The Hunza Valley in Pakistan is the home to a community of people said to survive longer than anyone on Earth. So, what are the their health secrets to longevity? The secluded Hunza people have an average life expectancy of 100 years old and exceeding 120 years in some cases. Meanwhile, the average life expectancy in Pakistan is only 67 years. It is a fact that their isolation and quality of life have some interesting characteristics that would certainly make one healthier. The Hunza are said to be able to bear children later than usual, never getting sick, and being impervious to cancer. While there may be validity to some of these claims, others might be taken with a grain of salt. One website states that Hunza women can conceive between the ages of 60 and 90 – a claim most women would find incredibly hard to believe. Another common belief is that the Hunza are all descendants of Alexander the Great, who left men too weak to continue on treks through the mountains during the Greek’s conquests in the fourth century BCE. While the former claim sounds exaggerated, there is a possibility that the Hunza could be descendants of an Indo-European race that settled in the area. We’ll come back to this later on. The Hunza Valley is situated in a remote, pristine area of northern Pakistan, where locals grow their own food and utilize fresh glacier water for drinking and bathing. Cut-off from any nearby cities or commercial hubs, the Hunza do not consume any processed foods and eat a diet rich in vegetables, milk, grains and fruit, especially apricots. Apricots are a staple for the Hunza, who are said to go for several months a year on a diet consisting purely of apricot juice. The Hunza are said to not suffer from cancer, due to their consumption of vitamin b-17, also known as amygdalin, found in apricot seeds. Their diet also consists largely of raw fruits and vegetables, and lesser quantities of meat. There are certain areas of the world, known as Blue Zones, with high concentrations of centenarians and longer life expectancies. Though the Hunza aren’t included on that list, they share some similar characteristics with Blue Zone denizens. Much like the Blue Zones, the Hunza live in an area of high elevation, where many work physically strenuous jobs, keeping them in peak physical shape, while breathing clean, fresh air. Whether the Hunza longevity is exaggerated, is up for debate, but what is undoubtedly that they lead a healthy life. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Plan your trip to visit the Hunza in our Tribes section.
For many Indigenous communities around the globe, music is an essential part of the village's daily life as well as the main protagonist during celebrations of spiritual, cultural, and kinship rituals. Science proved that music helps the brain dealing with pain reduction, stress relief, memory, and brain injuries. It can have a powerful effect on our mood and can change our perceptions of the world and our situations. Almost all of the known Indigenous populations have found the need to play music and create sounds; and, contemporary instruments like drums, flutes, and rattles differ depending on the continent and are all legacy of traditional music. Usually, chants or songs are passed from generation to generation, and many current songs contain the same tunes that were played thousands of years ago. More recently, new musical movements are trying to combine contemporary music styles like pop, rock, country, and hip-hop with traditional music, also incorporating other cultural aspects like traditional languages. The assortment of music influences and movements varies, and it is impossible to examine all the musical traditions and groups. However, we will be looking at a few current contemporary indigenous music groups examples, considering different countries! NIGER - Tuareg Music Becomes Electric In the Tuareg tradition, the ownership of songs and poems is collective. While performers always recognize the original songwriter, they are free to embellish and add verses to the song or poem. This way, poems, and songs document the past, but they are also a living history, which grows and changes with the experiences lived by the Tuareg. This collection of oral history is a rich source for the study of Tuareg culture and identity. One of the leading exponents of contemporary Tuareg music is Bombino, a pseudonym for Goumar Almoctar, a Nigerian guitarist and composer of the Tuareg ethnic group. Inspired by popular music from his homeland and by some rock legends like Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler, he started his career as a very young musician, and today he is an internationally recognized artist. Check out one of his impressive live performance. NIGERIA - Afrobeat: a combination of influences Afrobeat is a genre of pop music born in West Africa in the second half of the 1960s and became particularly popular in the 1980s. It combines elements of traditional Yoruba (one of the main Nigerian tribes) music, jazz, funk, and other styles. The greatest exponent of the afrobeat was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, Fela Kuti. Among the other exponents, Femi Kuti, Tony Allen, and Antibalas. Here a performance by Tony Allen, great contemporary musician, died in April 2020. ITALY - The beauty of mixing music traditional cultures A stunning example of a multicultural orchestra in which ancient, indigenous cultures come together to create a "unique" is the Orchestra of Piazza Vittorio. The Orchestra was born in 2002 on the drive of artists, intellectuals, and cultural operators with the desire to enhance the homonymous Piazza dell' Esquilino in Rome, par excellence the multi-ethnic district of the city. Since then, the Orchestra has presented a different reality that finds its reason in the mixture of textual and musical languages, strongly believing that mixing culture produces beauty. This is an effort to keep different continents together, with their culture, their sounds, and their history. From 2002 to today, over 100 musicians from different geographic areas and very different musical fields have met, creating creative and professional projects. Lull yourself by this mixture of sounds SOUTH AFRICA - The joy of Xhosa music Xhosa tribe is one of the main tribes in South Africa. There are many Xhosa clans, each with their styles of drums and dialects. The Xhosa music is characteristically expressive and communicative, including the rhythmic expression of words and sounds as well as physical movement employed when cheering, dancing, or playing a musical instrument. Traditional Xhosa music has been adapted in a contemporary way and made famous throughout the world by Miriam Makeba. Born in Johannesburg, her mother was a Swazi ethnic Sangoma and her father, a Xhosa. He began singing on a professional level in the fifties, with the Manhattan Brothers group, and then founded his band, The Skylarks, which combined jazz and traditional South African music. Needs an injection of joy? Listen to the Pata Pata song. The song was a burst of gloriously defiant revelry even in times of hardship and oppression. CANADA: The perfect blend of past and present In Canada, the music group A Tribe Called Red blends instrumental hip hop, reggae, moombahton and dubstep-influenced dance music with elements of First Nations music, particularly vocal chanting and drumming. They started to experiment with electronic music, and they also include poetry, storytelling, and collaborations with other Indigenous peoples, being activists for Indigenous rights. MONGOLIA: Pump it up with throat singing and dream of adventures Mongolian throat singing tradition can be traced back to many centuries ago; however, in current Mongolia, a very well-known group has incorporated this particular singing technique to their metal repertoire. The Hu musical group decided to keep the Mongolian traditional culture while adapting to new influences and maintaining their music style, and today their music videos have millions of views from all over the world. PERU: New perspectives to honor cultural heritage Renata Flores is a young musician from the Quechan Peruvian community. At only 19 years old, she decided to debut in the music industry singing in Quechua, the language of her ancestors. She combines Latin trap, rap, and reggaeton with her indigenous heritage. She sings about indigenous rights, female power, and she stands with her political views criticizing wars and corruption. She is considered a pioneer in Quechua contemporary music. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Cover photo Touareg Music Credit:Tinariwen
When we think about environmental protection and the preservation of oceans and forests, we often ignore the communities and populations that inhabit the land and the crucial role they play in supporting their conservation. This should come as no surprise, after all, it is their home. Most Indigenous communities believe the natural world is sacred and should be protected for generations to come. Their traditions and belief systems mean they look at nature with deep respect and great sense of belonging; perceiving themselves to be one of the main components of the natural world, not central to it. LandMark, the Global Platform of Indigenous and Communities Lands, declares that “50% (of the land represented on their website) or more is held by Indigenous Peoples and communities globally”. Their service to the world should not be underestimated: a third of global forests are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, local communities are fundamental in the global curbing of gas emissions and they protect around 80% of the world’s biodiversity, which is essential to global food security. Furthermore, lands managed by indigenous communities have considerably lower rates of deforestation and provide optimal protection of endangered species. Indigenous populations have such rich knowledge of the natural world that they are able to provide an important perspective — one that compliments modern approaches to nature conservation and sustainable development — when considering the impact of economic decisions on the environment. For this reason, marginalized groups are beginning to gain recognition as key stewards of our environment given their capacity to coexist with the flora and fauna, with many of their agricultural and pastoral practices now used as examples of responsible development to teach countries across the globe how to preserve their natural resources and grow food. With environmental knowledge developed over centuries spent observing and understanding their natural habitat, it is safe to say that they can teach us invaluable techniques in respect of utilising natural resources and coexist with the environment in which we live. AMAZONIA: The “Lungs of the World” Because indigenous tribes adapted to survive in extreme climates, they have developed ways to grow crops in very harsh environments. An excellent example of sustainable forest management is traditional agroforestry practice in the Amazon forest, where the communities optimize land space in order to grow multiple crops and raise livestock simultaneously. If grown correctly, coffee, for instance, has proved to be a particularly sustainable plant since it is very easy for others to grow underneath it, allowing indigenous communities to exploit the space effectively. Meanwhile, in