Mbabane (pronounced Um-ba-ba-neh) is Eswatini’s capital city and has a magnificent setting, ringed by the craggy backdrop of the Dlangeni Hills. With an average height of 1243m, it sits firmly in the highveld, its temperate climate offering some relief during the hot season. Though only a medium-sized town by western standards with a population of some 95,000, it is nonetheless Eswatini’s largest and received ‘city’ status in 1992.
Mbabane’s history dates back to the 1750s when Chief Mbabane Kunene settled in the area. The town developed during colonial times and became the British colonial capital in 1903, after the Anglo-Boer war. Development saw the first post office in 1906 and the arrival of electricity in 1920 (at the British Commissioner’s residence, of course). A golf course, tennis courts, cricket pitch and theatre club soon followed.
It wasn’t until independence in 1968, however, that Mbabane really began to expand, with the building of the Swazi Plaza and, subsequently, the Mbabane Mall. Today this area forms the hear of town and houses banks, shops, internet cafés, tourist information and most modern visitor amenities. Hotels and guesthouses are located mostly in the surrounding residential suburbs and hills, while an abundance of places to eat ranges from restaurants serving international cuisine to coffee shops and fast-food joints. Despite now being a fully modern town, Mbabane has a pleasantly open, relaxed feel to it.