By Bahle Gama
The Shiselweni Umhlanga Ceremony drew in more tourists, some of whom were attending for the first time. The ceremony was the last leg of this year’s reed dance held at Mbangweni Royal Residence which began on September 9 and ended on September 11. Imbali, led by Regiment Leader Princess Sakhizwe, donned colourful regalia and danced a storm at the arena on the main day, Sunday after having delivered their reed dance the day before. Amongst these were imbali from Kwa Zulu Natal, and Mpumalanga provinces.
Their Majesties and guests, including Tembe King Inkosi Mabhudu, Gambia and Somalia Foreign Affairs Ministers Dr Tamgara Mamadou and Dr Issa Kayd watched the proceedings, as the thousands of imbali showed off their illustrious dancing skills at the arena.
Tourists in attendance were seen donning emahiya over their clothing and their eyes glued on the arena as some attempted to mimic the dance moves by the maidens. Many also expressed their delight in the Eswatini culture.
Most of the interviewed tourists were attending the ceremony for the first time and said they would be returning in the years to come as the ceremony was captivating and a breath of fresh air.
Suzan Spier from the Netherlands said it was her second time attending the ceremony as she last attended in 2018 and was devastated when the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“I am glad that it has come back because this is one of the sceneries that you just can’t get enough of, from the regalia to the dances. I love it here,” she said.
Johan Catz from South Africa attended the event for the first time and promised to attend more of the ceremonies. He further stated that he was thrilled to see a country that still practised and maintained its culture at a time when the fourth industrial revolution is taking over.
“I love culture and with things like TV and the internet, most young people are losing their roots, and seeing most emaSwati attending such events, says a lot about the country. And you guys are lucky to be a monarchy and very blessed to be ruled by a King such as yours. Also, Eswatini girls are beautiful,” he said.
Peter Koen also from South Africa, echoed Catz and stated that it was lovely to see that emaSwati were still practising their culture, “especially young people at a time when people are disowning their true selves. We will be coming back next year.”
Bill Tong and Peter Smith who was also attending for the first time, attendees said they were impressed by the discipline displayed by the maidens and all emaSwati in attendance as it was a rare thing to happen in other countries.
“It is quite fascinating that emaSwati are so respectful and disciplined. It has given us a sense of belonging and we’ve felt safe the entire time. This is a very beautiful ceremony, with amazing people. You guys have a beautiful culture, and we are glad we came,” said Tong.
According to information sourced from the Eswatini Tourism Authority (ETA), over nine thousand tourists entered the country during the weekend of the first leg of the Reed Dance Ceremony on September 2 – 5.
“A total of 9 457 international visitors were recorded into Eswatini during Umhlanga weekend between September 2 to 5, 2022. Arrivals from the region constituted a larger proportion of regional inbound arrivals with RSA and Mozambique accounting for over 66.8 per cent and 8.8 per cent respectively,” said ETA CEO Linda Nxumalo
She further stated that due to the various activities that took place in the country and the keen interest in attending the Umhlanga Ceremony demonstrated by the thousands of tourists who came into the country over the four days, accommodation establishments recorded impressive bookings.
The occupancy rate was reportedly the highest for game and nature reserves with 70.2 per cent followed by guest houses at 63.6 per cent and hotels at 59.7 per cent.
“The average occupancy rate per day over the four-day Umhlanga weekend is 65.8 per cent. This figure is higher than the average occupancy rate recorded for the entire month of September 2021 which recorded 32.6 per cent,” she said.
|Umhlanga Arrivals by Top Country Sept 2- 5, 2022|
|COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE||Sept 2-5||Percentage|