Cultural Tourism in Tanzania

Experience the charm of the friendly Tanzanian people first-hand. There are several cultural heritage sites scattered throughout the country where you can spend from ½ day to a week with one of the 120 distinct ethnic groups making up the population. At the sites you will encounter natural beauty, including: rain forests, big waterfalls, magnificent views, lots of wild life, and, of course, the charming Tanzanians themselves. Your cultural tour will directly support the villages’ desire to become more self-sufficient, preserve their indigenous culture, and aid environmental conservation efforts.

Some of the popular cultural centres which may be tailored into visitor itineraries include:

The Maasai

The Maasai in northern Tanzania are among the most popular ethnic groups in the area, a proud people fervently attached to their cultural values. Ngorongoro is the home of the pastoral Maasai, who have been allowed to live in the conservation area, a pioneering experiment in multi-purpose land use where people, their livestock and wildlife coexist and share the same protected habitat. The Maasai move widely with their herds of cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys in search of pasture and water. In recent years the Maasai have been encouraged to work on the land to supplement their traditional staple food of milk and meat.

While in Ngorongoro most of the guests on safari love to include a visit to a Maasai Boma (homestead). The Seneto Maasai Boma on the western slopes of the Ngorongoro Highlands about two hundred metres off the main road to Serengeti is one of the most famous cultural visitor points for guests. Another popular Maasai village is Irkeepus which is located in the Ngorongoro Highlands and a visit can be combined with a trek of Olmoti or Empakaai Crater.

Visitors will be shown around the Maasai Boma, and are welcome to explore the huts where Maasai families live and learn a few things about their way of living. The huts, normally built by women, are made of wood, mud and cow dung.

The visit lasts about 30 to 45 minutes and at the end the villagers will show off and try to sell their colourful beadwork and other handcrafted wares. If time allows the Maasai warriors would challenge men to engage in a spear throwing match or perform a tribal dance, and ladies may choose to participate in beadwork. This is intended to expose visitors to the Maasai culture though briefly and enrich them with some authentic African experiences.

The Hadzabe and Datoga

Lake Eyasi is a very scenic soda lake found on the southern border of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a couple of hours drive from Karatu. This less visited lake lies at the base of the Eyasi escarpment on the western Great Rift Valley wall, bordered by the Eyasi Escarpment in the northwest and the Kidero Mountains in the south.

This is a hot, dry land, around which live the Hadzabe people, often associated with the Khoisan languages in Southern Africa because of their click language. The Hadzabe are believed to have lived here for nearly 10,000 years and continue to follow hunting-and-gathering traditions.

Also in the area are the Iraqw (Mbulu), a people of Cushitic origin who arrived about 2000 years ago, as well as the Datoga also Cushitic, the Maasai and various Bantu groups including the Nyakyusa, Nyamwezi, Chaga and Meru. The area is Tanzania’s main onion-growing centre, and there are impressive irrigation systems along the Chemchem River drawing its water from natural springs.

The Hadzabe, a hunter-gatherer tribe, live close to the shores of Lake Eyasi, as do the Nilotic-speaking Datoga tribe who are pastoralists. Visits to these tribes are possible on half day or full day excursions which would include a visit to their homesteads, learning about their way of life, medicinal plants, and even animal tracking with bows and arrows with the Hadzabe hunters.

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