Local traditions and culture in Tanzania

  • A Maasai woman Ngorongoro crater
    A Maasai woman Ngorongoro crater
    by babar_1
  • Maasai herder
    Maasai herder
    by toonsarah
  • A beer with the team
    A beer with the team
    by fishandchips

Most Viewed Local Customs in Tanzania

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    Tipping

    by SanguiniA Written Jun 28, 2005

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    For Tanzanians, and many other Africans, the white man is incredibly rich - just because he can afford to travel long distances. This and other factors have contributed to the mentality that a tourist is someone to ooze money from - so tips are not only expected, but sometimes demanded!

    In an airport, hotel, near a bus or near a taxi, your luggage will be snatched out of your hand, taken to its destination and a hand extended for a tip.

    Sometimes you hire a taxi or go into a shop, still new to the country with your currency in still in quite large bills, sometimes you will remain without change as the people assume that the change is a tip!

    For a safari it is customary to leave a large tip to the guide and cook - usually $10 per day for the guide and $8 per day for the cook. While this may amount to a considerable sum at the end of the trip, keep in mind that most probably these people will not be earning more than $1 per day for their efforts.

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    Ugali

    by MalenaN Updated Feb 27, 2004

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    Ugali is made of maize meal cooked up into a thick porrige until it sets hard. Everyone is eating from the same plate. When I was eating there was a green sauce and yoghurt to dip the ugali in. I have also eaten ugali made of sorghum, but maize is more common.

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    Village school

    by toonsarah Written Apr 22, 2009

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    During our drive from Ngorongoro to Tarangire we stopped for petrol in Karatu village, and Reginald suggested that we might like to visit a local primary school. We agreed and so we stopped off at one where he knew the teacher and knew that she would welcome the interruption. Some of the children were naturally shy, but others were keen to try out their English and show us their school books. The teacher asked them to sing us some traditional songs and one of the English ones they had been learning (sadly I forget what that was though I have some recollection that it too was a traditional song).

    We had a few pencils with us which we gave to the teacher for the children to use, but we wished that we had known in advance that we might be able to visit the school as we would have taken more gifts. An English family was there at the same time, and they had planned their visit in advance. The two children had made a scrap-book about their life in England to show the Tanzanian children – a wonderful idea.

    On our return we sent some of our photos to Reginald to be passed on to the school as a little thank you for the time they gave us.

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    Drying crops

    by MalenaN Updated Jun 14, 2003

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    After the harvest the crops are put on the roof or on a "table" to dry. Hopefully they are out of the way for the rats.

    The grains are then stored in bags or Kelindos. Kelindos are big wooden boxes made of the bark from trees with a wide diameter. The lid of the kelindo can be covered with earth to make it tight and more difficult for insects to enter. Insects are a problem and many farmers put drugs with the stored graines. Not all farmers can afford to buy drugs. An alternative is to mix the graines with ashes from sisal.

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    Crops

    by MalenaN Updated Jun 15, 2003

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    Mayor food crops in the Kondoa area (where I stayed for some time) are maize, bullrush millet and sorghum. Other crops are cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, cowpeas, pigeon peas, groundnuts and sunfowers.

    Many of the fields are far from the house of the farmer. From the field the harvest is mainly carried on the head in kihares (bowles made of pumpkins), untongas (baskets made of sticks) or in bags. Some people use donkeys, their own or hired ones. A few farmers even uses a bike. The bike though, seems to be only for the men.

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    Stoves

    by MalenaN Updated Jun 14, 2003

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    In Tanzania many people in the villages are using three stones as a stove. Between the stones they put the firewood and then the saucepan on top. This is of course consuming a lot of energy. The women often spends many hours every week to find the firewood and can carry home big loads weighting 25 - 30 kg on their head. In the beginning of the dry season more firewood is collected to be stored outside the house. Later on during the dry season, when water becomes more scarse, more time has to be spent on collecting water.