herding lands across Latin America, pastoral communities practice sustainable cattle grazing and cropping that preserves the rangeland’s overall biodiversity, and in the highlands, indigenous communities have developed systems to preserve soil, reduce erosion, conserve water and minimize the risk of natural disasters. SAVANNA: Sustainability, Poaching and Scarce Resources The Ba’Aka pygmies of Central Africa are a good example of how indigenous peoples are involved in environmental sustainability, specifically the crucial role they play in the management of flora and fauna in nature reserves: something recognised in few African countries. Hunting only in one area at the time so that animals can slowly repopulate, parts of the local rivers, streams and forests are considered sacred, meaning fishing or hunting in these areas are banned entirely thus allowing fish and small game to breed. They often grow fruit trees on their farms and around the village, reducing their impact on the land and damage caused to wild plants. Working with the government, they also collaborated to restrict gun usage and limit hunting during rainy seasons, however by far their most important role today is as official guardians of the wildlife. Establishing youth groups that control poaching — groups that regularly monitor the reserves and the report situations to either local organizations or the village’s chief — their activism is serving to dramatically increase the control of illegal hunting in the area. By no means the only such case in Africa, in Northern Kenya the Lakipiak Maasain tribe — meaning "People of Wildlife" — are custodians of the only community-owned rhino sanctuary in the country. Controlling the presence of wild animals, they enable local tribes to continue hunting for food by strategically reducing bush cutting that guarantees more fodder for wildlife without disrupting the fragile local ecosystem. SIBERIA: Harsh Climates and Nature Conservation On the other side of the world, in Siberia, the Chukchi people have herded reindeer for hundreds of years: over time, developing numerous mechanisms for controlling the herd size based on moss resources. And they’ll breed small herds with large ones in order to reduce the numbers in the latter so they don’t grow beyond their resources. OCEANIA: Tradition and Modern Times Another great example of traditional sustainable practices can be found in the Māori communities of New Zealand. If we take the Māori word ‘kaitiakitanga’, which means protecting nature to respect descendants and future generations, we begin to understand the way in which the Maori people consider humans to be equals with nature; both belonging to the same kin. The Māori communities make a significant contribution to New Zealand’s farming economy and legally own many lands, giving them the power to protect and preserve them. Several national projects have included the application of traditional environmental knowledge, and more recently, the New Zealand’s central government has expressed an interest in preserving ecosystems through environmental programmes. In addition, Māori health and wildlife management are both now fully integrated into the sustainable management of natural resources and monitoring of the environment. THE ABORIGINAL: Indigenous Peoples and Bush Fires Australia’s Aboriginal people use “cool burns” to eliminate select plants and trees in order to keep balance in the landscape and allow new ones to grow. This means that when a natural fire occurs due to the exceedingly high temperatures or a lightning strike, the destruction can be easily controlled. After Australia was colonized and fire management practices in Australia shifted to adopt non-indigenous methodologies, there was a noticeable increase in both the size and frequency of such fires. BALI: Millennial Rice Terraces Built over thousands of years by the locals, the sophisticated irrigation system — or “subak” of Bali’s rice terraces acts as a natural drainage basin, with an underground canal system bringing mineral dense water from the volcanic soil to naturally fertilize the rice. For this reason, the terraces remain one of the most biodiverse and productive rice-growing soils in the world. Sadly many communal lands are not legally recognized by national governments, who are instead investing in the construction of new roads or involved in other unsustainable forestry businesses in their territories. Oil corporations and mining companies often offer money to indigenous families knowing that they don’t have the financial means to provide for their children, and today, indigenous communities are fighting illegal invasion, destructive exploitation, logging and mining in their forests, and the building of mega dams across their rivers. After decades of discrimination and neglect, the official role of indigenous peoples remains as guardians of nature and crucial protagonists in the efforts to mitigate climate change, however unfortunately, they are also becoming targets, with some excluded from their ancestral lands and forced to become ‘conservation refugees’ in other countries. Fortunately, the rights of indigenous people are now protected in documents such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and even reflected in government policies and the conservation programmes of some organisations, which are in turn investing more and more in the protection of indigenous culture. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Cover photo: Rice terraces Bali iStock.com/SAKDAWUT14
For centuries, South America’s Amazon rainforest has provided a rich hunting ground for indigenous tribes, who don’t cultivate large quantities of fruits and vegetables. Instead, they rely on foraging and gathering, sometimes with small farm plots to supplement their intake of these foodstuffs, especially as over time they have become less nomadic. As the Amazon is by far the largest jungle, it is also home to the widest variety of wild foods, which has often been left to grow untouched for generations. The one difficulty its occupants face are the scarcity of farmland, as clearings large enough to plant anything are usually rare, and their traditional utensils would make chopping down a load of ancient trees a huge amount of work. The tribes therefore typically live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle; one that has served them well for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Given their reliance on sourcing wild foods from the abundance of the rainforest, the tribes’ diets may vary depending on the exact location, however there are a few plants and animals that remain constant in the Amazon, and as such are the most commonly consumed. For example, if you were to look at an à la carte menu for Amazonian tribespeople, you would typically expect to see the following: Fruits & Vegetables Notorious for their antioxidant health benefits, acai berries are available in abundance to the rainforest's hunter-gatherers. Marketed (with much hype) around the world as a “superfood”, for the Amazon dwellers, the acai berry is merely there, available to pick whenever they’re feeling peckish. The maracuja, better known as the passion fruit (‘Passiflora incarnata’), is another traditional fruit widely eaten by the rainforest inhabitants, where it grows on vines. Reaping many nutritional, health, and medicinal benefits from the fruit, the indigenous people use the leaves to make drinks that calm the nerves as well as a popular maracuja tea. Another wild food in plentiful supply throughout the rainforest but yet to gain the global appeal of the acai berry is the Aguaje: a bright yellow fruit covered in dark maroon scales that tastes similar to a carrot and is often eaten raw. Chayote, a vegetable cultivated by the Aztecs and Mayans in Central America is believed to be indigenous to the Amazon, likely because it grows well in the higher altitudes of mountainous rainforest regions. Another favourite of the tribes, hot peppers are indigenous to the lowland rainforests of Central and South America, where they were domesticated by Native American shamans for their spice, which was used for both medicinal and spiritual purposes. There are approximately 25 wild hot pepper species that originated in the Amazon rainforest. Grains Maize is pretty much the only grain that consistently grows wild in the Amazon. Whilst there are other small seeds eaten by the tribes, maize is the primary source for tribes throughout most of the region. Meat & Fish The Amazon is home to wild pigs, monkeys, orangutans, tapirs, jaguars, sloths, armadillos, ocelot, snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, alligators and ‘caimen’—another member of the alligator family—otters and various types of birds. Dolphin, stingray, catfish, piranha, eel, freshwater crab, mussels and several other small species of freshwater fish are all found in the rainforest’s rivers and commonly consumed as part of the hunter-gatherer diet. Flavorings & other wild foods Black peppercorns, mustard, vanilla, cinnamon, and, of course, Brazil nuts. So whether you’re visiting the Huaorani Ecolodge in Ecuador or the Tambopata Research Center in Peru, you’ll find yourself chowing down on a variety of fruits and vegetables, and while some of them will be completely new, others will be surprisingly familiar. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Photo credit: Native Brazilian child eating food iStock.com/filipefrazao
Declared a World Heritage Site in 1980, the Omo Valley is one of the most important sets of paleontological sites in Africa. Known as ‘the cradle of humanity’, it was multiple discoveries made in this area that helped confirm the evolution of primates from swinging through the trees to walking upright. The Omo Valley also has immense cultural wealth as it has been inhabited by a large number of indigenous tribes fighting for their survival for thousands of years. Here we look at some of the most original traditions that make these tribes stand out as particularly unique. Nyangatom Tribes: Storytelling and Singing The Nyangatom are widely recognized to be the tribe with the best singers and storytellers, and it is common for the younger members to sing songs about cows and bulls during celebrations, traditional ceremonies, and even during fights with neighbouring tribes. The stories and songs of the Nyangatom often become famous throughout the region and are repeated throughout the entire Omo Valley. Mursi Tribes: Spectacular Body Decoration The Mursi is one of the most aesthetically captivating Ethiopian tribes. When they turn 20 their wives wear clay or wooden plates embedded in their lips and ears: the bigger the plate, the greater the likelihood that they will marry as these accessories are a form of seduction. Contrary to popular belief, Mursi women do not wear the plates all the time, as they make it uncomfortable for them to eat and talk. However they always wear wooden earrings, many bracelets, stylish haircut, scarification and colourful fabrics that make them look incredibly striking. Men paint their bodies with natural pigments extracted from rocks, minerals and cow dung, which protects the skin from sun and thorns in addition it serves as both a dramatic way to attract their future wives and to command respect from their opponents in festive battles as a demonstration of their courage and aggressive warrior