun. This year’s internationally renowned event will be turning 25 years old and it will do so in style. The rally is held over the last weekend in August.