Travel Tips

8 Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Fulani

The Fulani community is a crucial nomadic ethnic group in the African continent, and it is safe to say that every each of them has its particularities and traditions. You might have already read the famous “Pulaaku”, or code of behaviour of the Fulani; however, you might find yourself a little confused. As important as the British Royal Etiquette, it is better to prepare before arriving at your host community to avoid any misunderstanding or embarrassing moments! In this article, we will discover more in-depth the Fulani community of Senegal that you can visit with Nomadic Tribe, and adhere to the “Fulani Way” even before taking off!

Many indigenous communities all over the globe have developed their code of behaviour to ensure a peaceful life and a standard for etiquette.

The Fulani are very proud of their own code which varies from nation to nation, and is central to their lives. It is called “Pulaaku”, and it can be considered to be the decorum, chivalry and good manners of a Fulani person. It is so intricate that sometimes it makes it hard for some people to enact “Pulaaku” all day, but the rules are followed for the majority of public interactions.

Virtues are essentials for a Fulani person.

Procession of Fulani women

Procession of Fulani women

Prudence, respect, self-control, mental discipline and modesty are a lifestyle. The “Fulani way” also includes four essential character traits that every Fulani should have: “munyal” (patience, self-control, discipline), “hakkiilo” (wisdom, forethought), “semteende” (modesty, respect), “sagata” (courage, hard work).

The Fulani are excellent hosts.

Fulani man in front of his hut

Fulani man in front of his hut

They deeply believe in giving hospitality and helping others, while keeping total control of their emotions and impulses at all times. If a Fulani person is feeling physical or emotional pain or general discomfort, it is imperative not to show it in public at all cost.

Pulaaku, the Fulani code of behaviour.

Fulani woman

Fulani woman

Smoking, drinking, killing, or committing adultery are not “Pulaaku”. If someone breaks the Code of Behaviour (s), they are judged by the community based on a scale of violation of the “Pulaaku”. Although violence is not contemplated in the “Pulaaku”, self-defence is somehow acceptable.

Cattle are part of the Fulani families.

They provide wealth and food to the Fulani family. They tend to have a very close relationship with the animals and some of them are given names. The cattle provide to Fulani members a chance to show that they have “Pulaaku” because they believe that the animals enhance the interaction among families.

Not asking for help is honorable to the Fulani.

"Semteende" is the quality of being "shy" or "humble". Asking for anything should be embarrassing and therefore the Fulani are always self-sufficient. Asking a favor or asking to share food would be a great shame in front of the rest of the community. But in the event that a courteous favor has to be accepted, the Fulani must show immense gratitude.

Religion is vital.

Fulani elder.

Fulani elder. Studio

The Fulani religion is largely Islamic and most adhere to at least some of its basic requirements. The union between religion and code of conduct makes it even more important to follow all the rules of behavior to be accepted in the community. It is important to know the basic codes of Islam before enjoying a few days with the Fulani. When visiting you should be dressed accordingly to avoid as well breaking the “Pulaaku” and offending anyone.

Personal adornment to attract the future wife.

Fulani men during the Guerewol festival.

Fulani men during the Guerewol festival.

If you see Fulani men with red ocher on their faces, white ostrich feathers on their headdresses and white beaded necklaces on their chests, you are attending the gerewol, the Fulani beauty pageant where the girls choose the most handsome Fulani man. To attract women, men dance by exaggerating their facial expressions. Both men and women paint their lips and the rims of the eyes black to highlight the whiteness of their teeth and eyes.

The Fulani Art, symbol of social status.

Fulani women with decorated gourds.

Fulani women with decorated gourds.

Fulani art is represented in a variety of ways such as decorated gourds and textiles with geometric shapes as motifs with many details. The use of black, red, yellow and white predominates. Painted gourds are an important part of a woman's social and economic status. Women's hairstyles, to which they add silver picks and other accessories, are also an artistic form that also allows them to carry objects on their heads.

Discover more about the Fulani in our tribes section.


Cover photo Fulani women,