spirit. Scarification — permanent modifications made by scratching, etching, burning, branding or cutting designs into the skin — across the entire body are also seen as hallmarks of strength. Hamer Tribes: Cattle Jumping Ceremony The most important Hamer youth rite is the "Ukuli Bula", which is a necessary ritual to demonstrate that a man has entered adulthood and is capable of owning cattle, raising a family, and becoming a fully-fledged member of the tribe. When his parents decide that the time to perform the ceremony has arrived, the young man invites all the members of his tribe — along with those from nearby villages — to witness the event. The families of the boys bring what is deemed a fair number of cows and the women dance in their best clothes, creating a rhythmic beat with jingle bells tied below their knees. The cows are then lined up in a row, and the applicant takes a run-up and jumps over the cows’ spines until he reaches the other side. They jump back and forth until the "Mazas" (his age mates who had previously jumped) stop him. If he manages to perform these jumps successfully, he is seen to have passed the test and is ready to assume the role of adult with all the tribal responsibilities that entails. Benna Tribe: Calabash Caps The Benna woman's cover their braided hair with beautifully decorated calabash caps for multi protection purposes. The Benna men are famous for stylish hair ornamenting, like beaded headbands. These intricate creations are complicated to put on, so the Benna usually take these with them wherever they go, sleeping with their heads on wooden headrests to protect them. Dassenech Tribe: Ritual Cattle Sacrifice The “Dimi” is the most important ritual in the life of a Dassenech man and involves the sacrificing of large numbers of cattle such as cows and goats to bless the fertility and future of a young marriage. Members of the tribe dress in their most elaborate finery: ostrich feathers, oxtails, and leopard skins. Songs and dances are an important part of these ceremonies, as are the blessings of the village leaders to the girl to be wed. This rite is usually performed dry season when a lack of pastures means the animals are not as valuable as livestock. Karo Tribe: Chalk Paint Body Decoration The Karo decorate their bodies with chalk paint, often imitating animal print or the spotted plumage of some birds, especially on the face and torso. When a tribe member has killed an enemy or dangerous animal, scarifications are also made on their chests to boast of their bravery. Women cover their bodies with cowhides and use metallic accessories. For Karo women, ornamenting the body and face is considered a way to highlight their attractiveness and indicate their social status. Konso Tribe: Warrior Sculptures In the towns of the Konso (which are typically more developed than those of their neighboring tribes due to the level of construction), it is common to find sets of wood carvings in the central square. These sculptures, called "Wakas", honor dead warriors in one of the most famous and ancient traditions of the Konso people. The larger central figure is dedicated to the warrior themselves, while smaller ones, located either side, represent their families and enemies. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM in collaboration with EMANI CHENEKE / Ethiopia Plan your trip to visit the peoples of the Omo Valley in our Tribes section. Cover photo: Karo warrior / Emani Cheneke
Nomadic people use traditional, locally-sourced materials to construct temporary or permanent dwellings, shelters adapted to suit both the climate and specific needs of the tribe. Houses are built using materials available in the area and are considered extraordinary modern-day examples of ancient vernacular architecture. One example of such construction is the versatile Mongolian ‘ger’ (yurt), which remains cool in the heat of continental summers and holds warmth in the sub-zero temperatures of winter, with a central ventilation hole (that can be closed if needed) and a chimney for the stove. But what exactly do we mean by ‘vernacular architecture’? The term ‘vernacular’ means "domestic, native, indigenous" and originates from the Verna for "home-born slave". It refers to spontaneous architecture characterized by the use of local materials and traditional knowledge that makes it adaptable to climatic needs by taking advantage of the environmental resources available. Some nomadic shelters have been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites due to the vast heritage their architecture preserves, while others have inspired contemporary artists to create new works. Let’s discover a few examples… Dogon Villages The cliff of Bandiagara has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its outstanding cultural significance and natural beauty. Part of Dogon Country, the cliff conceals unique villages rich in tradition, not least vernacular architecture. But why have these particular constructions been regulated? Historically, the cliff provided protection from enemies and severe weather conditions, while living on the cliff freed the land of the plains for agriculture, and as such, enforced protection of the cliff has guaranteed the preservation of centuries of ancient Dogon culture. Korowai Tree Houses The incredible architecture of the Korowai tree houses, suspended well above flood-water levels, is another example of defensive fortification. Built to prevent rival clans from capturing members of the tribe for slavery or cannibalism, they also protect its inhabitants from biting insects and even—it is believed—evil spirits. All of the materials used to construct the tree houses come from the jungle, with branches making the frame and bark of the sago palm used for both floorboards and walls. The roof is woven from larger leaves and rattan bindings serve to fasten everything together securely. The Korowai are known to build their houses in a matter of only one or two days, yet they typically last between three and five years, with new houses constructed in the same clearing—or moved to another, depending on the available resources of food and materials in the area at the time—as required. Tiébélé Court Royale Houses Tiébélé is a village in the east part of Burkina Faso Country. Famed for its colorful windowless traditional houses, it is inhabited by the Kassena: the oldest ethnic group in Burkina who first settled in the region in the 15th Century. Tibelé Court Royale is a stunning example of a village constructed starting from natural local resources and used to express a stunning culture. Kassena people paint unique designs on the exterior walls of their houses, using colored mud and chalk, with this decoration done by the women, normally once a year. The bold colors of black, white and red are made using natural local materials: clay, kaolin, and coal. Tiébélé’s houses are built with defense in mind, be that against the climate or potential enemies, with protection ensured by their small doors and lack of windows. Bedouin Tents One of the most notable examples of architecture designed for the extreme climate it must defend its inhabitants against: easily disassemble and movable at short notice. A traditional Bedouin tent might be relocated daily, so is both light and quick to dismantle and re-erect. Tents are made out of local materials: goat or camel hair, and plant fibres. Typically black, they have almost mythical status in the field of nomadic architecture, with dozens of different variants. The tent’s loosely woven material allows the air to enter and circulate, meaning it is pleasant in the summer season, but that when it rains in the winter months the fibres swell making it waterproof. Traditionally, one side of the tent is the ‘makhad’, a place to meet and receive guests, while the other is where the family lives. Ndebele Homeland Houses Ndebele tribes have adopted a cone-on-cylinder build consisting of mud walls and a thatched roof since the late 1800s, however in current rural settlement patterns these single, nuclear family houses are built on square stands rather than the traditional cylindrical shape, and a wide range of modern building materials and designs have been introduced. The most dramatic feature of Ndebele homes is their colorful wall decorations, and the Ndebele’s unique designs have become a source of inspiration for designers all over the world: French footwear designer Christian Louboutin designed a pair of shoes using the culture’s traditional motifs, and Esther Mahlangu, an internationally recognized Ndebele artist, has had her work commissioned for commercial use by BMV and South African Airways. Toraja Houses Torajan traditional ancestral houses in South Sulawesi (Indonesia) are called ‘Tongkonan’. They are constructed on wooden piles, topped with layered split bamboo roofs shaped in a curved, sweeping arc, and detailed wood carvings in red, black or yellow adorn the exterior walls. The word ‘tongkonan’ means "to sit”, in their language, as the house is central to the tribe’s social activities and represents a link to a family’s ancestors. With distinguishing boat-shaped, oversized saddleback roofs, the construction of tongkonan is laborious work, and the houses are usually built with the help of all family members or friends, making it a special social activity. In the original Toraja society only nobles had the right to build tongkonan, while commoners lived in smaller, less ornate homes known as ‘banua’. Tataouine Storey Buildings An example of vernacular architecture designed to ensure the protection and conservation of food supplies, Tataouine multi-storey vaulted buildings are made from adobe: raw, earthen bricks made with a mix of clay, sand and binding material. The buildings are located in the southern part of Tunisia. The ‘ksar’—meaning “historical district”—consists of two courtyards, each with a perimeter of multi-storey vaulted adobe cellars called ‘ghorfa’. The cellars were originally used to store grains, olive oil and animal fat, with the food kept cool and dry behind the thick brick walls and palm wood doors: quite a miracle considering temperatures easily reached 40°C. The entire Tataouine complex was a fortified settlement, with only one entrance shaped to protect goods and food from enemies and theft. Konso Village Ethiopia Konso, a small town in Southern Ethiopia, has a population that lives primarily from cultivating cotton and agriculture in general. Named after the Konso people, the town—and its 5,500ha of surrounding cultural landscape—was declared a World Heritage Site in 2011 due to its historical terraced agriculture and traditional villages. Important features of the site are the unique designs of the houses themselves, as well as their organization: 32 individual dwellings set behind 1 to 6 rows of defensive stone walls and fossil beds. The communities build traditional reservoirs to supply the villages with water during the dry season, and the terraces are built behind stone walls up to 5m in height to prevent soil erosion and maximize the collection of rainwater for use in such instances, to both ensure and enhance agricultural production. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Cover photo Dogon Village iStock.com/trevkitt References Field Study of the World Cliff of Bandiagara - Unesco Unesco Activities Konso Culture - Unesco Cour royale de Tiébélé - Unesco
