Hello everyone! Or, as they say in the siSwati language of Eswatini: sawubona!
My name is Joy Sun Bear, and I am a sun bear from Sumatra, Indonesia. I love exploring and sharing the world with children! Today, I have the pleasure of writing about a country that is very dear to my heart called Eswatini. I traveled to this beautiful country in Africa a few years ago and met two very good friends, Itembe and Qiyana. They kindly showed me around Eswatini and helped me learn so much about their culture, wildlife, food, traditions, language and more!
I can’t wait to share with you all that I learned from my new friends, so are you ready? Let’s begin with the first fact, which was just announced a couple of months ago…
10 Fun Facts about Eswatini
1. Eswatini has a new name and a feeling of independence
Swaziland officially changed its country name from The Kingdom of Swaziland to The Kingdom of Eswatini this past April. Itembe and Qiyani were at the special 50/50 celebrations with their families when King Mswati III made this important announcement. The 50/50 celebrations marked 50 years since independence and also celebrated the King’s 50th birthday. The country’s new name means “place of the Swati people.” The new name is from the siSwati language.
In his speech, the King said, “As we are aware, the name Swaziland was inherited from the British. If we are to give true meaning to our independence, time has come to give our country a name of its people.” Congratulations to The Kingdom of Eswatini!
2. Eswatini is the continent of Africa’s last remaining monarchy
I decided to land in the city of Lobamba again when arriving in Eswatini. This is where the Houses of Parliament are, and has been where their royal families have lived for over 200 years. Being a monarchy means that they have a King and a Queen that rule with the help of a Parliament, a group of people chosen to represent most of the people of the country. Their current King is King Mswati III and you can click here to learn more about him.
3. Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa
Did you know that Africa is the second largest continent in the world!? It contains 54 countries and Eswatini is the 7th smallest one. It is 17,364 square kilometers and is bordered by South Africa and Mozambique. The terrain is mountainous and subtropical, so not too different from my home in Sumatra.
4. Eswatini is one of the few places that you can find black and white rhinos living close to each other
Eswatini has around 17 protected areas that are home to several species. Mkhaya is one of the best places on the continent to see both black and white rhinos. Black rhinos are considered endangered, meaning that sadly there are not very many of them left on earth. The white rhinos, however, are considered near threatened. That means there are more white rhinos than black, but they too don’t have very many left.
Now you may be asking, what is the difference between them. Well, white rhinos have a larger skull than black rhinos. Their foreheads also blend into their backs more. Itembe also told me they have a smaller shoulder hump compared to the black rhinos. White rhinos are the second largest land mammal, just smaller than elephants. Not only is the black rhino the smaller of the two, but it is also nicknamed the “hook-lipped rhino” for its grabby lip.
If you still have trouble telling them apart, just remember that the black rhino has rounded ears, while the white rhino’s ears are pointed.
Can you guess which is which?
Here is a video that shares all the great big game parks in Eswatini:
5. Eswatini has unique flavors
Last time I was here, I had some delicious meals in Eswatini. Eswatini grows a lot of sugar cane, corn, rice, citrus fruits, pineapples, sorghum, peanuts, and pumpkins. It also has many cotton farms. A common dish here is called emasi, or porridge, and is usually made with sorghum or corn with rice and potatoes. Stews are common here, made from the tastiest stuff like spinach, pumpkin, or even beans. They like their salads here too, especially with avocado and beets! Yum! But I have to say, my favorite treat from when I visited last time was mealie bread. It tastes a lot like American cornbread but has a very different texture to it. You can find the recipe for it on my website.
6. The Bushfire Festival happens every year
This festival brings people to Eswatini from around the world. It celebrates music, theater, art, poetry, and so much more! The theme of the festival is “unity”, and visitors, including children, get to see how working together can make great things happen.
The money the celebration brings to Eswatini helps to fund education and healthcare across the country. What a great way to help others!
7. There’s more than one official language
Eswatini used to be a British colony until 1968, so English is an official language. Another official language is siSwati, a language loosely related to isiXhosa, the official language of South Africa. I liked learning some of the common Swazi phrases with Itembe and Qiyana. The words are a lot of fun to pronounce! Here are a few you can learn right now:
Thank you……..Ngiyabonga (I),
Goodbye……….Hamba kahle (go well)
Goodbye……….Sala kahle (stay well)
How are you?….Kunjani?
I am well……….Ngikhona
8. Eswatini has been home to skilled artists for a very, very long time
The people of Eswatini have some amazing artists and craft makers. They have mastered the art of paper mache, but also have beautiful embroidery!
The land of Eswatini has a rich history of art. The Nsangwini cave shelter, a preserve in the north-west area of Eswatini, has cave paintings so old, no one is sure when they were first painted. What they do know is that the paintings were done over many generations, maybe like a family tradition.
9. The country is full of chances for adventure
There are nature preserves, like the Malolotja Nature Reserve, where herds of impala roam free beside herds of zebra. When the zebra are all grouped together, their stripes make them hard to count.
That’s not all though. There are also famous canopy tours. Do you know what a canopy tour is? I didn’t either until I did one. It’s where you get to climb up to the tops of trees, then ride a zip line over (and sometimes through) the canopy of the forest! It’s a very special adventure, and the tour guides take extra care to make sure you’re safe.
One more interesting note, the country is home to the oldest mountains in the world. The Makhonjwa Mountains are 3.5 billion years old and can reach over 6,000 feet above sea level. Some of the oldest gold and fossils have been found there. The world’s oldest mine, Ngwenya Mine, can also be found in Eswatini.
10. The Ngwenya Glass factory is a sustainability leader
The Ngwenya Glass blowing factory is a popular tourist spot. They are very earth-friendly and only use recycled glass. When glass is thrown away, people who need jobs or extra money can collect it – carefully, because it can be sharp! – and sell it to the factory. Glass is one of the only materials that can be recycled again and again without losing any of its quality.
The factory breaks the glass and melts it down, then uses it to make beautiful works of art like tableware, glasses, vases, and little decorations like African animals. The factory sells the glass products it makes all over the world. They even work with local schools, getting the children involved in cleaning up and recycling in exchange for sponsorship of their sports teams. Watch the video below to learn more!
Full of beauty, from music to arts and crafts to nature and wildlife, Eswatini is a special country in many ways. I hope these 10 fun facts about Eswatini helped you understand more about this amazing place and everything it has to offer.