About this blog: One of the most rewarding aspects of travelling for us that we get to meet various people. And while we meet them, we are introduced to a whole new world of delightful people, traditions, interesting rituals and customs. As a cultural travel blogger, I had asked my fellow travel bloggers about fascinating traditions and customs and most interesting cultures around the world that they had come across.
I always believe that travelling opens up new horizons. As travellers, we get to realize the vastness and diversity of the world. We are out of our comfort zone and also happen to appreciate the little joys of life. After about 15 years of travelling through different parts of India and around, we have visited some incredible places and explored some remote destinations. However, the favourite part of our adventure on road has always been meeting new people and knowing new cultures. Agni and I love to document the places and the people, culture and traditions that are unique, vanishing and are changing with time.
Here are some of the interesting cultures around the world as suggested by my travel blogger friends. This blog contains some of the interesting customs and traditions of the people.
- 1 Interesting Culture around the world – Asia
- 1.1 The Head Hunters of Nagaland, India
- 1.2 Nyishi Tribe from Arunachal Pradesh, India
- 1.3 Kalash People
- 1.4 The Khasi community of Meghalaya, India
- 1.5 Tibetans
- 1.6 Rungus, Sabah
- 1.7 Akhu Tribe, Kengtung Myanmar
- 1.8 Thai community who offer Red Fanta to God!
- 1.9 Black Hmong, Northern Vietnam
- 1.10 Akha, Laos
- 1.11 The Bajo people of South East Asia
- 1.12 Toraja, Indonesia
- 2 Interesting cultures around the world – Europe
- 3 Interesting cultures around the world – Africa
- 4 Interesting cultures around the world – South America
Interesting Culture around the world – Asia
The Head Hunters of Nagaland, India
Contributed by Amrita from Experience Northeast
Northeast India is the home to many fascinating tribes and interesting cultures around the world, but the Konyak tribe or the fierce headhunters of Nagaland seems to be the most intriguing to us. One of the largest tribes in the remotely located Nagaland, Konyaks are known for their valour who took pride in severing the heads of their opponent warriors as trophies to be hung at their Morungs (a traditional community house). The Konyaks are seen in the remote village of Longwa in Mon district of Nagaland.
Even till 1969, headhunting was practised in Nagaland. The Konyaks believed that a young man’s passage to manhood could only be completed after he would bring back a head to the village. So they used to fight their enemies to kill, rip off their heads and bring the head back to decorate the Morungs. With each kill, they got a tattoo on their face and chest, which is perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the tribe. These tattoos define their honour and pride and the Konyaks believe that if they did not get a tattoo, they would not be able to get a good afterlife.
However, with the advent of modernity, things have changed. Now, the Konyaks are no longer head hunters, but they still retain their brave and fierce disposition. There are now only a few head hunters left in the Longwa village. The best time to see the KonyakNagas is to visit during the Aoling Festival that usually takes place in April every year.
Nyishi Tribe from Arunachal Pradesh, India
Contributed by Anjali from Travel Melodies
Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India has 26 indigenous tribal groups, and the Nyishi tribe is one of the largest of them. The cultural practices and beliefs of Nysihis resemble those of Mongoloid tribal groups from Myanmar. Nyishis call themselves the descendants of Abo-Tani, a mythical forefather.
They speak Tibeto-Burman and yet to develop a script. As they don’t have anything in writing, it’s interesting to know that they pass their culture, rituals, and history from one generation to another through an intriguing oral tradition of folklore. Nyishis’ belief in their culture and rituals is unwavering. They believe that rituals, when not performed religiously, can invite trouble.
Mithun (traditional cattle) plays an important role in all the aspects of life – be it social, cultural, economic, or religious. Groom pays the bride price in the form of Mithun during the marriage, and they sacrifice Mithun (sacred to them) to appease their deity in almost all the ceremonial rituals.
I found their Traditional Grain Analysis (Amyemch Hikanam) Ritual quite intriguing where the priest holds a measuring cup made of bamboo and asks a woman to fill it with grain and predicts her future based on the way she filled the cup. Isn’t it interesting?
Unlike our urban society, Nyishis are quite progressive. They treat their women equally and involve them in the decision-making process.