They manage 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity, yet they only occupy 22% of planet’s surface. They represent fewer than 5% of the global population, but amount to 15% of people living in poverty. Which social group are subject to these statistical imbalances? We are talking about the world’s indigenous communities. Although international organizations generally avoid attributing a universal definition to the world's indigenous communities, the United Nations has identified two common features that encompass them: specific legal rights based on historic links with a certain territory, and; cultural, linguistic and historical differences to other peoples who dominate them politically. The United Nations approved the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, establishing a universal framework of minimum standards for the dignity, well-being and rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. This declaration promulgates the suffering of indigenous peoples, caused by “historic injustices… preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests”. Source: Sustainability for all & FAO
After several weeks of global health alerts, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus and its disease, COVID-19, a pandemic. This means that it is spreading throughout the planet and that no country can be considered safe. The definition of a pandemic does not speak of its severity or lethality, but implies that a disease is transmitted locally in multiple countries throughout the world, and not only through travelers who come from one or two original sources. Until now, coronavirus was an epidemic, implying a geographically localized outbreak in East Asia. But the local expansion in Europe and the US, through contagions with no relation to China or South Korea, have pushed it to the next level. The declaration of a pandemic forces the governments of affected countries to move to the mitigation phase as soon as possible, since it is not enough just to control people who have visited risk areas. Now, everyone is at risk because the virus multiplies in an uncontrolled way. According to WHO reports, The COVID-19 infects people of all ages. However, current evidence suggests that two groups of people are at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms. These are elderly people; and those with underlying medical conditions. WHO emphasizes that all must protect themselves from COVID-19 in order to protect others. The disease is wreaking havoc on the world economy and most sectors are being affected in an unprecedented way. The latest UNWTO data reflects that the tourism sector is currently one of the most affected by the outbreak of the disease. Travel restrictions and flight cancellations have significantly decreased the supply of travel services as demand continues to drop. IT'S TIME TO PUT PEOPLE FIRST The most important thing is to keep people safe. The coronavirus contagion rate is clear: it spreads way more quickly than SARS, regular flu and other viruses. In developed countries, the infection rate grows exponentially every day, even with advanced health systems and constant support from governments. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE WORLD’S MOST DISADVANTAGED COMMUNITIES? According to the UN, a large number of indigenous peoples—more than 300 million spread over some 5000 populations in 70 countries—live in a traditional semi-isolation that has prevented their immune system from getting used to fighting viruses. They suffer from poorer health, are more likely to experience disability and reduced quality of life and ultimately die younger than their non-indigenous counterparts. The gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous people is up to 20 years lower. For this reason, and according to data from international organizations such as Survival International, indigenous communities are especially sensitive to new infections. Reports from previous epidemics show how big a problem this can be. For example, while the H1N1 virus had an infection rate of 24 per 100,000 cases among the general population, it was considerably higher, reaching 130 per 100,000, among indigenous communities. This is in countries where there were trusted systems for accounting and processing data such as Canada. The data from underdeveloped countries is much more discouraging. In the case of COVID-19, we already know that there is a higher rate of contagion and therefore we can predict the seriousness of the situation. Indigenous peoples around the world are at greatest risk of contracting the disease, because most of them have poor immunity, suffer from other latent chronic diseases and have no access to medical infrastructure. Even a common cold can be deadly to them. WHAT USUALLY HAPPENS IN A TRIBE ONCE A STRANGE PATHOGEN ARRIVES? According to another report by Survival International, when a strange pathogen reaches a small isolated group, even if only one person is infected, they will be cared for by their friends and family. It is likely that those people will then also be infected and the infection will spread rapidly to the whole tribe. Some will be more susceptible than others, but the elderly, young children, and the sick are in particular danger. One of the consequences of an infection that affects an entire community is that very few people will get rid of it and, since it affects everyone at the same time, nobody will be able to hunt or collect food. Therefore, not only will they be sick but nobody will be able to take care of them or feed them. This will have serious consequences on the group's ability to continue surviving without help from abroad. Some indigenous communities are open to dealing with illness with either traditional or Western medicine, if they have access to it, which is not usually the case. Some others see illnesses as a punishment by the Gods and are more reluctant to seek treatment, spreading the disease in the community. However, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, states that indigenous communities have the right to promote, develop and maintain their distinctive customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, and practices, and for that reason it is even more important to have extreme precautions to prevent the spreading of diseases among them. NOMADIC TRIBE COMMITMENT WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLES At Nomadic Tribe, our focus is on the well-being of our global community of travelers, suppliers, staff, and, of course, the indigenous communities around the world. As a result of this, we have taken the decision to delay all bookings for the immediate future. It is our priority to support the tribes that we visit and at this time we do not believe that travel is in the best interest of the communities we work with. While the potential impact of this virus on indigenous communities is unknown, it is our responsibility to maintain the well-being of our global tribe and prevent further spread of the virus if possible. Isolation is being shown to be the best way to contain the virus. The governments of the most affected countries strongly recommend avoiding personal contact and taking extreme hygiene measures if there is no other choice but to leave home or travel. It is time to be responsible, supportive and cautious. The mortality rate of this disease is 3.4% globally (this is a changing percentage that the WHO updates periodically), and we are all susceptible to carrying the virus and infecting more vulnerable people. In addition, our commitment to indigenous communities goes further. Nomadic Tribe is already working on the creation of a foundation to help these communities. We will begin to study possible projects to mitigate the risk of these diseases and possible projects to support the effects it may have on indigenous peoples. If you are travelling anywhere in the immediate future, we strongly recommend that you check with travel guidance and health advisories from your local government, and closely monitor the information from the World Health Organization. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Cover photo: Little African boy iStock.com/Riccardo Lennart Niels Mayer
Time and time again, when emergencies occur, minorities and indigenous peoples are at risk of being excluded from life-saving humanitarian interventions. The current COVID-19 pandemic is no different and it is our moral obligation to ensure national responses leave no one behind. Aid is supposed to be neutral, but we know this is not always the case. In a local situation where some are powerful and count, while others are powerless and don’t count, not everyone will receive aid according to their need. For more than 50 years, we have documented the exclusion of minorities and indigenous peoples from responses to conflict and post-conflict situations (Roma in the Balkans, minority clan members in Somalia, and Muhamasheen in the current conflict in Yemen), to natural disasters (Dalits after the 2004 Tsunami). With today’s global emergency, we have a duty to address the issue of exclusion head-on, and ensure all responses to COVID-19 are inclusive of the world’s most vulnerable people. We therefore urge governments and healthcare providers to consider the following four points in their COVID-19 responses: Lack of documentation should in no case be a barrier to the highest quality care. Minorities and indigenous people are less likely to carry an ID document (for example, Roma in Ukraine) and their citizenship may be contested or challenged (for example the Maragoli community in Uganda). If an ID card is needed to access health care, this can put minority and indigenous communities at a major disadvantage. All COVID-19 care should be provided free of charge to those who cannot afford to pay. Many minorities and indigenous communities are poorer than majority communities in the same country. We know that indigenous women access maternal health care less than other women and some of these women have told us that cost is a factor in this. This applies, for example to some women from the Chin community in Myanmar. Information about prevention and ways to seek help in case of symptoms should be made available in as many languages as possible. Translators without Borders has documented many instances of aid being provided in languages that the intended recipients do not speak well. Radio broadcasts in various languages, including minority languages, may be the best option. Nutrition and access to food should be a priority and should not depend on economic status. Minority communities and indigenous peoples are generally poorer, and their nutritional status may be worse. They are likely to have fewer resources to buy and store food, or to pay for medicines or treatment. They are unlikely to have reserves of either cash or food to sustain themselves whilst they may be unable to work. Batwa community members in Rwanda, for example, have told us they’re facing the prospect of living without an income since their traditional means of work (involving travel to other’s land) is no longer viable or available. Many minorities and indigenous people are more likely to migrate regularly, meaning they have no regular clinic and that government warnings to stay at home are not meaningful to them. Particularly in contexts where competition for health services or essential supplies becomes high, minorities who have lower social capital and are generally poorer and less represented in decision making processes are vulnerable to being pushed to the back of the queue, or otherwise face violence or discrimination when accessing aid. In a recent survey, those reporting on behalf of marginalised communities in Somalia saw almost double the level of violence against those accessing aid (25% of respondents) as those reporting on behalf of majority communities. Governments and healthcare providers need to be aware of all the above factors and ensure that services reach all those who need them regardless of their location, language, ethnicity, religion or caste. These problems can be overcome, but we must first admit that they exist. When those providing aid are aware of and sensitive to existing power relations in communities they serve, reaching everyone according to their need is perfectly possible. We cannot let silent discrimination and outright racism enter our response to this crisis. Let’s ensure that our response is aware of religion, ethnicity, language and all other elements of the identity of those in need, in ways that ensure everyone is supported throughout this challenging time. CLAIRE THOMAS Claire is the Deputy Director of Minority Rights Group International. Minority Rights Article posted in: Thomson Reuters Foundation *Any views expressed in the opinion pieces are those of the authors. Cover photo: Doctor examining little Maasai iStock.com/hadynyah
