Before I sum up my short stay in Swaziland…. (if I do that it will be a very short post as there isn’t that much to sum up…)… here are a few interesting facts…
The Royal Kingdom of Swaziland ( if you haven’t already sussed it out by the name), is a monarchy, and the current King who has been in power for the last 14 years gets to choose a new wife every year in a ritual where thousands of scantily clad teenage virgin
girls come and dance for him in the hope that he might pick them and they too might get the chance to go off on million dollar shopping sprees in Dubai as previous wives have done… some might say its a win win situation!!
So here are some rather more stark facts about Swaziland… 80% of the population live below the poverty line but if the King were to share his personal wealth among his 1.2 million subjects each one would have about 100.000US$ to play with (a thought provoking calculation if nothing else)… And 40% of the population are HIV positive…a fact that is brought home to you when you cross border control and there are boxes of free condoms everywhere you look… average life expectancy is 37 (which makes me ancient in Swazi terms… ) and billboard signs advertise air conditioning units for homes, shops, offices and …. mortuaries.
… I rather suspect that our two night stay at a remote hilltop lodge and a couple of short hikes really didn’t give us a picture of the real Swaziland … the rolling landscape of infinite undulations gave me the opportunity to further test my camera’s capabilities (and my limitations as a photographer), but the only taste of real life was a visit to a local craft market on the way out of the country… dozens and dozens of little shacks selling carvings, fabrics, bangles and beads strung out along the side of the highway like a brightly coloured bead necklace as far as the eye can see…. each stallholder offering a very good price, in fact their best price for being the first customer of the day… then whispering in my ear ‘please, please Sissi (sister) just buy one little thing..’ As I walked away with my miniature carved hippo and elephants and a couple of little trinkets that I neither wanted nor needed having haggled the price upover (and still managing to spend less than 15€) I was reminded once again just how lucky I am.