I loved their people, culture, traditions, dance (Rikham Pada), their attire, their homes (Namlo) and their local brew apong served in a beautiful patha ( a goblet made of bamboo shoots). In this fast-paced and competitive world where people are trying to pull each other down, they live in absolute peace and harmony. Simple, honest, ever-smiling, and realistic, Nyishis respect their culture and nature. They accept things the way they are and don’t try to change anything for their selfish motives. Plus, they are amazing hosts
Contributed by Alex Reynolds from Lost With Purpose
The Kalash, one of the most interesting cultures around the world, is a unique people hailing from three small valleys in the mountains of western Pakistan: Bumburet, Rumboor, and Birir make up the Kalash Valleys. Located in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the valleys lead to mountains bordering Afghanistan.
The Kalash people are unique in multiple ways. Some researchers believe they are descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great; some of his men stayed behind on the Indian subcontinent after his campaign through the region. Although this is a common claim in Pakistan and India, the Kalash are the only people whose genes show an injection of European DNA around the time of Alexander’s campaign.
Verity of the claim aside, there’s no denying the Kalash people look nothing like their neighbours. Many men and women have fair skin and light eyes, a colouring uncommon in South Asia.
The Kalash people also have their own religion and culture. Although Pakistan is a Muslim majority country, the Kalash are animists. Kalash culture is believed to be linked to ancient Hinduism. The Kalash people make—and consume—their own alcohol. Women wear brightly coloured dresses and headpieces with embroidery unique to the Kalash people.
The epitome of Kalash culture can be witnessed during one of three big Kalash festivals. At each festival people dress up, drink, and dance while praying for a successful harvest, protection for their animals, etc.
Visiting the Kalash Valleys has become increasingly popular, both with domestic tourists and foreigners. When I visited the Kalash Valley, locals told me they’re generally happy more tourists are coming, but they’re wary of disrespectful outsiders. Many tourists arrive totally ignorant of local traditions and cultures and often take photos of girls without asking for permission. Pakistani men often get drunk and rowdy on the local booze.
Though I recommend you visit the Kalash Valleys if you ever make your way to Pakistan, please be mindful of their traditions and culture, and treat them with the respect they deserve.
Editor’s Note: We have an incredible desire to visit Pakistan as we have seen the beauty of the region in various Facebook groups. Hope, someday, both India and Pakistan end their dispute and we are able to travel freely.
The Khasi community of Meghalaya, India
Contributed by Zinara from NatnZin
The Khasi community is the main indigenous group calling home to the Indian state of Meghalaya. They are a matrilineal community. Here, the property belongs to the youngest daughter of the family. Children receive the last name of the mother. It also involves matrilocal residence, which means that after marriage, the husband comes to reside with the wife’s family. Owing to all these reasons, Khasis live a very different life from their mainland Indian counterparts.
The first time I went to Meghalaya, it was the month of August in 2018. My local guide Khraw took me to bustling markets. Chattering women sat next to each other. Others carried baskets full of feathery chicken on their heads. Women dressed up in local Khasi dresses chopped meat. It was an egalitarian society.
Throughout my first trip around the Khasi Hills (the region where Khasis are densely populated), I sat with single mothers for breakfast, shared many cups of red tea with them listening to their experiences. I also noticed a close-knit society everywhere I went. Khraw hails from Mawsynram—it’s the rainiest place on earth. “If someone doesn’t have a house in our village, we get together, give them a plot of land and build them a house,” Khraw told me. “They can cultivate the land to earn a livelihood.”
After my first visit, I returned to Meghalaya again and again. In February this year, I went back for the sixth time and every time I visit, the small state amazes me. Maybe it’s the hope for an egalitarian world, maybe it’s the sense of community or their love for the environment—every time I go, I learn something new, something fascinating.
Contributed by Wendy Werneth from The Nomadic Vegan
I’ve been intrigued by Tibetan culture for many years, ever since reading My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Néel. In this account of how she entered Lhasa disguised as a Tibetan beggar to learn about Buddhism from Tibetan lamas, David-Néel shows deep respect and fascination with Tibetan Buddhism that I found to be contagious.
I’ve encountered Buddhism in plenty of countries around Asia and have always related to and connected with its teachings of compassion and non-violence towards all sentient beings. But the Tibetan form of Buddhism always seemed so mysterious, and I was enchanted by the eerie tones of the singing bowls, the deep guttural vibrations of the chants, and the vibrant colours of the sand mandalas.