Believe it or not, many of the tools and items we use in our everyday lives originated at the hands of indigenous tribes. It’s not something commonly taught in schools but in fact, we owe some of our most important modern-day inventions to their creativity and ancient wisdom. Because indigenous people had to adapt to some of the most difficult environments on the planet with very limited resources, they developed exceptional skills that led them to design utensils, machinery, hunting and gathering systems, medicines and much more in order to enable their survival. Extremely advanced for their time, society today would be very different without these 8 indigenous inventions from tribes around the world: Kayaks The Alaskan Inuit people were the first to build and use kayaks, at least 4,000 years ago. Kayaks were small, narrow boats made of wood, with a sealed sealskin cabin to prevent the rower from sinking should the boat capsize. The word kayak means "hunter's boat", as they were originally built for hunting and used to drag animals — seals, caribou, even whales — to shore. Nowadays, kayaks are used all over the world for recreational activities and their design has not changed, although they are now made using different materials, such as plastic and carbon fiber. Syringes Native Americans made the first syringes to inject medicines in pre-Columbian times. These hypodermic needles were originally made from animal bladders attached to a sharp, hollow cylindrical bone — such as the leg of a prairie chicken, turkey, goose or other bird — which served as the tube. Their invention was later attributed to Scotsman Alexander Wood in 1853, but our American ancestors had already developed them many centuries before. Today, the practice of medicine is unimaginable without the use of these vital utensils. Boomerang The boomerang was invented by Australian Aborigines and — contrary to popular belief — never used for hunting, but in rituals and celebrations. It is said that the first tribe the English encountered in New South Wales in the 18th century were the Turuwals, who shouted "Boom-ma-rang!" as they launched and then caught a curved wooden object. This expression means "Come back cane!", although according to some historians the word comes from the aboriginal term "boomari", which means wind. Nowadays, the boomerang is used to practice sports and play games, or as a decorative object. Analgesics The Amazonian and Andean indigenous peoples of South America pioneered the use of a variety of medicinal plants (leaves, roots, barks, flowers, seeds, resins, and oils) to manage ailments, and their combination to prepare infusions, syrups, plasters and powders that relieved pain and treated disease. An example of this is ginger: a tubercle we currently use to flavor dishes, which indigenous healers prepared as a medicinal drink to relieve pain or reduce inflammation. Traditional medicine is part of the cultural legacy of indigenous peoples like the Tacana and Leco, who used quinine, cat's claw and evanta: all plants now recognised by the modern pharmaceutical industry. Chewing gum Chewing gum can be traced back to Southeast Mexico and Northern Central America, where it originated as part of Mayan culture over two thousand years ago. The Mayans made incisions in the bark of the Chicozapote — one of the most abundant trees in the area — so that the sap flowed into containers placed at the base of the trunk. After drying the tree's nectar, a chewy gum was obtained and used to clean the teeth and mouth or curb hunger in fasting rituals. Today, the habit of chewing gum is widespread throughout the world. Piercing and Tattoos The indigenous Colombians were pioneers in hair removal techniques, hair extensions, 'piercing' and tattoos. From pre-Hispanic times to the present day, the tribes in Colombia have used the body as a canvas; an artistic expression of their culture. In many different parts of the world, other cultures — such as the Maoris in New Zealand — also used tattooing as a statement of identity. In some Borneo tribes, perforations were made in different parts of the body to implant piercings that marked the transition from adolescence to maturity. Nowadays, piercings and tattoos are common across the world for aesthetic reasons, and as an affirmation of individual identity. Baby bottles Although some baby feeding utensils were already used by the ancient Egyptians and other cultures, the Native Americans invented the first baby bottle. Using syringe-like technology, the Indians used bear intestines, which they washed, dried, and greased before attaching a feather as a form of nipple. The mothers then filled them with a mixture of nuts, meat, and water. Today the baby bottle is an essential item for families all over the world. Sunglasses The very first piece of equipment attached to the eyes in order to protect them from the sun’s rays can also be attributed to the creativity of the Inuit people, who manage to survive one of the most extreme climates on the planet. Made of wood, bone, or ivory, they were originally fastened with strips of whale skin and designed to avoid snow blindness: a frequent and serious problem for the Inuit people that occurred when the snow’s strong reflective power directed damaging ultraviolet rays into the eyes. Today, all around the world, who doesn't wear sunglasses? NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Cover photo: (CC BY 2.0) Inuit kayaker
When we talk about health and medicine, we are often referring to a general, westernized concept of the term. But what does it mean for indigenous peoples? What is their approach to medicine and healthcare? Here, we look at some of their traditional knowledge and discover the range of long-established practices still being used across Africa, America, Canada and Australia. It is common for indigenous tribes to use either traditional or western medicine, but they sometimes employ a combination of the two. According to the United Nations report State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, both ‘western’ and ‘traditional’ methods refer to systems of medical practices that use the approach of treating illness through remedies that produce effects that counter or oppose its symptoms. The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) has defined traditional medicine and indigenous health systems as including myths, procedures and rituals that connect health with the treatment of physical and mental illness. Traditional medicine is identified as the sum of both knowledge and practices that rely on past experiences anecdotally passed down from generation to generation, and as such we consider this vast, intangible heritage something that must be protected. Assuming these concepts and definitions, the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 24, states that: Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services. Curious to know more about the health practices, traditional methods and medicinal herbs of the indigenous peoples? Let’s discover them together! Medicine in Africa The use of medicinal plants is integral to the entire African traditional healthcare system, not just indigenous peoples, and in many parts of rural Africa, the traditional healers prescribing them are actually the most affordable health resource available. The full knowledge of plant species used and related methods of preparation — the unique processes that transform them into medication — still resides with traditional healers, and remains secret and exclusive because it cannot be shared with anyone other than family members and relatives. The methods used to prepare herbal medicines from fresh and dry plants, may vary according to tribe, place and culture, but the preparations themselves generally include: ● Extractions: Plants are prepared with solvent on a weight by volume basis. ● Infusions: Plants are prepared by macerating the crude drug for a short period of time (in either hot or cold water, with honey sometimes added to prevent spoilage). ● Tinctures: Alcoholic ‘infusions’ that can be diluted before administration. ● Decoctions: Woody parts of the plant are boiled for an established period and then filtered. ● Ashins: Dried parts of the plant are incinerated to ash, sieved and added to water or food. ● Miscellaneous: External applications in liquid containing the active plant substances, used on the skin. Medical herbs are commonly administered orally, topically, rectally or nasally, although alternative methods include smoking a cigar containing herbs or passive inhalation of the drug. Healthcare practices and practitioners have different names depending on the ethnic group. For example, in Nigeria, what is called “Babalawos” by the Yorubas, is called “Bibia” by the Igbos, and “Boka” by the Northerners or Hausas. A tribe closely linked to the forest and its plants is the Batwa of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Batwa still deeply value the forest: the environment is their major heritage as it has always guaranteed their most important resources. Before access was denied, these forests provided food, shelters and refuge. The forest herbs always provided the Batwa with their medicines too. Studies suggest that the belief in traditional medicine is still as strong amongst the newer generations of the tribe and that the youngest still have doubts about the effectiveness of modern medicine. Medicine in South America For indigenous peoples in South America, an equilibrium and harmony with nature is considered the basis for good health and illness occurs when its balance is altered. With origins in ancient Aztec and Incan cultures, herbal and holistic remedies remain widespread amongst indigenous peoples, with many of the herbs used by the Aztecs years ago still the main ingredient in medicines today. ● Wormwood: The use of wormwood in medical preparations is popular with indigenous peoples today. The Central American species of