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    Education in Tanzania

    by Geisha_Girl Updated Jul 9, 2005

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    Low wages, heavy workloads, disrespect amongst the social strata of Tanzania and HIV/AIDS have helped to diminish what was once a reputable profession.

    There are a large number of interrelated reasons that contribute to the substandard quality of education in Tanzania.

    According to several reports, some of these problems are partly related to the absence of appropriate textbooks and other teaching materials, the limited time spent on task by teachers and students, as well as the level of poverty among parents, which affects the nutritional and general health status of their children.

    Tanzania's Education Minister, Joseph Mungai, had recently announced that more than 140,000 teachers had died of AIDS-related diseases in the past two decades. He said the virus had claimed 121,548 primary school teachers and 18,747 secondary-school teachers in the past 20 years, averaging 7,014 teachers per year.

    Thus, this attrition and absenteeism due to illness has increased workloads on the other teachers.

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    That Tanzanian Style

    by Geisha_Girl Written Jul 9, 2005

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    Tanzanian people pay particular attention to their appearance. No matter what the economic situation a person has, they strive to be clean and well-groomed. This was evident everywhere I went and as soon as I stepped off the plane.

    Traveling down the main road, you can see lots of folks on foot carrying heavy gear on their heads or shoulders......children running barefoot.....but all of them well-dressed in either new or recycled clothing.

    Prior to arriving to the country, we were advised on what was expected by the Tanzanian community. Female volunteers were advised to dress professionally when at their placement and it was essential that our skirts and/or dresses have a length past the knees. Local women do not usually wear slacks, and it was usually the "tourists" who were seen wearing the shorts!

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    Dhows

    by sachara Updated Mar 11, 2005

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    The traditional dhows became the maritime symbol of East Africa. The art of sailing was allready known for two millenia to the east Africans. The main dhow building centre was at the north coast of Zanzibar Island, where the teak forests were.

    In Zanzibar town you can book an one-day cruise at a dhow, visitng a sandbank, a reef and two islands. Also common are the 8 M long mashua dhows, that shuttle between Zanzibar and the mainland. I didn't sail with a dhow myself, but enjoyed to see them sailing at the ocean.

    Related to:
    • Sailing and Boating

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    Water

    by MalenaN Updated Jun 11, 2003

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    Many people in Tanzania don't have running water in taps at home. They get the water from a diggged well or from a hole digged in a dry riverbed.
    It's incredible how the women can carry a bucket full of water on the head.
    So much hard work to get something that many of us take for granted.

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  • sachara's Profile Photo

    The doors of Zanzibar Town

    by sachara Updated Mar 11, 2005

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    In the 19th century the doors and doorframes became the favoured means of expression the grandeur of one's mansion. The elaborately carved Zanzibar doors in the white-washed walls became the most important feature of the external appearance of the house. Its quality and size were a mark of status and wealth of the owner.

    In Zanzibar are 277 such doors, the largest concentration along the Swahili Coast, allthough they were diminishing, sold to tourists and hotels.

    Some doors plain with only decorated doorframes and lintels. Other doors have also carved centre posts and are studded with dhow nails and reinforced at the back with cross bars of iron and wood.

    The design of the doors with iron or brass studs came from the Indian continent, originally used as defence against war elephants. Allthough there were no war elephants in Stone Town, the studs fitted well in the Arab ideal of defence of their residence.

    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Arts and Culture
    • Historical Travel

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    GREETINGS - A GUIDE

    by DAO Written Oct 12, 2006

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    Basic Swahili

    As you walk down the road, your conversations will go like this:

    You will hear (shouted at you) – “Jambo!” (Hello)
    You reply – “Jambo!”
    ”Habari?” (what is the news or how are you?)
    ”Nzuri” (I am fine)
    You usually hear “Karibu” (you are welcome here) sometimes the name of the village is said as well. I often heard “Karibu Jmbiani.” OR “Karibu Zanzibar”!
    Always reply “Asante Sana!” (Thank You very much)

    Sometimes after you have spoken to someone a little longer or purchased something from them you will be called “Rafiki” which means friend. This is heart felt and you rarely hear it unless you have become friends – in the village.

