Cultural tourism in Tanzania is one of the important sectors to the country’s tourism industry. This type of tourism allows visitors to experience authentic, indigenous cultures by combining nature, scenery, folklore, rituals, art & crafts, ceremonies, dances and local hospitality of Tanzania to give a unique perspective into the daily lives of the local people, simultaneously allowing them to experience the wildlife safari in Tanzania and Zanzibar holidays has to offer.
The people of Tanzania are among the most welcoming and approachable on earth, with the range of fascinating cultures ready to be shared with visitors. Kilimanjaro to the world famous Maasai cultural tours excursion or a longer stay among local peoples is likely to become one of the most rewarding experiences of and holidays in Tanzania.
There are various tribes in Tanzania with different and unique cultures that are so interesting to learn about.
the Maasai people are a fusion of North Africans and Nilotic tribe originating from the northern part of Turkana lake in Kenya, which they left in the 15th century, then moving south and into present day Tanzania over 200 years ago, when they displaced other tribes in order to claim rich pastureland for their cattle. A race in which warriors were the highest class and their religion claimed all cattle as theirs by gift of God, they righteously annexed all the cows they encountered. There are now a million Maasai living in the homelands of Tanzania and Kenya. Much of their land has been absorbed into the National Parks in return for promises of cultural security and community wellbeing in surrounding reserves which have not always been kept. Some of the Maasai have learnt to appreciate the tourism industry by becoming guides, guards, staff and management of many of the new eco-tourist centers and cooperating in the conservation of the wildlife. They also present their cultural heritage as a valuable commodity. This can be done in a superficial way, as ethnic entertainment, presenting a popular tourist conception of red-robed Maasai warriors, leaping and drumming, singing and dancing.
The Hadzabe were hunter-gatherers who lived in valley caves of Lake Eyasi in harmony with nature for over 10,000 years. The development of national government together with climate change, tourism and commercial hunting, has resulted in the gradual destruction of their environment and their way of life, but their isolation has protected them from many modern diseases. They are a pride but also an embarrassment to a modern nation for its failure to progressively uplift the declining community from extinction, but out of respect for their chosen way of life, they are now the only people permitted to hunt with bows and arrows in the Lake Eyasi area. They have no concept of religion or afterlife, nor of time beyond the phases of the moon. They live in collaborative groups with no social rules. Men hunt bushmeat while the women search for fruit, tubers and other wild food. They sleep in an organic mini-dome housing made of natural branches while others prefer caves or lie head to tail around a campfire. Life is ephemeral. You need not hunt baboon or a dik dik, half naked with a bow and arrow to appreciate the Hadza way of life, but you can if you wish. Time spent “living in the now” on a Lake Eyasi cultural safari that confers calmness, centeredness and courage.
The Datoga were nomadic cattle herders but are now subsistence farmers, growing beans, maize and millet to augment their sheep, goats, cows and chickens rearing. They wear collars and bracelets of beads and brass and tattoo circles around their eyes. They are polygamous, ruled by a council of elders, and are aggressive, adversely affecting Hadzabe and Iraqw neighbors, and sometimes refuse to cooperate fully with the government. They live in mud huts in stockaded cattle enclosures. All parts of their animals are used, and they grow and kill only what they need, being reluctant to trade. Despite their fierce warrior reputation, the Datoga are paradoxically friendly, welcoming and happy to share their cultural traditions with guests on an East African safari. They look down on the Hadzabe, often preventing Hadza women from taking water at waterholes until the Datoga cattle have finished drinking. Like the Hadzabe, they claim to be the oldest Tanzanian people, with a 10,000-year old culture, but they came from Ethiopia about 3,000 years ago to settle around Lake Manyara and Eyasi. They resist development and education, have high infant mortality, and are seen by other tribes as primitive. Less than 7% of these people speak Kiswahili which is the national language.
The Iraqw are a statuesque, immobile people, private and traditionalist, but they have also largely lost their songs and ceremonies. Cultural identity depends on reclaiming their music, dance and arts, and rebuilding their self-respect as valuable contributors to a multi-ethnic, multi-national cosmopolitan society in Tanzania. Social change is rapid and extreme with friction caused in family groups by differences in religious and cultural practices, often noticeable at weddings when a group of older women sing ritual blessings in Iraqw whilst a Christian church choir tries to drown them out with hymns in Swahili. One group of guests sits in the courtyard, drinking home brew, and eating maize and beans, while the other dines in style indoors on processed meats and bottled alcohol. Older Iraqw are criticized as rigid traditionalists sticking to inter-generational taboos, while modern young people have embraced cosmopolitan values.
The Sukuma people of the north are cattle herders and farmers. These are Bantu speaking people who originated from the present day Uganda and settled in north western Tanzania and is Tanzania’s largest ethnic group. Most have become assimilated into the towns and cities, embracing Western dress and culture in place of traditional skins or the colorful Kanga cloths and Kitenge dresses they have adopted in more rural areas. All speak various Bantu dialects and Kiswahili. Some have converted to the Christian and Islamic faiths while the rest share many different traditional beliefs, often worshipping ancestors and sacrificing to them to ensure family health and prosperity. Although there is a folk museum (Bujora Cultural Center) in Mwanza, much of their traditional culture has been dwindling, except for the dance competitions which are held in villages throughout the months from May to September. Both men and women now work in the towns and cities and in industry as doctors, lawyers, engineers, business people and miners, but women still maintain their family roles as homemakers. Villages were once efficiently run by chiefs and elders on communal lines with most families partaking in decision-making. They are struggling to preserve their cultural heritage and to ensure adequate education and health care for their children. Rural women still fetch water, tend gardens and cook for their families while rural men are farmers, vital to the economic wellbeing of the nation.
Traditional dishes are still made from cornmeal ‘ugali’ served with green vegetables like; spinach, green peas, cabbage, or pumpkin leaves, making a cheap meal which is supplemented with fish, beef or goat meat on special occasions. There is yoghurt or fermented milk to drink, or beer, which is served during special occasions.
The Swahili people were formed due to intermarriages between Africans and Asians. The Swahili culture is rich in art, commodities and architecture. They speak Kiswahili which is a mixture of Arabic and the local language of the ancient local coastal people, it was the primary language of trade.
Kiswahili was made Tanzanian national language in order to unite the many different ethnic groups who shared between them over 120 different tongues and dialects. Arab merchants married Bantu women, consolidating a bridge between disparate races, cultures and religions. The predominant religion is Islam in this region and often combined with remnants of older cultural practices and superstitions. The Cushitic people who occupied the East African coast intermarried with the Bantu and later incomers, not only Arabs, but Indian, Portuguese and other Asian traders to give rise to a people combining the wisdom of Islam with the business acumen of the merchants and the zest for life of the indigenous Africans. Today, the Swahili people are found throughout the mainland and coasts of Kenya and Tanzania as well as on Zanzibar, Lamu, Mombasa, Mafia, Pemba and other islands in the Indian Ocean.