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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Swaziland: History, People & Culture

The exotic African kingdom of Swaziland, famous for its king who selects a new wife during the annual reed festival where thousands of topless virgins dance for the king.  Typically, 80,000 girls participate in this annual festival, though the numbers had reached a high of 100,000 before.
In Swaziland, power is shared between the King (lion) and his mother (she-elephant). The heir to the throne is decided by a council after the death of a king. Hence, the annual reed dance is not only for girls to be selected as a king's wife, but a chance to be the co-head of state if she also bears a son for the king.  
Upon the death of the king, the royal council will select one of the king's wives to be the She-Elephant and her son will be declared the future Lion or King.  In many cases, a rather young She-Elephant is selected and the king would be a child. Palace intrigues inevitably results.  The previous king had 80 wives and the current king who is about 40 y/o has 14 or more wives. Wikipedia has some stories of palace intrigue similar to Cixi. Would not repeat them online since I am still in this country:)
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A prominent mountain peak rises high above the Ezuwini Valley where we stay.  We woke up to see the first sunrays on this mountain known as the Execution Rock where people involved with witch craft used to be marched uphill and forced to jump off the cliff.

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