The King of Swaziland is the world’s last remaining absolute monarch. He can, for example, still choose a new wife each year from among the young girls at the traditional Reed Dance. Opposition to his power is increasing but ineffective. It has focused on the extravagance of the royal family amid the increasing poverty of the Swazi people.
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The country is tiny, the size of Wales, but very green and scenic, and has well-developed roads, hotels and shopping. The deep Ezulwini Valley is the tourist heart of the country, with a small game reserve and the ‘cuddle puddle’ hot springs. The valley links the two main towns, both pleasantly small, Mbabane, the capital, up in the hills and Manzini, the commercial centre, down in the ‘middle veld’ and close to the airport.
In the days of apartheid in South Africa, Swaziland’s tourist trade was based on prostitution and the availability of pornographic and political literature that was banned across the border. This has changed and, with exports of sugar cane and pineapples earning less than they used to, legitimate and sustainable tourism is much needed in this country. Even with recent political and economic changes, Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV in the world.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Ethical Photography: Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people is a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.