Guide to 7 Most Amazing African Tribes

famous tribes in africa
Himba Tribe, Namibia - © Elijah/flickr

Africa consists of mixture of tribes that each have their own unique characteristics, with a varied culture, of which some shares a lot of similarities with its neighbors. From Zulu in Southern African to the Hause tribe in West Africa, here are 7 of the most intriguing tribes of Africa.

We also recommend our guide to the 8 interesting facts about Fulani Herdsmen.

Zulu Tribe

Zulu Tribe
Zulu Tribe warrior dance ceremony – © Retlaw Snellac Photography/flickr

The Zulu Tribe also known as Bantu ethnic group of Southern Africa and it is the largest ethnic group in South Africa with an estimated population of about 11 million. Some Zulu communities can also be found in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Mozambique. In 1818 the Zulu formed a powerful Kingdom under the rule of King Shaka and they even defeated the British at the Battle of Islandlwana. President Jacob Zuma is a Zulu.

San Bushmen Tribe

San Bushmen Tribe
Group of San Bushmen – © Mario Micklisch/flickr

The San Bushmen have lived on the Makgadikgadi Pans and Western Botswana for thousands of years. They lived a semi-nomadic life. It is said that the San people are the first descendants of Homo sapiens because they have the oldest gene patterns of any existing race. Currently, over a hundred thousand San live in southern Africa but only very few still maintain their traditional way of life. They are very well respected for their survival skills.

The Mursi Tribe

The Mursi Tribe
Mursi Tribe – © Cas de Salinas/flickr

The Mursi Tribe are a Nilotic herdsmen ethnic group in Ethiopia. They have their own language called the mursi and are well known for being very aggressive. They are popular for their stick fighting ceremony called Donga. The trademark of the Mursi tribe is the saucer lip plate. Mothers cut the lower lip of their daughters when they reach age 15 or 16 and the cut is held by a wooden plug until it completely heals. It is up to the girl to decide if the plugs are to be replaced by larger ones to continuously stretch the lower lip. Strange, right?

The Himba Tribe

The Himba Tribe
Himba Tribe, Namibia – © Elijah/flickr

The Himba Tribe are semi-nomadic herdsmen and move from one watering area to another. The women are famous for their beauty and the distinct colour of their skins formed by rubbing their skins with red ochre to protect them from the harsh weather conditions of the desert. They also create beautiful and intricate jewelries. The Himba tribe reside in Namibia.

Hausa Tribe

Hausa Tribe
Hausa Tribe – © Syydehaas/flickr

The Hausa Tribe are one of the largest tribes in Africa and they are also the largest in West Africa. They can be found in Sudan, Niger, Cote d’ Ivoire, Chad, Ghana and Nigeria. They maintain a restricted dress code: elaborate dresses with well-designed embroideries around the neck area with colourful caps for men and for the women a wrapper called abaya which consists of beautiful wrap cloth, matching blouse, shawl and a headtie.

The Kalenjin Tribe

Kalenjin Tribe
Kalenjin Tribe – © Linda De Volder/flickr

The Kelenjin tribe is most famous for producing elite marathon runners. They occupy the Western Highlands of Kenya. They were originally referred to as the “Nandi Speaking Tribe” until the 1950’s when they officially adopted the name “Kalenjin”. As at the 2009 Kenyan census, there are about 5 million Kalenjin living in Kenya.

Maasai Tribe

Maasai Tribe
Maasai Tribe – © Barbara Griffin Robinson

The Maasai tribe guard their cattle among Zebras and Wildebeest – Maasai is one of the most famous tribes of Africa. They live on the Serengeti stretching from Tanzania into Kenya. They are a very friendly tribe and in a safari campyou can visit Maasai villages and learn about their culture and traditions. Both the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments have urged the Maasai to drop their semi-nomadic lifestyle but they refuse and continue in their customs. They live alongside wild animals and do not eat game or birds. They survive only on their cattle. Maasai land currently has East Africa’s best game areas.

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