The Umhlanga Reed Dance is an eight-day long event in Swaziland, and is based on a centuries-old royal tradition. In its current form, it was instituted by Swazi king Sobhuza II in the 1940’s. Umhlanga is marked with a public holiday on the first Monday of September.
During Umhlanga, literally tens of thousands of Swazi women from all across the nation attend the Reed Dance at the royal village of Ludzidzini. It is a private event, until the last two days when it goes public. Normally, the event will take place during the final week of August.
The dance is done ostensibly for the Queen Mother, but it is meant to honour the whole royal family. And the king will sometimes choose out some of the dancers, who must all be virgins, unmarried, and childless, to become his new wives. Polygamy is traditional among the Swazi royal family. Those virgins who are chosen are given dominant position among the royal princesses.
Plus, Swazi warriors will sometimes join in the dancing and throw money at the feet of those whose dancing skills impress them.
The logistics of providing sufficient food, water, amenities, and security for the annual Umhlanga Reed Dance week can be challenging, but the Swazi king nonetheless continues the event. And many tourists feel honoured to attend the final two days of Umhlanga with special tour guides.