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Gap year in Tanzania


Culture and Customs

The Tanzanian population comprises mainly of Christian and Islamic community. Both comprise of approximately 35% each of the total population in Tanzania. Most people practice their religions and churches and mosques are abundant.

Tanzania has more than 126 ethnic groups and each ethnic group has its own language. Swahili is the de facto official national language. According to the official linguistic policy of Tanzania, as announced in 1984, Swahili is the language of the social and political sphere as well as primary and adult education, whereas English is the language of secondary education, universities, technology and higher courts.

The music of Tanzania stretches from traditional African music to the string-based taarab to a distinctive hip hop known as bongo flava. Tanzania also has its own distinct African rumba music.

Tanzania has a remarkable position in art. Two styles became world known: Tingatinga and Makonde. Tingatinga are the popular African paintings painted with enamel paints on canvas. Usually the motives are animals and flowers in colourful and repetitive design. The style was started by Mr. Edward Saidi Tingatinga born in South Tanzania. Later he moved to Dar Es Salaam. Since his death in 1972 the Tingatinga style expanded both in Tanzania and worldwide. Makonde is both a tribe in Tanzania (and Mozambique) and a modern sculpture style. It is known for the high Ujamaas (Trees of Life) made of the hard and dark ebony tree. Tanzania is also a birthplace of one of the most famous African artists George Lilanga.

Tanzanian food is very carbohydrate-based. Staples are rice, chips and ugali. Ugali is made from ground maize flour boiled in water until its solid. You break pieces off, roll them into a ball and dip them in a sauce made with meat, beans or vegetables. The staples are served with beef, chicken, fish or beans and in Masaai areas goat is common. There is plenty of fresh fruit depending on the season with oranges, pineapple, mangoes and jackfruit all sold cheaply on the street depending on the season. Breakfast tends to be very sweet tea, either with or without milk along with chapatis, bread, doughnuts or fried rice cakes. 

Tanzania is still quite a traditional society with men and women socialising separately, especially in the rural areas. Women are in charge of the home, bringing up children, cooking, cleaning and fetching water. In some houses, men eat separately from women and children although this is now changing. It is common to have big families, and 4 or 5 children are normal per family. Education is free at Primary School and children attend from the age of 7 - 13 years, attendance is now about 96%. Secondary School must be paid for and runs up to O-level 14 - 17 years and then A-level 18 - 19 years. Many children don't have the money to go to Secondary School.

Tanzanian dress is quite conservative. Men wear long trousers (shorts are for children) and women are expected to wear long dresses or skirts covering the knees and also to cover their shoulders. Gap year volunteers can buy brightly coloured material and have clothes made very cheaply, and rectangles of cloth called kangas can be wrapped round as a sarong, cover-up, headscarf or used as a beach towel.

Tanzanians pride themselves on being peaceful people and particularly the fact that different tribes work and live together so harmoniously. Tanzania doesn't suffer from any of the tribal tensions of Kenya. Many Tanzanian children now only speak Swahili and some of the tribal languages are being lost. Socializing and visiting friends is the major pastime and Tanzanians are very friendly and open. Family is very important and extended families often live together, this means Tanzanian homes are usually busy with plenty going on! People love to welcome visitors (it’s seen as a great honour) and gap year travellers find they are asked lots and lots of questions about life at home. You will hear the Swahili word Karibu all the time, meaning Welcome.

Karibu Gap Year in Tanzania!

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