While you’re probably already aware that Tibetans are from Tibet, it’s important to note that the Tibetan Autonomous Region, as it’s been defined by the government of China, is not the only place where Tibetans live. In the past, Tibet included a much larger area, now part of the Chinese provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai. In some areas of these provinces, the majority of the population is still made up of ethnic Tibetans.
These areas are arguably even more rewarding to visit because, unlike the Tibetan Autonomous Region, foreigners are allowed to visit these places on their own. A visit to the Labrang Monastery in Gansu province, for example, can be a great way to experience Tibetan culture independently without having to join a tour group authorized by China. Just be aware that some parts of these provinces remain completely closed to foreigners, and these regulations can change at the drop of a hat, so be sure to check official websites for the latest updates.
Contributed by Leyla Giray Alyanak of Offbeat France
InuliahItam is a member of the Rungus tribe, one of several dozen tribes found in Sabah. Here, she prepares a feast for guests and extended family members
With young people headed to the cities for jobs, the future looked grim for ethnic groups like the Rungus, who live near the tip of Borneo in Sabah, on the Malaysian side of the island. But tourism may save their culture by encouraging them to revive traditional crafts such as dancing, gong-making, playing the nose flute and building traditional longhouses. I was fortunate to spend a few days living with a Rungus family, taking part in their daily lives.
Much of that life centres around food, which is grown on family-owned land and cooked fresh each day: rice, plenty of green vegetables I didn’t know, fish of course with the sea nearby, and chicken. None of it was particularly spicy but it was delicious, and it was filling.
In the nearby village of KampungSumangkap, gong-makers hammer and shape zinc sheets into curved, vibrating instruments. This traditional skill is important – the gong is the most highly prized musical instrument in Rungus culture and is used for all major events. It also faced a dim future until the Rungus realized visitors would enjoy the gong-making and buy gongs to take home, providing much-needed income to local communities.
With the upswing of tourism in Sabah villagers are now able to supplement their income with traditional crafts, gong-making of course, but also bead-stringing, dancing, singing, nose flute-playing, and maintaining longhouses. While young people still migrate to cities, they can now choose to stay closer to home because jobs are available.
Akhu Tribe, Kengtung Myanmar
Contributed by Maya and Sari from Chasing Lenscapes
Kengtung (or Kyaing Tong) is located in the Shan State in Myanmar, and it is one of the best places to visit if you want to learn more about Myanmar’s cultural diversity (there are more than a hundred of distinct ethnic groups in Myanmar). The Kengtung district is part of the golden triangle of Southeast Asia. Therefore, there are various influences from the nearby countries, and some of the local tribes can be found in the neighbouring states as well.
During our visit to Kengtung, we’ve visited some of the local tribes. One of our most memorable visits was the one to the Akhu village. The Akhu women are known for their long bamboo pipes, which they like to smoke and will demonstrate gladly for their guests. They wear black headwear (similar to a turban), and most of their attire is black too, except for the colourful bead necklaces and their beautiful silver earrings. Their homes are very simple, wood huts without any decorations, no running water, and no electricity. The local guides try to do what they can in terms of helping the local communities.
In terms of religion, the village used to be an animist village, but like many of the tribes in the area, the villagers were converted to Christianity by missionaries.
We were invited to a local house, and with the help of our guide, could carry on a conversation with our hostess. Her friendly demeanour made us feel comfortable, and we could tell she loved to smoke her long pipe for us and tell us about her daily life. It seems that the women of the village live well into their 80s or even 90s, which is extraordinary considering the low level of medical care. The men, however, rarely pass their 60s. It is hard to explain this difference since both men and women work very hard. Anyone who loves to experience interesting cultures around the world and likes to explore hidden gems, should try and make an effort to visit Kengtung in Myanmar.
Thai community who offer Red Fanta to God!
Contributed by By Abhishek & Neha from Revolving Compass.
On our 2 weeks Thailand trip, one thing that caught our attention everywhere we went was red Fanta bottle sitting in front of God idols, and that also with a straw! This is one interesting culture around the world that we have witnessed.
