Mbabane is the capital of Swaziland and is situated just twenty three kilometres from the South African border crossing at Oshoek. The town has a population of around seventy thousand and is located on the Mbabane River in the Mdimba Mountains in the northwest regions of the country. The town grew out of a cattle kraal belonging to King Mbandzeni in the late 19th century. Mbabane grew after the nation's administrative centre moved from Manzini in 1902. The town was founded in that year when the British assumed control of Swaziland and set up an administrative headquarters there. A Mozambican railway link near Mbabane was established in 1964, primarily to export iron ore that had been extracted in the region. The production of the ore had virtually ceased by the late 1970s.
Mbabane is set among the glorious mountain scenery of the Dlangeni Hills in Swaziland's western highveld, at an altitude of one thousand two hundred metres. It is named after Chief Mbabane Kunene whose clan occupied Dalriach farm at that time. While the name means "something sharp and bitter", its exact meaning and translation are uncertain. Certainly, we do not know whether the reference is to its flavour or its attitude. Mbabane Kunene was the son of Ngongoma Kunene whose line can be traced to the present day Kunenes.
One of the main attractions in Mbabane is the Swazi market. Situated on the banks of the Mbabane River at the center of Mbabane in Allister Miller street, the marketplace houses stalls selling fruits and vegetables, and a wide assortment of traditional Swazi handicrafts which include woven sisal baskets, candle holders and beaded clay pots and placemats.
Attractions near Mbabane include Sibebe Rock, which overlooks the Mbuluzi river in Pine valley. The famous rock formation, with its steep and unbroken sides is considered to be the second largest exposed granite dome in the world, only second in size to Ayer's Roch in Australia. Hiking up the sides of this massive geological feature proves to be both exciting and popular, and magnificent views can be attained from the top.
Other attractions near Mbabane include:
- Mdzimba Mountains
- Ngwenya Glass Village
- Matsamo Cultural Park
- Indingilizi Gallery