History & Culture

Tanzania has a rich history of tribes and their cultures.

There are more than a hundred tribes scattered around the country. Each tribe has its own culture, its own style of building houses and its own language. In eralier days it was not allowed to marry someone who's not from your own tribe, but nowadays it is not a problem anymore. Here you find a description of some tribes and their homes to give an idea of how tribes were living in Tanzania.


maasaiOne of the strongest tribes in Africa which make no any change of their culture, tradition and roots.They are aspectacular group of tall slender, known of their love for cattle herders, living of milk, blood and meat. Young men live to become MORANI before starting their own family life. Morani normally carry spears and wear distinctive red garment plastered with ochre mixed with cowfat. They have decorated faces, bodies and hair. Woman have shaved heads and often wear many clors of beads on their necks and shoulders. Young men have colourful faces; they paint their face white after circumcision and becoming warriors. Maasai are Nilotic migrants from the north. They arrived in Tanzania in 1800. These are pastoralists with a believe that "God created cattle for them only" and other tribes should never own cattle. Their belief is to their God "Engai" and his mesiah kidong'oi.

Thier leader is called the "Laibon" He is the "Truth sayer". He makes the last decision for the maasai clans. Their diet consists of meat and blood, but nowdays they substitute it with grains.They depend on herds, roots and berries for treatment. Both boys and girls are circumcised.

Maa is maasai language.

The Wachagga

wachaggaThe Chagga live on the fertile slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in north-east Tanzania. They are one of the larger ethnic groups in the country. Their house is called 'Sochi' or 'Okooyo' and it is also built by the Wagweno and Wameru. The house is made from a framework of flexible wood covered in thick layered grass thatch, working from bottom to top. The thickness of the thatch provides insulation from the cool climate found on the mountain. Usually they build two houses for one family. The smaller house is used by the man, the larger one by the wife and children.

The Wachagga grow coffee as their main cash crop. Bananas, mashed into thick porridge (Mtori) is their main food. The Wachagga used to share their houses with some of their domestic animals. This was necessary because of the presence of predators like leopards and hyenas.

The Wangoni

wangoniThe Wangoni are said to have left South Africa in 1824 to advance northward, crossing the Zambezi river to settle in southern Tanzania around the Ruvuma river in 1835. They are famous for their maize and tobacco production.

The Wangoni have traditionally practiced polygamy. The example of the Wangoni homestead, displayed here, shows three fence structures. The single-door house belongs to the junior wife, the double-door house belongs to the senior wife. The last structure, a shelter, is used by men for socializing.

The double-door house and shelter of a wangoni homestead


The Nyakyusa occupy the south-west of the country, on the northern end of Lake Nyasa. They grow bananas, rice and yams. They also keep cattle, goats, sheep and fowl. During the construction of their houses, much effort goes into achieving a goor appearance with much decoration. All constructions are entirely in bamboo. The bigger house belongs to the junior wife. It was so because all economic activities were centered at the junior wife's house. The size of the house depends on the prosperity of the family.

The senior wife of the household lives in a smaller, round structure to give her only a space to rest, as she has already made her contribution to the family.


Nyakyusa had a very distinctive social organization. At the age of eleven tot thirteen all the boys of a certain area (ward) were removed from paternal homes and established in a new village of their own. Untill they marry they return daily to eat with their mothers and farm with their fathers. Wives join them in their village of their village, which becomes an established community.