wormwood (‘Artemisia Mexicana’) was used by the Aztecs both as a ritual herb and as a medication — referred to by the tribes as “Iztauhyatl” — in the treatment of digestive problems such as diarrhea, stomach ache, colic and rheumatism. ‘Artemisia Mexicana’ has also been found to treat malaria and as topical remedy. Prepared with a solution of alcohol, the plant could be mixed with other compounds depending on the symptoms to be treated, and often an oil to make a ‘suspension’ (a liquid in which small pieces of the drug are not dissolved in the solution) of the medication. ● Marigold: Used both to supplement other remedies and as a medication in its own right, in addition to treating many of the same digestive ailments as wormwood the essential oil of the marigold has antibiotic and antimicrobial properties. Marigold was traditionally used for more severe and persistent symptoms of digestive distress. The leaves could be brewed into a tea, crushed and burned as remedial incense, or used as an essential oil. The Matsé—the indigenous peoples of Brazil and Perù—have recently created a 500-page encyclopedia on their use of traditional medicine. This is a unique case and represents huge action in their effort to conserve a millennia of culture and intangible heritage. Compiled by five shamans with the help of the Acaté conservation group, the encyclopedia describes each plant used in medicine as a remedy for a variety of diseases in detail. The Matsés have only printed the encyclopedia in their native language to ensure that researchers do not steal their vast medicinal knowledge, as has happened in the past. Instead, the volume is intended as a guide to train new and young shamans, and to preserve the knowledge of living shamans before they die. Medicine in Canada indigenous peoples in Canada have been using plants as medicine since ancient times, and more than 400 different species of plants with medicinal applications have been identified over the years. They refer to recognized ‘specialists’ for their use, and the specific methods of harvesting and preparing medicines are considered the intellectual property of these specialists and their families. Medicinal plants are treated with respect and reverence as their healing properties rely on specific spiritual preparation. Here are just some examples of well-known medicinal plants still widely used by indigenous peoples in Canada. ● ‘Achillea millefolium’ (Yarrow): Containing aromatic compounds including menthol and thujone, the leaves of this plant are used for colds and coughs, while the roots are used to treat sores, burns, abscesses, skin rashes and bronchitis. It can be used as a shampoo by soaking the leaves in water, and drinks made with the plant used to cure diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. Also used as a blood purifier, the indigenous peoples use Achillea to repel insects and treat insect bites. ● Artemisia species (Sagebrush, Wormwood, Sagewort): There are more than 20 species of Artemisia in Canada traditionally used as medicines in the form of infusions or inhalants to treat colds, coughs, and respiratory ailments. They are also commonly used to ease skin irritations and cure infection, or as a solution for rheumatism and arthritis. Some species are even burned ceremonially and used as incense. The Woods Cree of Saskatchewan are part of the Canadian Aboriginal. Their traditional use of medicinal herbs included the consumption of dried roots as winter foods, with fresh roots being sliced and fried to eat. Flower buds can be cooked and eaten too, but different types are traditionally combined as remedies for headaches, aching limbs or swelling, or used as poultices for treating wounds. Rhizomes (the stems of the flowers which grow underground) are cut into rounds and dried, and then either put into tea as a remedy for arthritis or used to treat an area of the body that has been specifically affected. Once ground into a poultice, fresh roots can be applied to wounds, and decoctions are given to women recovering from childbirth. Medicine in Australia Whilst the use traditional medicine of indigenous peoples in Canada is quite well know, in the Australian bush it is less so. Most Aboriginal medical treatments were derived from food. Aboriginal people use plants in a variety of ways: some of them are crushed, heated and applied to skin, and others boiled, inhaled or drunk. Many of the plants used by Aboriginal people contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds known in western medicine. Some examples of this include: ● Tea tree oil: The Bujjalung, aborigines of the New South Wales coast, commonly use tea tree leaves and apply them on wounds as a paste. The antiseptic potency of the tea tree oil was first demonstrated around the 1920s, and since then the oil has been used to treat almost anything—fungi, acne, wounds, etc—thanks to its incredible healing properties. ● Goat’s foot: The Aboriginal from Northern Australia and parts of New South Wales first crushed and heated the leaves of the plant, then applied them directly to the skin as an effective method of pain relief. Heated on hot rocks and then applied as a poultice, the leaves were traditionally used to relieve stings and bites from insects, stingrays and snakes as well as a cure for skin irritation and infection. ● Emu bush: The leaves of this plant have the same properties as established antibiotics, and are mostly used by the Aboriginal tribes of the Northern Territory to wash and disinfect sores and cuts. Today, some healing centers still offer traditional medicine practice (TMP) and bush medicines. For example, the Akeyulerre Healing Centre in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory offers stand-alone TMP, traditional healers and bush medicines. The Ngangkari Program in the Northern Territory also has Anangu traditional healers, who have received training from, and special tools passed down by, their grandparents. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM Content Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this article is NOT intended as medical advice. The use of any medicine should always be done with the consultation of a trained physician or healthcare provider. Cover photo: Man drinking tea iStock.com/Bartosz Hadynia References UNITED NATIONS SECRETARIAT - Department of Economic and Social Affairs 2009, State of the World’s indigenous Peoples. New York: United Nation Publication UNITED NATIONS 2008, Declaration on the rights of indigenous People, United Nations WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) 2019, WHO Global Report on Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Geneva: World Health Organization Ezekwesili-Ofili J., Ozioma, Nwamaka Chinwe O.A. 2019, Herbal Medicines in African Traditional Medicine. Okafor JC, Ham R. Identification, utilization and conservation of medicinal plants in Southeastern Nigeria. The Canada Encyclopedia. Young D., Rogers R., Willier R. 2015, A Cree Healer and His Medicine Bundle: Revelations of Indigenous Wisdom--Healing Plants, Practices, and Stories. North Atlantic Books Lyle, William H. 2014, "Herbal and Holistic Medicine in Latin America" Campbell, D., Burgess, C.P., Garnett, S.T., Wakerman, J. 2011. Potential primary health care savings for chronic disease care associated with Australian Aboriginal involvement in land management. Health Policy. Ralph-Flint, J. 2001. Cultural borrowing and sharing: Aboriginal bush medicine in practice. Australian Journal of Holistic Nursing, 8(1), 43-46 Top 10 Aboriginal bush medicines.
The Ta Phin commune is located in the mountainous district of Sapa, in the Lao Cai Province on the border of China. The commune center is set in a valley within walking distance of Sapa town, a popular tourist destination. The Hmong of Ta Phin grow rice and corn in their terraced fields and collect wood, orchids, and cardamom from the nearby forest. The higher land is a maze of narrow rice paddies alongside corn and vegetable fields, and the valley floors are dense with spectacular rice fields that supply the community with much of its resources. To supplement income, some women sell handcrafted goods to tourists in Sapa. They buy old skirts from Hmong women in other districts or embroidered remnants from Dao clothing, then re-dye and sew them into bags and hats. The Hmong women also sell shirts and other garments on the streets of Sapa for local business people to buy. It’s a common sight in the village to see the woman and girls sitting together, gossiping and laughing, heads down and focused on a piece of indigo-colored cloth. They make embroidery and brocade products which are then sold and traded amongst the villages and visitors. The locals are friendly and will readily invite tourists into their homes to show them how they live and what they own. On following them to their houses, you will discover how simply they live, so bear in mind that the purchase of a piece of merchandise would be a nice gesture; a tip, if you like, for the things they have shown you. In their homes, you will likely find the mothers and daughters cooking and sewing after long days of gossip and laughter in the rice paddies and cornfields. When not at home, they can be found far in the mountains of Sapa collecting wood. Since 1998, Ta Phin has been known as the “brocade village”, a place where tourists can find eye-catching handmade brocades made by ethnic people. Ranging from bags, scarves, purses, and skirts to backpacks and coats, these products are entirely unique: distinctively patterned and brightly colored. Traditional skills and patterns of the Hmong in Taphin. HEMP: Women are responsible for growing and processing hemp, an important element in the production of Hmong clothing. Hemp is usually planted in March and harvested in July, after which it is dried and the bark — the hemp fiber — stripped from the stem, before being pounded, boiled, spun and coated with wax ready to be strung on the loom. INDIGO DYE: All clothing is dyed with indigo, which is often planted in ‘kitchen gardens’ near to the houses and harvested in late spring, at which time it is made into a paste and the base cloth alternatively dipped and dried continuously for a period of 30 days. SEWING: Traditionally clothes are hand-sewn with white, pink or blue stitches along the hem. In a year, a woman will stitch a full set of clothes for each family member, and in the weeks before Tet she will be particularly busy with sewing, as the Hmong people wear their best clothes for the New Year celebrations. SYMBOLS IN EMBROIDERY: Most collars today incorporate a ‘cu’, or snail design, formed by a curling black chain stitch, whereas the design of sleeves and belts are more varied. Among the motifs are the ‘khau li’ — the instrument used for winding hemp fibers — and chicken feet, both important symbols in Hmong rituals. Plants and flowers are also represented. Clothing in customs and rituals. During the festival of Tet, boys and girls dress in their best clothes as it is considered a time for courtship. A traditional game of ‘con’ allows them to observe each other as a corn cob with chicken feathers attached is thrown between a row of boys and a row of girls. A boy may give a girl his ‘shao khua’ (the Hmong name for the feathered cob) as a proposal of marriage, and if she doesn’t return it, formally accepts his offer. For her marriage, a woman may prepare many sets of clothes. Marriages sometimes happen by abduction, but mostly today, parents requiring a dowry often arrange them for their children. In this instance, a girl may receive cloth from the boys' family with which to prepare her clothing. A woman will wear a Hmong skirt made by women from the other districts when she gives birth. Not only is the skirt said to be more comfortable, but symbolic in that it represents the clothing of their mutual ancestors whom she will one day rejoin. It is for this reason that she will be buried in the skirt. Jewelry Hmong women usually wear one or several large hoop earrings, known as ‘con de’, in each ear and one or more rings (‘po cu dang’) around their necks. Although once produced by the Hmong themselves, nowadays it is usually the people of Dao, or Giay ethnic groups in other villages, who produce these. Duong Thi Minh Thu - Vietnam Plan your trip checking out the H'mong Hill in our Tribes section. Cover photo Sunday market, Bac Ha, Vietnam iStock.com/OscarEspinosa