The first time we noticed it was near a Ganesha statue in front of a mall in Bangkok. Then we simply thought someone ignorant left it there. The next day, we saw two bottles on the same spot, along with a bowl of eggs! It appeared as some kind of ritual now. We have seen different kinds of offerings, but never a soft drink given to God! Was it that the hot and humid climates of Thailand made even the Gods crave for soft drinks? Intrigued, I couldn’t hold myself anymore and inquired from a local Thai in Doi Suthep. Next, an interesting story unfolded.
The traditional Thai culture is highly rooted in the Indian subcontinent. For thousands of years, sacrifices to daemonic Gods including human, animal and blood sacrifices have been its integral part to please the spirits and keep them from interfering with the lives of common people. As civilizations matured, at some point, such sacrifices were banned. And each region saw the evolution of an alternative.
In Thailand, it emerged in the form of red Fanta, whose colour is so close to blood! And the modern Thai community started offering red Fanta to Gods! In fact, Thailand is one of the highest consumers of Red Fanta today. And most of it actually goes to the Gods. Interestingly, if a Thai drinks red Fanta, he is actually fawned upon and made fun of in his community for showing “daemonic symptoms”!!
Black Hmong, Northern Vietnam
Contributed by Marya from The Beau Traveler
The Black Hmong is the minority ethnic group who are resided in Northern Vietnam. The ethnic group has settled in some villages around Sapa town, like Supan, Lao Chai, and Cat Cat Village. I got the opportunity to meet them in Sa Pa a few years ago when I travelled solo to Vietnam for the first time.
My first encounter with the Black Hmong people was when I did the trekking tour around Lao Chai, and what amazed me was that all the Black Hmong people who got involved in the tour are mostly women. If anything, I barely found any Black Hmong men in sight except a few times when we passed the ricefields.
As it turned out, the Black Hmong is ethnic with strong feminist values in their customs and culture. They recognize gender equality, and most of Black Hmong’s families have both men and women as the breadwinner in the family. While Black Hmong women usually rely on their embroidery skills to make their ends met, the men usually master skills like handling livestock or cultivating crops.
Apart from that, most Black Hmong women also work as a tour guide for the tour around their villages. However, if you join a group tour, even though the tour has the designated guide for you and other people, chances are you will be followed by some of these Black Hmong women who would interact with you throughout the tour, and help you during trekking. Mind you, trekking track around Sapa town is very hilly that it might be difficult for some of us. I know because it was for me.
By the end of the tour, they will ask you to buy some of their embroidery goods. My companion at the time, Lily, gave me a pair of earrings for free after I decided to purchase a couple of purses as a souvenir for my family back home.
Contributed by Marie from A Life Without Borders
The Akha are a minority ethnic group living in the remote, high mountain regions of Laos, China, Thailand and Myanmar. Easily recognisable by their decorated headdress full of silver baubles and coins, the Akha in Laos are only found in the far northern Luang Nam Tha province. I encountered Akha women at a village in Muang Sing, Laos where I was fortunate enough to spend the day learning about their textiles and tribal clothing.
Despite rapid economic and social changes, the Akha are one of the interesting cultures around the world and they continue to practice many aspects of their customs and traditions. The Akha way of life is infused with strong family ties and strict rules. Generally living in stilted bamboo houses high in the hillsides, the huts are divided by gender, with one half occupied by women and the other half used by men.
Akha men are expert farmers and hunters, whilst the women are masters at weaving and sewing. In fact, Akha women are one of the few ethnic groups in Laos who continue to eschew modern clothing in favour of their traditional costume. Consisting of a distinctive headdress, a short black skirt and vest and brightly coloured leggings, most elements of the outfit are decorated with silver balls, buttons and coins, all embellished with brightly coloured threads. Incredibly, Akha women never remove their headdress – they actually sleep with it on, covered with a simple cloth to protect it.
Entrance to an Akha village is also easily recognised by a large wooden frame, known as a “spirit gate”, hung with talismans and carvings. The spirit gate marks the divide between the spirit realm outside the gate and the world of the Akha people, inside. The gate effectively serves to stop evil spirits from entering and keep the favourable spirits inside.
The Bajo people of South East Asia
Contributed by Campbell and Alya from Stingy Nomads
As a scuba instructor and keen free diver that loves the ocean, I have always been fascinated by the Sama-Bajau or Bajo people, a nomadic sea living tribe known in popular culture as the sea gypsies or sea nomads. The Sama-Bajau have been a nomadic, seafaring people living in South East Asia in the ocean surrounding the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia for hundreds of years. I was very privileged to spend a couple of days in a Bajo settlement in Indonesia. The country Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands, some of them tiny. The Bajo settlement I stayed at was located at the small island, PulauPapan, one of the Togean Islands with the closest large island being Sulawesi.
