Young women participating in the annual reed dance. Photo: Swazilan Tourism
Easily one of the  more important ceremonies to take place in the Kingdom of Swaziland, the annual reed dance attracts it's fair share of tourists to the small southern african nation. One of Swaziland's most known activities, Umhlanga has often been met with interesting reactions
that feel that the customs violate the rights of women. But for the Swazi nation, it remains an intergral part of culture

The cultural dance

This year, festivities are expected to take place around August 29 -September 4. As with every year, the festival attracts thousands of visitors and young girls alike. The purpose of the cultural event is according to the Swazi people to promote abstinence among the young women. A strategy that became increasingly popular in the African countries. Every year, the ceremony attracts 40 000 young women. 

Where to stay 

This is one of the few traditional ceremonies that are also open to members of the public. For this reason, Swaziland's hospitality industry also opens itself up to be able to take bookings from tourists to accommodate them. Here is a list that has been provided by the country's hospitality industry: 

Pigg's Peak Hotel & Casino: Special room rate:  click here
Sibane Hotel: Special room rate and lunch offer: click here
Peace Guest Centre Guest House: Special room rates: click here

Tour companies also come to the party by creating specialised tours for the duration of the tour:

All Out Africa: Lobamba Village Walking Tour package: click here

Myxo's Woza Nawe Cultural Tours: Reed Dance Tour:  click here

And if you're wondering what the eight days Swaziland entails see the schedule :

Day One

The girls gather at the Queen Mother’s royal village. Today this is at Ludzidzini, in Sobhuza’s time it was at Lobamba. They come in groups from the 200 or so chiefdoms and are registered for security. Men, usually four, supervise them, appointed chiefs. They sleep in the huts of relatives in the village or in classrooms of nearby schools. This is a very exciting time for the maidens.

Day Two

The girls are separated into two groups, the older (about 14 to 22 years) and the younger (about 8 to 13 years). In the afternoon, they march to the reed-beds with their supervisors. The older girls often march about 30 kilometers, while the younger girls march about ten kilometers. If the older girls are sent further, government will provide trucks for their transport.

Day Three

The girls cut their reeds, usually about ten to twenty, using long knives. Each girl ties her reeds into a bundle. Nowadays they use strips of plastic for the tying, but those mindful of tradition will still cut grass and plaint it into rope.

Day Four

In the afternoon, the girls set off to return to the Queen Mother’s village, carrying their bundles of reeds. Again they return at night. This is done “to show they traveled a long way.”

Day Five

A day of rest where the girls make final preparations to their hair and dancing costumes. After all that walking, who doesn’t deserve a little pampering?

Day Six

First day of dancing, from about three to five in the afternoon. The girls drop their reeds outside the Queen Mother’s quarters. They move to the arena and dance, keeping their groups and each group singing different songs at the same time.

Day Seven

Second and last day of dancing. His Majesty the King will be present.

Day Eight

King commands that a number of cattle (perhaps 20 -25) be slaughtered for the girls. They receive pieces of meat and go home.

For more information on the dos and don'ts at the cultural events visit this page.