PEOPLE OF TANZANIA
The current estimated population of Tanzania stands at over 43 million people. The distribution of people across the vast landscape is quite uneven with more than 80% located in rural areas, particularly those that receive reliable rainfall. Rural to urban migration continues at a fast pace with large numbers of people seeking employment in the main cities of Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza and Dodoma.
Given over 120 ethnic groups, it is impossible to visit and learn about each of the traditional cultures of Tanzania in one visit. However, visiting a selection of Bantu-speaking people, Nilotic pastoralists, and the Bushman hunter-gathers in their traditional lands, gives you a wonderful glimpse into local Tanzanian life.
The Meru people, or waMeru, are a Bantu-speaking people who settled at the base of Mount Meru over three hundred years ago. They settled in the forested area on the southeastern slopes of the mountain and developed a strong agricultural economy along with livestock keeping. It is believed that the waMeru practiced a traditional style of permaculture, and it is possible to witness some of these activities during a visit to the waMeru homeland.
The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group (very different from Bantu-speaking ethnic groups) of semi-nomadic people located in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. Because of their unique culture and customs, they are among the best known of African ethnic groups. A very proud people, Maasai warriors and elders enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience with visitors, as long as one of their own is guiding and translating.
The Maasai have an extensive system for nurturing the mind, body and spirit using medicinal plants combined with expert healers skilled in traditional psychology and spiritual healing practices. A visit to Maasailand can include learning and experiencing these practices from Maasai people themselves.
HADZA PEOPLE, THE BUSHMEN OF LAKE EYASI
The Hadza, or Hadzabe, inhabit an area of north-central Tanzania around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and into the neighboring Serengeti Plateau. There are very few Hadzabe remaining on this land, most likely just under 1000 people, of which less than 400 continue to live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
While the Hadzabe speak a language with clicking sounds in it, their ethnic group appears to be genetically unrelated to the Khoisan people of southern Africa. Due to pressure from neighboring groups encroaching on their land and impact from insensitive tourist operations and trophy hunting activities, it is very difficult to witness the authentic Hadzabe way of life. Together with patience and an open heart, you may be fortunate to experience a traditional family gathering and hunt with a group of Hadzabe.
DATOOGA PEOPLE, BARBAIG TRIBE
The Datooga are a pastoralist Nilotic people of north-central Tanzania south of Ngorongoro Crater. There are seven Datooga tribes, the Barbaig being one of them. The Barbaig people whose traditional culture is still unchanged and unspoiled, are highly-skilled in metalwork. The Maasai traditionally traded livestock with the Barbaig in order to obtain the metal tips they needed for their spears. A visit to Barbaig communities can include seeing metal workers in action and an opportunity to obtain beautiful jewelry, some of which is fashioned from car spri
The Iraqw are a Cushitic people of the Arusha and Manyara Regions of north-central Tanzania, near the Rift Valley wall and south of Ngorongoro Crater. The language is distinctive from their Bantu and Nilotic neighbors and resembles an Arabic sound. The areas surrounding Karatu town in Arusha region is Iraqw homeland and visitors can witness their locally developed intensive cultivation techniques.
Traditionally in conflict with the Maasai, Iraqw homesteads included underground tunnels – aasimo -- in which to hide. Visitors can see these elaborate structures during a visit to the Karatu area.