For years this tribe has been living off the sea by trading and subsistence fishing The Bajo are known to be boat-dwelling and traditionally many of them spent their entire life at sea. Even though there are still some of the tribes living on small boats at sea, most of the modern
Sama-Bajaulive close to the shore by erecting houses on stilts, and they travel by using lepa, handmade boats. We were hosted by a local family and paid them for food and accommodation; the people were very hospitable and friendly. The freediving ability of the Bajo is legendary with some sources stating they can hold their breath for up to 5 minutes while hunting fish spearfishing. It was amazing to go spearfishing with them, using traditional homemade equipment.
Contributed by De Wet & Jin from Museum of Wander
On the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia is a valley surrounded by mist-clad mountains. The name of this valley is Tana Toraja or Toraja land, and this is the home of the Toraja people. These mountains have protected the Torajas and their culture for centuries, and today this valley is one of the most unique places in the archipelago.
The Torajas, one very interesting cultures around the world are tall, proud people and their most valuable possessions are their water buffaloes. You’ll see men grooming their buffaloes and decorating their horn and ears with flowers and colourful leaves as you explore the valley. The shape of the intricately decorated houses in which the Toraja people live in are also inspired by the shape of buffalo horns.
Toraja land is most famous for its elaborate funeral ceremonies. When a person passes on, the Torajas merely consider them to be sick, and the body will remain living with the family (inside a coffin) in the house. In the meantime, the family will start saving up and preparing for a proper send-off, which might take place a year or longer after the family member had passed on.
Funerals in the valley are a grim yet fascinating event, and should definitely not be missed if you visit TanaToraja during the funeral season. The Toraja people believe that souls will only leave the earth once a buffalo is sacrificed, and on a funeral day, at least six of these buffaloes will meet their end.
Afterwards, the meat gets divided between the community and a feast is prepared for the entire funeral guest. Funeral season in Tana Toraja runs between May and October, and you’ll definitely get invited if you are in the town of Rantepao during that time.
Interesting cultures around the world – Europe
Khinaluq, people of Xinaliq in Azerbaijan
Contributed by Ellis from Backpack Adventures
The Caucasus is one of the most multicultural areas in this world with a high diversity in languages and cultures. Already before I went to Azerbaijan I read an article about Xinaliq and its people that believe they are the direct descendants from Noah.
Xinaliq is one of the highest villages in Europe. It lies in the northeastern corner of the country close to the border with Dagestan in Russia and is so remote that the unique Khinaluq people have kept their own language and cultural traditions for centuries. Most noteworthy is their language that is not related to any other language in the area.
Obviously, I wanted to visit this place and this turned out to be easier than I thought. Tourism has become a welcome additional source of income for the people of Xinaliq. A number of welcoming homestays have opened their doors to foreigners to show them their way of life.
Xinaliq is a proud and resourceful mountain community. Despite language barriers, they are happy to share aspects of their culture and how they survive in the harsh climate of the mountains. The surroundings are absolutely spectacular, but life can be difficult up here.
It was a unique experience to stay with a family for one night and witness firsthand how they make bread, milk their goats and bring back their grazing sheep from the mountains. The lady of the house was shy at first, but eventually opened up to me.
Although the Khinaluq people are now Muslim they also kept some traditions from their animist past. Locals are happy to guide you around and show you some of the animist shrines that are still in the area. The hiking opportunities are great and the views on the mountains are the best in the whole Caucasus.
Contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird
Ask anyone to describe Scotland, and they’ll probably mention things like ‘tartan’, ‘music’, ‘kilts’ and ‘haggis’.
And they’d be right. Along with the incredible scenery (some of the world’s most scenic drives are in Scotland), it’s the people which really make the place. Their history, traditions and hospitality are woven into the fabric of the entire country- it’s impossible to separate the two.