UNWTO Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism (Part 1) Indigenous peoples are characterized by some of the richest, most unique and diverse cultural expressions of humankind which have developed over thousands of years across our planet and are spiritually linked to indigenous traditional lands. The United Nations World Tourism Organization published recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism are referring first and foremost to tourism development within those indigenous communities that wish to open up to tourism or to improve the management of the existing indigenous tourism products and experiences within their communities. These recommendations represent a clear pull factor for potential tourists who wish to experience indigenous natural and cultural heritage in physical, intellectual and emotional terms, and If managed responsibly and sustainably, indigenous tourism spurs cultural interaction and revival, bolsters employment, alleviates poverty, curbs rural flight migration, empowers local communities, especially women and youth, encourages tourism product diversification, allows people to retain their relationship with the land and nurtures a sense of pride. Throughout the centuries, indigenous people have faced different forms of discrimination, displacement from their ancestral territories, cultural assimilation and more recently a severe depletion of the natural resources they depend on. And In order for indigenous tourism to develop and prosper in a respectful and equitable manner, all stakeholders need to take into consideration the following key socioeconomic and human rights aspects directly related to indigenous communities: Respect cultural values and the cultural capital of indigenous groups, their physical, spiritual and cultural relationship with their traditional lands and customary laws, in order to be able to understand their expected benefits from tourism and the role they wish to play in it. Respect the management models that the indigenous communities wish to apply in tourism development. Engage in a thorough, transparent and permanent consultation process on the planning, design and management of tourism projects, products and services. This process includes a dialogue between indigenous and non-indigenous stakeholders (governments, destinations, tourism companies and others), as well as among indigenous community members whose consent to any tourism development is absolutely necessary. From an Empowerment point the UNWTO recommend that we help facilitate skills development and empowerment of indigenous communities through organizational structures and governance models, including self-governance, that enable efficient decision-making with regards to tourism. Support equitable indigenous enterprises and sustainable business practices which not only ensure an enhanced economic benefit, but also contribute to protecting cultural and natural resources, intellectual property, fostering community development and improving individual livelihoods. Ensure that outcomes of tourism development are positive, and that adverse impacts on natural resources, cultural heritage and the way of life of the communities are timely identified and prevented or eliminated. And finally participate in the protection of natural and cultural assets of indigenous communities, as well as of their traditional lands. Source: World Tourism Organization (2019), Recommendations on Sustainable Development of Indigenous Tourism, UNWTO, Madrid. DOI Cover photo: iStock.com/FG Trade
A Way to Protect Ecosystems and Promote Resilience. There are around 370 million indigenous people in the world and they make up less than five percent of the total human population; however, they manage over 25 percent of the world’s land surface and support about 80 percent of the global biodiversity, and they are considered the ultimate guardians of our world’s ecosystems. Their millennial knowledge is rooted in generations of hunting and agricultural practices, sustainable water and land use, leading to the conservation of biodiversity. Today, we consider their traditions, customs and practices fundamental for environmental protection and disaster risk management. Their unique skills and knowledge are no longer undervalued or ignored and many are included in numerous modern studies tackling natural disasters’ prevention. Because they inhabit some of the most fragile ecosystems on the planet, they have managed to develop exceptional approaches to cope with the extreme variations of weather. Their deep understanding of the surroundings is a practice embedded in their day-today lives and it is the reason to their resilience to climate-related natural hazards and disasters. However, rapid environmental alterations and major natural catastrophes usually happen in rural contexts where the repercussion are disastrous, and indigenous communities that cannot adapt rapidly enough to these changes are the ones to pay the price. Nowadays, the relationship between indigenous knowledge and natural disasters is reflected in risk reduction and natural hazards’ prevention plans, disaster education and early warning systems planning. Numerous countries are including consultation and cooperation with indigenous communities in the elaboration of national plans. Nevertheless, many are afraid that all this knowledge could disappear forever. Modern disaster reduction technology used alone has proven that traditional knowledge is useful in local cultural and socio-economic frameworks. The general idea is that modern technology reduce communities’ ability to support themselves, and making them more and more dependent on external forces. All over the world, recent disasters confirmed the modern society’s failure to take care of the people and made communities feeling abandoned. Traditional principles adapted to modern society usually develop higher resilience, helping greatly communities worldwide. It is believed that ultimate disaster reduction actions should incorporate both modern technology and traditional knowledge. The recognition and respect of the rights of indigenous peoples is addressed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is inviting the international community to further involve indigenous peoples in strategies for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development, and protect indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge, practices and traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation of biological diversity. Many are the examples of how indigenous knowledge prevented natural disasters and helped in the preparation of action plans to mitigate disasters, and governments are starting to see more and more the need to invest in this millennial expertise. For instance, the Australian government extended its support to the Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs), the Indigenous Rangers and it gave Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the possibility to continue their efforts to protect and conserve the biodiversity of their lands. In Canada, the government is supporting the Indigenous Guardianship Program, in which indigenous communities have the right to manage their territories according to traditional laws and practices. In Europe as well, the official recognition of the Havukkavaara forest in North Karelia in Finland opened the possibility to develop a community-based conservation program to help sustain traditional lifeways. In Africa, Namibia specifically, the government recognized indigenous community-based natural resource management, resulting in the establishment of 82 conservancies, covering about 20 percent of the country’s surface area, and 32 community forests, saving animals from poaching and extinction . In Japan, the use of indigenous wisdom and skills have reduced, but the country invested in the past years in traditional knowledge to help mitigate natural hazards. Flood disaster happen every year, especially in the delta area of the Gifu prefecture. Controlling the flood was impossible, yet, the communities developed very advanced assessments through knowledge, tradition and cooperation within the community. In early 19th century, a system of mutual assistance, cooperation and monitoring, helped the communities survive the floods. Bamboo planting and ring dykes construction, also served to protect the villages from the inundations. Still today, to reduce erosion, special structures are built on the riverbanks as well as elevated houses called “Mizuya” used by families in case of flooding. Not counting industrial accidents and pollution, every year Papua New Guinea experiences around two to three natural disasters and in the past 30 years alone, it has been hit by major catastrophes such as flooding, volcanic eruption, tsunami, landslide, and drought. The country is also one with the highest number of indigenous communities living traditionally. With a millennial knowledge of hazards’ prevention that has evolved over generations, today their expertise is employed by local organizations to mitigate hazards . The latest disasters faced by India over the past decades, taught us how important is traditional wisdom when it comes to save lives. Traditional indigenous architecture play a major role in people safety during natural threats. Kashmir, in northern India, is very different from any other part of the country and climatic conditions vary from temperate to artic cold desert. Even though the area is a high seismic hazard zone, the communities living in this region had to adapt to the poor soil condition and learned how to build steady houses over the years. Their traditional architectural techniques is what saved many lives during the Kashmir Earthquake in 2005. Kashmir’s two types of constructions are the Taq and Dhajji-Dewari system, which are known today as earthquake safe construction practices. In the Taq system, timber pieces are places horizontally as runners inserted into the stonewalls, stopping the construction from cracking and keeping the building together during an earthquake. The Dhajji-Dewari system is very similar; however, the timbers are placed horizontally, vertically and crossed to keep the building even steadier. The Kashmir earthquake confirmed that traditional techniques for house construction in the region were safer than modern techniques employed at the time. In 2006, heavy rain