    If the word “Rafiki” is shouted at you as a greeting – they are trying to sell you something, usually in large towns.

    A Few Basics Words/Phrases:
    Yes = Ndiyo
    No = Hapana
    Okay = Sawa
    Maybe = Labda
    How are you? = Habari Yako?
    Good = Nzuri
    Thank you = Asante
    Hello = Jambo
    I am fine = Sijambo
    Please = Tafadhali (the dh is pronounced like a th)
    Goodbye = Kwaheri
    What is your name? = Jina lako ni nani?
    My name is ...= Jina langu ni ...
    I don't speak Swahili = Sisemi Kiswahili

    Bia = Beer
    Bia baridi = Cold beer
    Daktari = Doctor
    Duka = Shop
    Hakuna matata No problem
    Karibu welcome

    Rafiki Friend

    A young person to an older one: "Shikamoo!" (originally it meant "I touch your feet" as a sign of respect) and the greeted answers, "Marahabaa!" (I acknowledge your respect!).

    *** Please note that as this is partly a Muslim Country – never greet a woman in conversation outside. You may respond if they greet you first. ***

    Related to:
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
    • Photography
    • Backpacking

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    THE MONEY TRICK

    by DAO Written Dec 11, 2006

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    PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS FOR BUDGET TRAVELLERS, NOT SOMETHING AGAINST LOCAL PEOPLE. You have to haggle EVERY price in Tanzania, except some restaurants. So, you can play the money trick to make sure you always get a good price. Tanzanian Schillings are weak against the U.S. Dollar, which everyone will take. Make sure you take some single $1 notes for emergencies. You get about 1100 to 1200 Schillings to 1 dollar. Agree a price and take in units of 1’s so it sound like you mean dollars. Some people will even say $1 or 1000 Schillings. They would say 10 meaning 10,000 Schillings. Schillings are cheaper for you. Go to any good exchange in Stone Town have some Schillings with you when you haggle. You agree ‘10’, hand over 10,000 Schillings, not $10. Too late, they know you know and they have just given you a 10-20% discount! I did this with a hotel and agreed ‘30’. I saved $10 over a 3 night stay. It makes your money stretch! You can also agree the price, leave to get Schillings and come back. The deal has already been done. Remember – if you do agree a deal, you have to stick with it.
    ***PLEASE NOTE ** Watch out for anyone trying to agree Kenyan Schillings, they are much more valuable than Tanzanian and only con artists would say this. $1 only gets you about 69 Kenyan Schillings. So 10,000 Kenyan Schillings would be $143!

    Related to:
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
    • Budget Travel
    • Backpacking

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  • sachara's Profile Photo

    Lamadi, watertower with drums

    by sachara Updated Mar 12, 2005

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    At the Lake Victoria near Lamadi Jan Willem our tourleader built a new lodge with two partners from Denmark.

    At the moment of our visit they were busy with the water tower. The watertower had to be covered with soil. Afterwards it will be planted.

    During the job a drummer was stirring up the hard workers !

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    This is a photo of a girl I...

    by Jacksprat Written Sep 13, 2002

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    This is a photo of a girl I met in Iringa in October 1999. I spent a lot of time with her family....collecting water with the children and cooking meals with the mum. One evening I went to visit, and the father had just returned from being away looking after his cattle for a few weeks. He brought back 3 eggs and about 1 pint of milk. The mother insisted on cooking the eggs for me, it was so awkward...Numani (3) started crying because she wanted to have some egg. I wanted to share it with them, but the mother insisted I don't. I appreciated it, but in the back of my mind I was thinking - 'I could go back to SA and eat as many eggs as I want, and here I am'.
    Basically if you eat the food they offer you, it means that eyes you have accepted them.

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Tanzania Local Customs

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