Some of the most interesting traditions include:
- Each clan has its own tartan design and colours and they are VERY proud of it. Wearing the ‘wrong’ tartan is a huge insult and yes, they do take this stuff seriously. Being given your first kilt (boys) or dress/ sash (girls) is part of growing up and a memory every Scot treasures. The kilts/ traditional dress are worn at every formal social occasion, as well as many parties and events throughout the year (the Scottish LOVE to party!) Every Scotsman I know is well used to people asking what they’re wearing underneath. Give him enough to drink and he might even show you!
- Talking of which- don’t try to outdrink a Scot (male or female!) It will end badly… for you!
- This is one of my FAVOURITE Scottish traditions. Hogmanay means ‘last day of the year’ and is the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Traditionally, the house is cleaned from top to bottom, ready to start the New Year ‘fresh’. As the clock strikes midnight, revellers everywhere link arms and sing Auld Lang Syne, and then start the process of ‘first footing’. First footing means being the first person to cross the threshold of another household. You bring a small gift; whiskey, fruit bread, coal (for warmth), salt, or shortbread is traditional. The first footer is welcomed with a ‘wee dram’ of whiskey and is supposed to set the ‘tone’ for the year ahead.
Interesting cultures around the world – Africa
Contributed by Nadine from Curls en Route
One of the most interesting cultures around the world that I find truly fascinating is the Nubian culture. Nubians are one of the most ancient ethnicities still living to this day, who live in Nubia, a region that stretches from Aswan in Upper Egypt to Khartoum in Sudan. I haven’t been to Sudan so I’ll be talking about the Egyptian part of Nubia, a place that I’ve always loved going back to.
Nubian villages in Egypt are best known for their folkloric music, their vibrant, colourful houses by the Nile’s banks, and for the hospitable, friendly locals. Staying at a Nubian guesthouse, where a local hosts you in his very own home is a beautiful experience that you shall surely enjoy. You’ll get to learn more about the ancient region’s rich history, their interesting culture, and taste one of the world’s finest cuisines during your stay. Just expect some reptile action as Nubians tend to raise crocodiles as pets!
Another fun fact about Nubians is that they have their very own language. It’s a spoken and an unwritten language that they still practice to this very day as a way of preserving their culture that’s old enough to have witnessed the Ancient Egyptian civilization.
I have personally had plenty of memorable experiences in Nubia. The closest one to my heart was when I got really sick during my very first visit to Gharb Sohail Island. The kind Nubians took good care of me and helped treat me with natural herbs as they don’t use chemical medication. I’d have to say, it’s way more effective!
Contributed by Daniela from Grumpy Camel
My encounter with Morocco’s Berber communities has been quite fascinating and the Berbers are one of the most interesting cultures around the world. In 2014, my husband and I went on a hiking trip to Morocco, where we spent a couple of days in the High Atlas Mountains. There, we got to stay with a Berber family and learn more about rural life in Morocco.
The Berbers, or Imazighen as they are known in their native language, are an ethnic group native to many North African countries, including Morocco, which they have inhabited for at least 5,000 years. Many Berber communities in Morocco live in rural villages across the Atlas Mountains. Traditionally, Berbers were farmers and traders. Although many people of Berber heritage nowadays live and work in Moroccan cities, most Berber families in mountain communities still make a living from agriculture. Typically, Berber women work in the fields and weave blankets from dyed wool, while the men travel to markets in nearby towns to sell or trade their produce and livestock.
During our stay at a Berber village in Morocco, we were treated to delicious traditional meals cooked in tagines – conical clay pots that are used as cooking pots as well as serving dishes. The ingredients, which often consist of couscous, vegetables and meat or chicken, are placed in the pot and cooked on an open fire. Our dinner was followed by traditional Berber entertainment – singing, drumming and dancing in a circle. Songs are passed on orally from generation to generation and Amazigh families often come together to sing and dance to hypnotic drumming produced on bendirs (circular hand drums). It was a truly magical experience, made more special by the hospitality and kindness of the Berber families we met along the way.
The Masaai Tribe, Africa
Contributed by Joanna from The World in my Pocket
The Maasai Tribe is an ethnic group of people who live a semi-nomadic life, in Kenya and the north of Tanzania. They are known for their colourful attire and their traditional dance, in which the warriors of the tribe jump as high as they can.
