WHEN I was invited to visit Swaziland recently, though I was excited, I was not jumping up and down because it was no big deal for me. After all, that country is home to me.
Sowetan was the bridge that was going to ensure that things happened and at the end of the project, everyone would be itching to visit the tiny, beautiful country.
So, as the Land Rovers ate up the kilometres, I began to feel that quiet excitement that always spirals into a huge bubble by the time I hit KaNgwane.
The tourism department under its active minister Macford Sibanda was intent on making our two-day stay as memorable as possible.
"We are privileged to have a musical of Umoja's calibre and talent coming to our shores. We hope this is the beginning of a great relationship between ourselves and the cast," said an excited Sibanda.
A royal entourage was waiting to whisk us to the Swazi parliament. In typical Swazi style, we were received warmly by the ministers, who were delighted to see the Umoja cast and media.
Then we were taken to a classy cocktail function at Happy Valley, where Swaziland' s who's who were patiently waiting for us. The cocktail affair was about speeches and welcoming and treating us South Africans like kings and queens .
The next morning after breakfast we were on our way to one of the most beautiful, the biggest and most trendy hotels in Manzini, the George. Unfortunately, Tums du Pont, its charming owner, was not expecting us so he was away on business.
No matter, Du Pont's very well-trained and efficient staff led by Dlamini spoilt us thoroughly with a variety of drinks, croissants and cakes, which we really enjoyed.
We could not resist the beckoning elegant Sun International hotels - the Lugogo and the Royal Swazi Sun - before hitting the road for Piggs Peak.
Everyone was very excited about our meeting with the most powerful woman in Swaziland. We could not wait to meet the queen mother, indlovukazi, Queen Ntombi Thwala, King Mswati's mother.
Without being forward or proving her larger-than-life status, the queen received us graciously at her Ebuhleni residence, which is close to her own home.
This is where she grew up, ran around barefoot like any girl her age, laughing, carefree, getting into mischief with her mates and, no doubt, getting a few smacks for it.
That was long before the late King Sobhuza saw this flower and plucked it for his own so that he could forever enjoy its youth, beauty and intoxicating aroma.
The queen listened patiently as Umoja explained that they were there to make sure her country enjoyed spin-offs of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
After all, we can never forget the help Swaziland gave South Africa during the dark days of apartheid and the blessings that that country showered by becoming the first audience to the struggling Umoja 10 years ago.
Ambassador Sibanda spoke after Umoja's Todd Twala, welcoming us once again and speaking eloquently about the Visit Swaziland campaign that ought to bear fruit.
Sy Manana, the visionary who had initially approached Twala and Thembi Nyandeni, lacked words to describe the joy he felt at seeing his dream being realised. Manana paid tribute to the queen and her people, just as the others had done.
After these discussions, the queen who looked dignified throughout in a cream-and-black traditional leather robe and isidwaba (black leather skirt), finally spoke. She acknowledged everyone, reiterated that relations between the two countries go back a long way and that maintaining them was mutually beneficial.
In her soft voice she invited everyone to enjoy the beauty of Swaziland with its smoky blue mountains, lush greenery, many rivers and the Swazi hospitality.
The queen came outside to listen toUmoja and some of us singing for her. We then went back inside to tuck into the fare prepared for us.
With music still echoing in our ears, we watched the crimson sun perching majestically over the mountains, which were slightly purplish as they borrowed from its rays.
A huge sun was reflected in the massive man-made dam at Piggs Peak, also known as Spiki.
As we drove away, I felt so proud that one of these beautiful people chose me as a young bride so many moons ago.
I don't think I was imagining the pull of my belly button as we left. After all, I am a Swazi Princess and that is my home, my children's country.