10 most amazing African tribes

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective, does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

Of all parts of our world, Africa can undoubtedly be considered the most diverse, mysterious and contrasting. Despite the development of civilization, which is accompanied by the onset of globalism, tens of millions of native Africans, like their distant ancestors, live in tribes. In total, there are almost three thousand such tribes on the continent, and many of them follow their own customs and religious rites. The way of life of some aborigines is so interesting that tourists from all over the world come to them, wanting to touch the primitive exotic culture. We invite you to learn about ten unique African tribes, acquaintance with which amazes, and sometimes shocks the representatives of the civilized world.

Rating of the most amazing African tribes

Nomination a place name rating
Rating of the most amazing African tribes 1 Hadza 5.0
2 Masai 4.9
3 Vadoma 4.8
4 Kalenjin 4.7
5 Mursi 4.6
6 Himba 4.5
7 Caro 4.4
8 Hamer 4.3
9 Herero 4.2
10 Wodabe 4.1


Rating: 5.0


The Hadzabe or Hadza tribe, numbering about two thousand people, lives in northern Tanzania, near Lake Eyasi. Its members speak their own language, live at a considerable distance from other tribes and communicate mainly only with each other. This seclusion allowed them not only to maintain their identity, but also protected them from the HIV epidemic, as well as other diseases that could be transmitted through tribal ties. Like hundreds of years ago, Hadza are hunters and gatherers. Only men go hunting, one by one, or in small groups if a large animal is chasing. They use stone-tipped bows and arrows as weapons. To increase the effectiveness of the hunt, hunters smear their arrows with poison prepared from poisonous plants that grow in abundance among their habitats. It is customary to divide the killed prey in the camp equally among all. Both women and men are engaged in gathering, products found by the gatherers, such as bird eggs, fruits, berries, roots, wild honey, make up most of the meager diet of the tribe's inhabitants. Hadzabe settle in separate groups, wandering from place to place. They are huts made of grass and branches as their dwelling, although during the dry season many prefer to sleep in the open air. The tribe has practically no clear social hierarchy, there are only people whose opinion has a decisive weight due to their personal qualities and merits. Successful hunters who bring a lot of prey enjoy great respect and popularity among women. Members of the tribe lead an active lifestyle, walking five to nine kilometers a day. Despite this, they also have a rest actively, having fun dancing and singing.


Rating: 4.9


The Maasai people live in the savannah, a border area that includes the south of Kenya and the western part of Tanzania. The total population of the tribe is just under a million people. Since ancient times, the Masai have enjoyed a reputation as brave warriors, but their main occupation is not hunting, but animal husbandry. Cows play the most important role in the life of the tribe, it is by their number that the level of wealth of the tribe members is determined. According to Masai beliefs, in the past, the rain god created cattle for them as a gift, so all the cows around by right belong to them. In the past, there were many conflicts with other African tribes, when the Maasai tried to “regain their property”, but today the tradition of stealing cattle is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Thanks to the cows, the tribe has milk and the main building material, dry manure, with which they fasten the walls of their huts. They also drink cow's blood, extracting it in a special way: a neat hole is made in the animal's vein with a thin arrow, from where the blood is collected in a small pumpkin bottle, after which the wound is closed with a dung cake. Blood is usually mixed with milk before drinking. But members of the tribe rarely slaughter cows for meat, considering these animals too valuable to be eaten. The daily life of the tribe is largely subject to tradition. Boys learn from childhood to graze livestock, girls look after the hut and prepare food, and this division persists throughout their lives. Growing up is accompanied by rituals of initiation, which include ritual beating, and later – circumcision, both male and female. The Masai are distinguished by their special views on beauty: representatives of both sexes stretch their earlobes almost to their shoulders with heavy jewelry, and it is also customary for women to shave their heads. Their funeral traditions are also unusual – after the death of an adult member of the tribe, his body is left in an open field for wild animals, as in the understanding of the Masai, respect for the cycle of life in nature is expressed.


Rating: 4.8


The first researcher to discover a tribe of people with legs like an ostrich was the American traveler Paul du Chail, who lived in the second half of the 19th century. Returning from his trip to the African continent, he published a book in which he described in detail his meeting with representatives of the Wadoma tribe. However, not everyone in the scientific community believed in such a phenomenon. Confirmation came after an article published by the respected ethnographer Buster Phillips, who also visited the Sapadi ostrich habitat. This people of less than a thousand people inhabit the Zambezi Valley in northern Zimbabwe. Approximately 25 percent of tribal members have only two outer toes, and three middle toes are missing from birth. The thumb and little finger have an unusual shape and are also very long. The reason for such an anomaly, called ectrodactyly, lies in genetics: apparently one of the ancestors of the Vadoma had a similar feature, and due to the ban on inter-tribal marriage, it quickly spread within the community. The law, according to which young men and women can choose a companion only from among the members of the tribe, is still in effect, and the elders strictly monitor its observance. Oddly enough, the “ostrich” legs of the sapadi do not prevent them from leading their usual lifestyle, which revolves around breeding, hunting, fishing and gathering.