The Maasai live a simple life, in villages with houses made out of cow manure. Men mostly take care of the cattle, whilst women stay at home to cook and take care of the children. Maasai take a lot of pride in their cattle, which is a symbol of their status. The Maasai, traditionally, only eat raw meat, drink raw blood and raw milk. They have rituals which involve drinking the blood of the cows on special occasions such as circumcisions, birth or marriage.
In Tanzania you can visit a Maasai village, to learn about their culture and traditions. Some villages are more touristy than others and, charge more. I organised a tour by myself and I was lucky for the guide to be a Maasai from that village, who was now living in Moshi town. I felt that the village I visited wasn’t on the tourist path and that they didn’t get many visits from foreigners. They were not pushy at all, they seemed genuinely happy to show me their culture.
I found the Maasai fascinating because of the way they live and their culture. The newer generations are receiving an education by going to school and are getting jobs in the nearby towns. However, they still maintain their traditions; they still dress the same and refuse to eat grains.
Himba tribe in Namibia
Contributed By Sabine and Sean from The Travelling Chilli
The Himba are one of the 13 ethnic tribes of Namibia and probably the most well known internationally. They are a semi-nomadic tribe who originate from the north-western part of Namibia and have since spread out to other parts of the country where visitor centres have been set up in order for tourists to gain a better understanding of their culture and history.
What is interesting to note about these real-life visitor centres is they have been set up in such a way as to try and preserve the original Himba culture without too much interference from the outside world. One such way that they avoid the influence of the modern world is these centres are located quite far from any major city, town or village. However, I have seen Himba’s using cell phones from time to time and they also know what the internet and a television is.
While the Himba men don’t dress up in anything too special, the women on the other hand will adorn themselves with nothing other than a single leather loincloth. They will go on to cover themselves entirely in a red ochre powder-based ointment made out of incense and butterfat which gives their skin a very soft silky feel. They will also braid their hair extensions with the same mixture. Each Himba tribe also wears specific jewellery much like the Scottish clans will each have their own kilt designs.
So, when you are next looking for things to do in Namibia, I highly recommend making time for a visit to a Himba village.
Contributed by Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel
The Omo Valley tribes are a resilient group of people living in Southern Ethiopia. They are largely unaffected by the outside world and are recognized as practitioners of some of the world’s oldest cultures and traditions and are that one of the most interesting cultures around the world.
The 16 plus indigenous tribes living in the valley have followed in their ancestor’s footsteps for hundreds of years. They don’t have electricity or other modern amenities. They have a different set of values and cultural norms which sometimes include wearing colourful garb or painting their bodies.
Each tribe has slightly different traditions, different languages, and proficiencies. But overall it was fascinating to learn about their culture and the Omo Valley tribes’ deep connection to nature. The tribes rely heavily on the changing seasons, annual floods and other environmental phenomenons for their livelihood. The landscape of the region can be unforgiving, so we walked away with a deep respect for the Omo Valley tribes.
Omo Valley may not be the most accessible place to get to on a trip to Ethiopia but that is not reason enough to scratch it from your bucket list. Relatively few tourists visit the valley and Ethiopia tourism is pretty undeveloped in the area so walking around the villages you will get a sense of the refreshing authenticity of the region and its people.
Interesting cultures around the world – South America
Zapotec people, Mexico
Contributed by Rose from Where Goes Rose?
While most people think of Mexico as a predominantly Spanish speaking country, there are in fact 68 national languages. This is because of the number of indigenous groups around the country, many of whom have spoken their native dialects, which bear no resemblance to Spanish for centuries, for centuries. One such group are the Zapotec people who are mainly found in Oaxaca state, as well as the neighbouring states.
By visiting Zapotec villages such as the 8 protected Pueblos Mancomunados villages in Southern Mexico, you can not only support a protected region of eco-tourism but also meet the indigenous people who call it home. One such village is Benito Juarez which can be visited from Oaxaca City as a day trip or overnight trip.
I visited the lofty village surrounded by forests and mountains with a local guide who shared information about the Zapotec people we met. Even if you visit Mexico as a Spanish speaker, this is advised as many Zapotec people don’t speak Spanish so you’ll need a guide to communicate in their dialect. The locals wore hand embroidered colourful garments and eat vegetarian-based meals which can be tried in Benito Juarez village. The Zapotec people here live in modest homes built from the surrounding woodland. For incredible scenery and a memorable cultural exchange, add a Zapotec visit to your Mexico bucket list.
