Tanzania Culture and Traditions

Tanzania

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Masaai people Tanzania
the Maasai

The Tanzania culture is Swahili, an Arab/African mix, but there are also big Asian communities, particularly Indian, in towns and cities. Tribes inhabit rural areas, including the Maasai of the Great Rift Valley of the north. It is okay to photograph the locals, but always ask first. Some Maasai will charge you for this.

FOOD AND CULTURE

Food

For most Tanzanians, including those who live in urban areas, no meal is complete without a preferred staple carbohydrate—corn, rice, cassava, sorghum, or plantains, for example. Plantains are preferred in the northwest, ugali (a thick mash of corn or sorghum) in the central and southwestern regions, and rice in the south and along the coast.

The staple is accompanied by a fish, beef, goat, chicken, or mutton stew or fried pieces of meat, along with several types of vegetables or condiments, commonly including beans, leafy greens resembling spinach, manioc leaves, chunks of pumpkin, or sweet potatoes. Indian food (such as chapatis, a flat bread; samosas, vegetable or meat-filled pastries; and masala, a spiced rice dish), is widely available in all urban areas.

Breakfast preferences depend on income levels and local tradition: bread, sweet rolls or biscuits (mandazi), coffee or tea (sometimes with spices, sugar, and/or milk), buttermilk, and chicken broth are the most common foods.

Street food

Finger foods sold on the streets include fried plantains and sweet potatoes, charcoal-roasted corn on the cob (with no butter or salt), small bags of peanuts and popcorn, pieces of dried or fried fish, samosas , bread, fruit, dates, hard candy, gum, and mishikaki, or shish kebabs of beef or goat grilled over a charcoal fire.

In local bars selling homemade brews or bottled spirits and pop, it is common to eat roasted meat—beef or goat; often the meat will be flavored with hot peppers, salt, and fresh lime juice.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions

Without exception, all ceremonial occasions demand the preparation of enormous platters of food, such as pilau, a spiced rice, potato, and meat dish that caters to local tastes and culinary traditions. It is considered very shameful for guests to leave hungry from a ceremonial meal or dinner party. Except among religions that forbid it, alcohol is also an integral – and sometimes highly symbolic – part of ceremonies.

Local beers and spirits derived from bananas, corn, rice, honey, or sorghum are served alone or alongside manufactured alcoholic beverages. Konyagi, a ginlike spirit, is brewed commercially in Tanzania as are a variety of beers and soft drinks. Certain beers produced in neighboring countries—Primus, from Burundi, for example—are also popular.

Tanzania is home to approximately 120 tribal groups, most of these comprise small communities that are gradually being assimilated into the larger population due to changes in land use and the economic draw of city life.

Tanzania culture and traditions
Tanzania culture and traditions

Tribal diversity is prized and far from being a source of division, Tanzanians place a high value on their country’s multicultural heritage. Over the past few years, cultural tourism has become an increasing attraction for visitors from around the world and visits to tribal villages are often a highlight of safari itineraries.

The Maasai

The Maasai are perhaps the most well-known of Tanzania’s tribes and inhabit the northern regions of the country. Pastoralists who fiercely guard their culture and traditions, Maasai tribal life revolves around protecting and caring for their herds of cattle and finding ample grazing land in their region.

Tanzania Culture and Traditions
Tanzania Culture and Traditions

The tribes live in circular enclosures called manyatas, where small mud huts surround a secure open circle where their cattle and other herd animals sleep protected during the night. Woven thorn bushes form a thick fence around the enclosure to protect the herds from attacks by lions and other predators.

Because good grazing land fluctuates according to the seasons and yearly rains, Maasai settlements are temporary and easily relocated to where grazing and water access is best.

Tanzania culture and traditions
Maasai tribe

Tribal tradition separates men and women into different age groups: the youngest herd sheep and goats while the young male warriors, or Moran’s, job is to protect and care for their family’s cattle. Male elders hold a position of respect in Maasai society and once a warrior becomes an elder, he may marry to begin a family of his own.

Swahili culture

The ‘Spice Islands’ of the Zanzibar Archipelago, Pemba, and Mafia.
Tanzanian coast is home to the Swahili people, a vibrant mix of Arab, Indian and Bantu origins who historically based their livelihoods around Indian Ocean trade.

The Swahili Coast, as the region is called, is a predominantly Islamic region with old mosques and coral palaces found throughout the area. Swahili culture centers around the dhow, a wooden sailing boat powered by the seasonal wind. Historically, the boats connected the Swahili Coast with Arabia and India and allowed trade between the regions to flourish.

Fishing remains a mainstay of coastal income in small villages throughout the area, and coconut and spice plantations continue to form an important source of export.

Information by Zicasso Expeditions