Rating: 4.7


The Kalenjin tribe lives mostly in Kenya, in the Rift Valley province. A small number of them can also be found in neighboring countries: Tanzania and Uganda. The population of the nationality exceeds three and a half million people. The Kalenjins got their name only in the 20th century, before that they were called simply “Nandi-speaking tribes”. According to the research of scientists, any average representative of this tribe is faster than most of all other people in the world. And this is confirmed by the facts. In order to compete on an equal footing with professional runners, Kalenjins only need a few months of serious training. Those of them who are purposeful enough for big sports, as a rule, achieve significant success. Over the past few decades, Kenyan athletes have won ten Olympic medals in running, and seven of those victories have belonged to Kalenjin runners. The secret of such “superpowers” lies in the genetic predisposition, as well as the lifestyle and diet of the natives. From early childhood, members of the tribe are engaged in driving cattle over long distances, which promotes endurance. Their diet includes the ugali dish, which has a high energy value. In addition to cattle breeding, the tribe practices agriculture, growing tea. Families in the tribe can be both polygamous and monogamous – the number of wives directly depends on the well-being of the man, since a substantial ransom is due for the bride.


Rating: 4.6


The Mursi tribe lives in Ethiopia, near the border with South Sudan. In total there are about seven and a half thousand people. They lead a traditional way of life for African tribes: men are engaged in animal husbandry and guard the borders of settlements, women are responsible for raising children, preparing food, delivering water and many other types of work in the village. These people are distinguished from others by a number of strange and cruel customs that they have followed for hundreds of years. Mursi warriors are not just ready to kill enemies, each such murder in their understanding adds glory to a man, and this is demonstrated by special scars, which show the number of defeated enemies. Due to the constant clashes between clans (most often over pastures and wells), tribal members do not leave the village without a Kalashnikov assault rifle or at least a heavy long stick, which they learn to fight with from childhood. During one of the main mystical rituals of the Mursi, wives put their husbands into a trance with the help of narcotic herbs, and then poison them with a strong poison. The tribal high priestess then goes around the huts and gives the men an antidote. So they revere their main deity – the spirit of death named Yamda. The Mursi are also known for wearing clay discs in their lower lips. Girls begin to wear such “jewelry” at the age of 20, and they do it completely voluntarily. A young woman with a plate up to 12 centimeters in diameter and with two lower teeth knocked out (so as not to interfere with wearing the disc) is considered an enviable bride, for which the groom will have to pay a considerable ransom.


Rating: 4.5


The Himba inhabit the north of Namibia, they are a nomadic people of up to 50,000 people. Their main occupation is cattle breeding. Cows are considered the most important animals, they provide milk, products from which form the basis of the tribe's diet. In addition, cows serve as a kind of universal currency, and at the same time an indicator of the status of a member of the tribe. Himba meat is eaten very rarely; from plant foods they consume roots, corn and millet. Neither vegetables nor fruits grow on stony lands, in the harsh climate of the Kunene province with its heat up to 60 degrees and sharp temperature changes. The most difficult situation here is with water, so almost all clean water is used for drinking and cooking. To maintain cleanliness and protection from the sun's rays, Himba is daily lubricated with a special mixture of oil, plant extracts and ground volcanic pumice. In the evenings, the dried ointment is scraped off, at the same time cleansing the skin of dirt and hair. Women also cover their hair with this composition, having previously braided them into dreadlocks with the addition of other people's hair (usually “donated” by the husband). In addition, Himba women wear a wide variety of homemade bracelets around their neck, arms, ankles, waist and hair. They use goatskin skirts as clothing, decorating them with shells. The typical settlement of the tribe consists of wicker cone-shaped houses covered with mud and dung. The Himba family customs do not provide for the concept of marital fidelity, but there is a tradition of exchanging wives during various celebrations.