Wayuu Tribe, Colombia
Contributed by Daniel from layer Culture
When looking for unique and interesting cultures around the world you sure don’t want to miss out on a chance to see, or even visit, the Wayuu people. Located in the most northern point of the South American continent, you can find the Wayuu tribe who make up one of the many indigenous American ethnic groups in Colombia.
After spending many weeks backpacking Colombia I have been fascinated by the work of the ingenious Wayuu tribe as their handmade bags are sold all over the country. One day I decide to get one step closer and take a trip to La Guajira region of Colombia; which is where the tribe and its community reside. My first encounter with the tribe was in a place called Riohacha.
After seeing the tribe sat with their fascinating bags presented in a very orderly fashion along the sidewalk, I instantly bought one. Not just because the price was competitive but my goal all along with visiting the region was to buy a Wayuu bag from the tribe itself and not from a wholesaler in the bigger city. I found the tribeswomen to be very astute when it comes to business and even though you can negotiate on the price, they did drive a very hard bargain. In Colombia, the Wayuu are known for their colourful woven bags and after buying one I will treasure mine for many years to come.
Quechua People of Perú
Contributed by Heather Trimm from Trimm Travels
Learning about the indigenous people of any destination I visit is quite interesting to me. However, none have fascinated me and captured my attention quite like the Quechua people of Perú.
While Perú is the country of origin, other Quechua speaking indigenous people also live in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador. Because of this, you may hear them referred to as the indigenous people of South America.
Adopted as Perú’s second official language in 1969 (Spanish is the first), around 4 million people speak the Quechua language within the country. There are different dialects with the most common being Southern Quechua.
There were several reasons I became fascinated with the people while travelling through Perú. One was that the Incas spoke the Quechua language. The Incas are the amazing empire behind the creation of the astonishing Machu Picchu. Although there are no Incas around today, the language is still very strong throughout different regions of Perú.
The biggest reason I became fascinated with the Quechuas is learning how strong they are physically, mentally, and emotionally. They are extremely hard workers as they traditionally come from farming and agricultural backgrounds. They also have endured a lot of persecution as recently as the Peruvian Civil War which took place in the 1980s.
Quechuas are a diverse group. Some are very quiet and introverted continuing to live on their family-owned land and dressing in their colourful traditional attire. Others are a little less traditional and have adapted to more modern culture and can be encountered singing and playing the guitar in bars in Peruvian cities such as Cusco.
Having encountered both types described above, I can tell you there is so much to be learned from this amazingly talented people group such as hard work and dedication along with resilience and pride in their traditions!
Taos Pueblo Tribe, Mexico
Contributed by Andy Vanr from Avrex Travel
Meet the people of Taos Pueblo, an adobe-walled village about a mile northeast of Taos, New Mexico. About 150 people live here without electricity, running water or indoor plumbing as their ancestors have for centuries. They claim an aboriginal presence in the Taos Valley of the Southwestern United States since time immemorial and guard their culture today.
We visited Taos Pueblo which is recognized by UNESCO as it has been continuously inhabited and maintained by traditional methods since construction. The multi-storied adobe buildings at the village’s heart are estimated to have been built between 1000 and 1450 CE.
Although regarded as one of the most private, secretive and conservative communities, the pueblo is open to the public. Visitors can join a group tour of the village led by a member of the Taos community who will provide insight into their history and traditions.
Their history is oral, sacred and guarded vigorously by them. They continue to practice their own religious beliefs and do not share details with people outside their community.
Many tribe members have modern homes, on reservation land, outside the walled village always returning to the village social and cultural celebrations.
Our visit to Taos Pueblo was a fascinating encounter with people who live very much as their ancestors have for hundreds of years.
Cultural tourism has a positive impact on the economy and social life of the people if done responsibly. A traveller can engage with and understand the history, culture and lifestyle of the local people and place they are visiting.
However, travellers go overboard and become too inquisitive while documenting certain tribes and traditions. We often fail to respect the privacy of the people. I would always suggest asking before you take pictures and also take permission from the people before you decide to put them online. Also, it is always better to take a local guide with you when you are visiting any unknown and remote place.
Disclaimer: This blog is written for purely gaining knowledge and in no way supports the advertising of tribes and people. I am sure all of us are responsible here and we will be able to achieve the fine balance between documentation and intrusion.
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