The myriad of African cultures and traditions are as vast as the continent itself, from Cape Town to Zanzibar, but there is a common denominator found nowhere else in the world, and that is the hospitality of every culture you will come across as you tour Africa overland. There is no better way to come into such close contact with this variety of cultures and traditions than to do it overland with a crew like Africa4us who are themselves passionate Africans wanting to share this hospitality with the world. In this edition the focus will be on Namibia and Zanzibar, as different as the moon is to the sun!
Out of the original seven Owambo clans in Nambia only three still exist and still recognise their kings, and are ruled by chiefs-in-council. The rest of the clans have a system in which senior headmen form a council and administer their tribes by joint action, most important of which is the system of land ownership. Owambo houses are traditionally of the rondavel type, surrounded by ingenious fences found nowhere else, with cattle and goat kraals normally forming part of the complex.
Trading definitely runs in the Owambo’s blood, proof of which is that after generations of having extracted the oil from the Marula tree to use as a taste enhancer for chicken and other traditional dishes, and as a moisturiser for their skins, the result is that Marula oil is now being processed and exported as a high-value ingredient for international cosmetics! Owambo women are well known for their elaborate hairstyles, differing from tribe to tribe, which is achieved by rubbing a mixture of fat and olukula (crushed root of wild teak) and lengthening it with strands of sinew and leaf fibres, with Cowrie shells attached to the ends of these strands.
Pots, quilts and beautiful beadwork all form part of the trading instinct and talent of the Owambo’s of Namibia, who are still the largest ethnic group in Namibia.
Moving right across Africa to the island of Zanzibar in Kenya, we find a melting pot like few others where it comes to culture and traditions, with influences which range from a predominance of the Bantu tribes from the mainland and the Arab influence on Zanzibar which is evident in the melting pot of people.
The cultures of the people in Zanzibar are a mix of Shirazia, from Persia, Arabs, and Comorians from the Comoros islands and the predominant Bantus. Asians and Europeans are in the minority especially in the towns and cities, most of whom are either descendents or expatriates. In terms of how the locals are identified and situated on the island of Zanzibar is based on their island of origin, so that the Hadimu and Tumbatu tribes as indigenous people of Zanzibar have chosen either the north or the south as their home in order to keep their individual traditions in place.
Almost 97% of the population in Zanzibar practices the Islamic faith, which means that any tourist is required to observe and respect this island’s culture. If you are not on the beach avoid wearing clothing that would expose your knees or shoulders and wearing tight or see-through clothes.
The fragrance of spices that make your mouth water will definitely remind you that you are on the ‘Spice Island’, bringing the aromas of cocoa beans, coconuts, cinnamon and cloves right through you to make your stomach rumble! Indulging in the staple foods of Zanzibar is an experience in itself. What is considered staple food in Zanzibar includes everything from Ugali, chapatti, bread, rice, beef, chicken, goat and more, along with freshwater fish that is unforgettable, cooked and presented in ways seen nowhere else in the world!
This is the true essence of Africa, from one end of the spectrum to the other, no matter where you go, and if you are going to chose to experience the best of Africa in all its glory then do it in luxury with Africa4us!
Keep your eyes peeled on the Africa4us website for follow up blogs which will focus on the cultures and traditions of South Africa and Zimbabwe! Alternatively, just book that trip of a lifetime and never regret that you didn’t make that African adventure!