Sunday, April 27, 2008

One hundred and one Swaziland destinations - #24: "Gone Rural"

Based on a microenterprise empowerment model, this non-profit, shop-based collection of Swazi handicrafts is a popular destination for gift-seekers. While all souvenirs bought in Swaziland will no doubt support someone in need, this project does so deliberately. Their prices are not the lowest, but their quality is high. They have some of the nicest local products I have seen here, especially those that derive from reeds.

Well, I should say that “reed” is not the correct word for the long, rigid grass used to make these products. It is a type of tall grass, and there are several versions that grow wild here in Swaziland. After an extensive discussion with the staff at the coffee shop from where I write, they wrote down three Swazi words that have no clear English translation but represent the three primary types of reeds/grass that is used to make these decorative souvenirs. (lukhwane, ncoboza, lukindzi)

The inventory at Gone Rural is both from pragmatic and artistic. The craftsmanship that turns wild reed-grass into art (the collecting, dyeing, weaving, tieing, etc) is impressive. These are more than handicrafts. They are a population's livelihood (>700 ruralwomen contribute to the inventory).

The origins and the product are simple. The struggle it represents is anything but.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

One hundred and one Swaziland destinations - #23: "House on Fire"

The back door to seen from Melandelas Restaurant when the sun is up.

Think eclectic soapstone architecture and good music surrounded by cane fields. That is House on Fire. After dark on a weekend (way after dark usually), it might best be described as a hippy Disneyland (drug-free, of course). Open pit fires, a diverse crowd, a full bar, a tiered dance floor, and some of South Africa’s best DJs and bands. "HoF" is by far the heaviest hitter in Swazi nightlife. For last year's Bushfire festival (will post related pics soon), an outdoor stage was built, and in the upcoming months alone Freshly Ground and Johnny Kleg (two of South Africa's finest) are playing.

The venue is located in Malkerns, <30 href="">

HoF's 'stonework', up close.

The view from the back lawn of HoF, by day. Also beautiful at night.

A traditional Swazi hut, behind HoF, near Melandelas.


Friday, April 04, 2008

One hundred and one Swaziland destinations...revisited

A friend of mine from pediatrics residency, Dr. Dan Vostrejs, is hoping to move to Swaziland soon. He recently told me that my blog was a handy reference as he tailored his pre-arrival expectations. His comment made me realize how neglectful I have been in meeting my goal of "101 Swaziland destination" posts.

While this is not a tourist site (most of my posts relate to my clinical and cultural experiences here), I receive a few emails a month from readers planning a trip to Swaz, and I always find myself typing out the same list of recommended activities. Well, in the upcoming weeks, as I get re-settled in Botswana (and begin to blog from there), I am not only going to grow (perhaps even complete) my list of 101 Swazi destinations, but I am going to try and rank them in some useful way.

Swaziland, after all, is small, with plenty of low-hanging tourist fruit both within its borders and nearby, but there are few practical guides for those seeking them out. So, check out the Swaziland destinations label and, as always, stay tuned for more.