Rating: 4.4


A small but very colorful African tribe of about a thousand people living in the south of Ethiopia, they are known for their penchant for body paint and jewelry. From early childhood, members of the tribe wear beads, flower garlands and even necklaces made of insect wings. Painting the body with vegetable paints, karos give preference to geometric shapes: spirals, circles, stripes. The face is also not left without attention – a mask is applied to it from a mixture of clay, black coal, chalk and other ingredients. The body is decorated with any handy items, such as dried pumpkin halves, ears of corn, feathers, and so on. Women like to wear a large number of long beads around their necks, but earrings in their ears are more common among men. Fashion-minded members of the tribe also pierce their lower lip and insert a small piece of stick into the hole. Karo's daily routine consists of herding and hunting, although in recent years, men have increasingly traveled to work in nearby towns. The women stay at home, doing the housework, in particular the leather dressing. In the African tribe, polygamy is practiced, a man can take as many wives as he is able to provide, usually no more than two or three.


Rating: 4.3


The number of the African tribe Hamer, living in the valley of the Omo River (Ethiopia), is just over 40 thousand people. The main occupation for them is cattle breeding, which is eloquently evidenced by the local language, numbering, for example, as many as thirty definitions of the shade and structure of the skin of domestic animals. All stages of a tribe's life are strictly regulated by tradition. The growing up of men is accompanied by an initiation rite, during which a young man must run four times in a row on the backs of cows standing in a row, thereby proving his dexterity and courage. Only after that will he be considered a real man, and will be able to marry. In case of failure, the young man will have to wait a whole year to try again. The girls of the tribe are subjected to an even more severe test before marriage. According to custom, they retire for a day away from men and drink an alcoholic drink called bordey for courage. In the morning, young guys come to them and the girls try to arouse their anger with their behavior, future grooms in response flog those with wooden rods. As a result, after passing the ceremony, most women leave scars on their bodies, which serve as a source of pride and increase their value in the eyes of potential husbands. However, not everyone can afford to marry a hamer, because at the same time it is necessary to give the girl's father a ransom in the amount of seven to ten cows. Aside from the fashion for scarring, in general, members of the tribe stand out for their grooming. Women regularly lubricate their hair with a special mixture and put it in pigtails; bracelets and beads are popular among jewelry. Daily brushing of teeth with plant stems is considered the norm. Hamers are also masters in creating underwear drawings, each of which carries a certain semantic meaning.


Rating: 4.2


The vast majority of African tribes make do with a minimum of clothing, which is not surprising given the hot tropical climate. But there are exceptions, like the Herero, who stand out for their flamboyant Victorian outfits. The number of inhabitants in the tribe is about 240 thousand people, they are engaged in animal husbandry, trade and crafts. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Hereros were used by the colonial forces of Germany as slaves, while they repeatedly raised uprisings, eventually gaining independence, but losing 80% of the population in the war. It was then that fashionable clothing brought by Christian missionaries became an integral part of the tribe's culture. Played a role and the belief that the one who wears the clothes of enemies, takes their strength. Today, Herero women tend to dress in multicolored long patchwork dresses with voluminous sleeves. The image is complemented by special hats resembling buffalo horns. By the way, this element of the wardrobe also serves as a kind of symbol of well-being – the richer the husband, the longer the “horns” on the wife's headdress will be. During the holidays and at funerals, men wear clothing styled to resemble 1900s German military uniforms. All these outfits are sewn by the Herero on their own, the art of making them is passed on by the women of the tribe from generation to generation.


Rating: 4.1


The Vodabe are a nomadic tribe that lives in the African savannah region of the Sahel, affecting the territory of Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and several other states. The name vodabe means “those who respect prohibitions”, which means adherence to ancient traditions and rituals. The population of the nationality is 45 thousand people, they live mainly by raising animals: zebu cows, donkeys and camels. Families are most often polygamous, if a man has a large enough herd, he can afford up to four wives. Marriages are free, any of the spouses can divorce and go to live with another member of the tribe. Although traditionally families are created by parental agreement, there are frequent cases of collusion between young people who like each other. If, having escaped, they have time to taste a jointly prepared meal, before they are discovered by the bride's relatives, the marriage is considered concluded. Wodabe culture revolves around the cult of male beauty. For example, an ugly man may well allow his wife to “go left” so that she gives birth to a child from a more attractive man of the tribe. The main holiday is herevol, a male beauty contest. It involves young people from several clans, they paint their faces brightly and dance for several hours, demonstrating endurance, flexibility, white teeth and the ability to roll their eyes. Older women of the tribe at this time cheer up the most active and ridicule the losers. At the end of the competition, three girls representing a kind of jury of the competition indicate three winners. This is followed by a feast, and with the onset of dusk, the winners, who have chosen their “judges” and the youth of the tribe, who have broken up in pairs, leave for the savannah to continue the celebration.

Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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