Lobamba Tourist hub Eswatini
For all intents and purposes, little Lobamba in the hills is the capital of Swaziland.
Actually, it kind of shares the title with Mbabane down the valley, but it’s here that travelers will discover all the machinery of state: the beautiful Lozitha Palace, home to the Queen Mother; the Swaziland Parliament; the honorific memorials to the country’s independence hero, King Sobhuza II. And if you’re still searching for something to do, make a beeline for the informative National Museum of Swaziland, where the collections reveal stories of the British colonial age, and one colorful head of the Indian god Krishna tells of trading tales with the subcontinent across the Arabian Sea.
Eswatini’s (Swaziland’s) spiritual, cultural, and political heart lies at Lobamba, just east of the Ezulwini Valley. This area has been playing host to the country’s royalty for over 200 years and it is on the surrounding plains that the nation still gathers for the annual Incwala and Umhlanga ceremonies, against the imposing backdrop of the sacred Mdzimba mountains. To the north of the road, the visitor will find Parliament, the National Museum, National Stadium, and King Sobhuza II Memorial Park. To the south, beyond the cluster of Lobamba village, lies Ludzidzini and the royal kraal. There is plenty to see at all times of the year, but a visit is undoubtedly most exciting during the festivities of the Umhlanga and Incwala.
Eswatini’s national museum, known in siSwati as Umsamo Wesive was built in 1972 and sits just behind parliament. It serves as the HQ of the Eswatini National Trust Commission (ENTC), custodians of the nation’s heritage and cultural archives, and contains exhibits on Eswatini’s culture, history, and natural history. The ENTC arranges visits for school children to ensure that each successive generation grasps the importance of its heritage. In the natural history section, you will find several impressive dioramas illustrating Eswatini’s various different habitats, complete with mounted animals – including a pride of lions chasing down a zebra. The recently revamped history and culture section, meanwhile, offers an excellent introduction to the way in which people have lived in Eswatini since prehistoric times. A chronological sequence of displays guides the visitor from the earliest hunter-gatherers right through to independence, with exhibits on everything from beadwork to missionaries. Artifacts include a 75–80,000-year-old stone spear. There is also a wonderful frieze of archive photographs depicting the colonial era and an interesting exhibition of contemporary Swati painting.
This formal garden stands immediately opposite the museum and was built in 1982 after the death of King Sobhuza II at the site where his body lay in state. Sobhuza – father of today’s King Mswati III – enjoys an almost defied status as the father of the modern-day Eswatini. His various celebrated utterances trotted out like the Wisdom of Solomon. ‘Anginasitsa’ (‘I have no enemies’) is the motto emblazoned on the large brass statue of the monarch that stands at the center. The hexagonal layout has various symbolic resonances, with Sobhuza’s statue facing east towards his father’s burial site in the Mdzimba Mountains. A glass mausoleum that preserves the very spot where the body lay is guarded day and night, with photographs strictly forbidden; a flame is lit for important occasions. The small museum display documents the King’s long life with archive photographs and some fascinating nuggets of information. The spacious gardens of the Memorial Park contribute to the overall feeling of Lobamba – that of being open and relaxed. Despite there being a concentration of places of national importance, Lobamba is rarely busy and is very easy to simply ‘wander’ around. There is a walking tour on offer that includes sampling local beer in the village.
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