and flooding brought down the Barmer District of Rajasthan in western India. The region is mostly deserted and finding water is extremely difficult for local communities. Houses are still built with local materials and the construction technique are passed down from generation to generation. The huts are circular with a thatched roof and people learned to orient the house in such a way that allows the wind to ensure good ventilation since temperatures in this region reach about 50 C. It is understandable the general astonishment when the rains swamped completely the area in just few days; however the local communities showed incredible resilience and spirit of adaptation. The assessments done in the region after the disaster underlined the importance of traditional wisdom in these situations, in which eco-friendly construction materials and expertise has been tested over generations and permitted to save lives during the floods. On the 2nd of April 2007, at the Solomon Islands 52 people lost their lives due to an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 and its consequent tsunami. Studies demonstrated that the number would have been significantly higher if not for the appropriate reaction of the indigenous coastal populations. Most of the victims were immigrant Gilbertese and they did not react promptly to the withdrawing of the waters because they had no memory in their culture of such an event. On the other hand, the indigenous Solomon Islanders experienced numerous tsunamis in their lifetimes, and responded quickly after the earthquake. Another similar case are the three islands Simeulue, Nias and Siberut in Sumatra, Indonesia. All three are very different culturally and socially, however they all experienced earthquakes and tsunamis, and their traditional knowledge played a critical role during the earthquake measuring 7.9 on the 12th of September 2007. Their effective communication, traditional architecture and prompt response to the first wave of earthquake, diminished the fatalities tremendously during the disaster. Today, indigenous knowledge is included in effective tsunami and earthquakes response education . If governments have a larger knowledge of ‘risk information’ compared to local communities, indigenous communities have richer local knowledge. The coexistence with modern alternative is crucial in the protection of local communities that can become more prone to disasters. This can be successful only if there is the active involvement of local communities and explanation of the benefits given by modern technology. Meanwhile governments and academia should recognize the importance of traditional practices and techniques. In conclusion, indigenous communities have such an intimate connection with their natural surroundings, that their wide knowledge of nature and the environment is essential in increasing communities’ resilience of facing potential natural hazards’ impacts and environmental change. Indigenous people are those who save the world from apocalyptic migrations due to drought, heat waves, storms and floods, and we should all learn from them how to properly respect the Earth. Indigenous knowledge allowed communities to survive disasters over the centuries, however, because of modernization progresses indigenous practices are not always valued. When devastating disasters remind us of the force of Nature, more occurring in current times, indigenous practices are remembered once again as valued models of endurance. NOMADIC TRIBE TEAM cover photo: Waving palm trees iStock.com/imagedepotpro
Hiking in Morocco is an incredible experience, that goes well beyond the pure pleasure of admiring the landscape. There's something truly special about trekking in Morocco, something that is hard to pin down and that you'd have to see to believe. Going deep into the Atlas Mountains - considered one of the hidden gems of Morocco- is a fantastic way not only to appreciate nature - picture snow capped peaks, creeks flowing through lush valleys, forests and much more - but also to get to know a very unique culture - that of the Amazigh communities, commonly referred to as Berbers (a term which, to be fair, they dislike as they find it insulting). You can follow various trails to experience the beauty of the Atlas. One of the best around starts in Amizmiz, and takes the very few foreigners that venture there through the tiny villages scattered in this part of the country. Amizmiz is at a mere one hour drive from the busy Marrakech, but already feels like a world apart. With its 11000 inhabitants, Amizmiz is by and large the most populated town in this part of the Atlas. This should set the mood for what you may experience should you decide to venture in a land where foreign visitors are as rare as they are welcome, and were ancestral customs are still very much a thing. I recently had the chance to go hiking in Morocco Atlas Mountains, and it was a fantastic experience. In the course 5 days I managed to appreciate the beauty and solitude of the Atlas Mountains; I crossed a multitude of tiny villages; encountered the most friendly locals; enjoyed their culture and gorged on the delicious local food. For those of you who are interested in experiencing the same, I have put together this post which contains a detailed itinerary, with what plenty of practical information about the distances and difficulties, about the sights and what you can expect, and finally where you can eat and sleep along the way. However, please beware that although this itinerary is very detailed and with plenty of useful information, I do not recommend hiking this multi-day trek independently and even less so to do it alone: the trail is often tricky to follow, and you'll be crossing villages where, should you not have some connection and not speak the local language, you'll have a hard time getting a place to stay and eat for the night. The best option to go hiking in Morocco is then to go on an organized adventurous trip such as that organized by Nomadic Tribe, a new tour operator which strives to promote a new way of traveling by facilitating encounters between adventurous travelers and indigenous communities around the world. A 5 Days Itinerary For Hiking In Morocco Day 1 - from Amizmiz to Ait Irghit The first day on this itinerary for hiking in Morocco Atlas Mountain is spent walking from Amizmiz to Ait Irghit. You'll be leaving the small town to get more and more into the mountains, where you'll get increasingly immersed in nature and blissfully isolated. You'll come across very few people during your walk - some shepherds, a few women with their children, and sheep and at times cows enjoying their pasture. The walking time between Amizmiz and Amezi, where you will be having lunch, is about 2 and a half hours. Once in Amezi, you'll have the first proper encounter with a local family, with the chance to learn a bit about the local customs and way of life - including the ritual of tea and washing hands before eating. Your lunch spot varies depending on the guide's choice, who picks a different family every time and usually makes it a point to help the family most in need. My group stopped at the very modest home of a widower and her beautiful children. After lunch you'll continue walking towards Ait Irghit, where you'll spend the night. It's a pleasant uphill walk and you'll arrive to your final destination in time for sunset. Once there, you will have the chance of visiting local families for tea and snacks and to get to know their way of life. Overall walking distance: 12 km Overall walking time: 6 and a half hours, including lunch break and several stops for photos. Highest point: 1724 meters above sea level. Lunch break: the typical arrangement throughout this 5 day hike is such that meals are consumed at local homes and they usually consist of traditional food such as Tajine or Cous cous. On the first day, lunch will be eaten at a tiny Amazigh village called Amezi (Tidli). The views throughout your first day of hiking in Morocco are beautiful. As you cross the green fields, you'll have views of the valley as well as the snow capped mountains, and on occasions you'll encounter men or women working alone in the fields. The villages you'll cross are very modest - dirt streets, clay homes with little comforts - but give the overall landscape a nice touch. Once you get to Ait Irghit, if the day is clear you'll have the chance to admire sunset. This day is meant to ease you into the rest of the hike, so that you can adjust to the altitude. There won't be any major challenge. The trail is easy to follow and the terrain mostly good as you will usually be walking on a dirt road. The uphill walking will be more persistent after lunch, but it's nothing to worry about. You won't meet many people - on occasion, a few persons working in the field, a couple of kids on a donkey. Make sure to carry enough water for the day and some snacks to munch on before lunch, as on this day your lunch break will be rather late. Day 2 - from Ait Irghit to Infag. The second day of your hiking in Morocco itinerary will be spent walking from Ait Irghit to Infag, with a lunch break in Ait Ahmed. After breakfast, you'll have the chance to say goodbye to your host and their children, and then start walking out of the village and towards a thick, beautiful and pristine forest. Though the distance is slightly shorter and most of the day you'll be going downhill, the trail is very narrow in places and you'll have to pay close attention to where you put your feet, making the overall walking time slightly longer than the previous day. If you didn't meet many people on your first day of hiking in Morocco, your second day will be even more peaceful. You'll only see people once you get close to your lunch spot, in the village of Ait Ahmed which you will be approaching from above, thus having beautiful panoramic views. The walking time between Ait Irghit and Ait Ahmed, where you will be having lunch, is about 3 and a half hours. The village is larger than Amezi, where you have lunch on your first day, and the overall impression is that locals are more accustomed at seeing travelers. After lunch you'll continue walking towards Infag, a small village built along the side of the Overall walking distance: 11.3 km Overall walking time: 7 hours, including plenty of time for photos and lunch. Highest point: 1704 meters above sea level. Lunch break: with a local family in Ait Ahmed. In terms of views, this is probably the most interesting day of the itinerary. You will be walking through the forest, reaching some tiny waterfalls which are perfect for a photo break; and as you will approach the village where you'll have your lunch break from above, you'll be offered an incredible sight. Yet, the best view is that of the snow capped mountains from the meadows where lonely shepherds take their cows to graze. It's an absolutely mighty and beautiful sight. After lunch, you'll continue walking mostly on a dirt road. The landscape will be a bit mode desolate and dry and approach various clay villages that look well hidden in the mountains. What to expect. There are no major difficulties during your second day hiking in Morocco, other than the fact that the trail is at times quite narrow and not easy to follow - but this is hardly a concern since you'll be with an expert local guide at all times. You meet even less people than on the previous day - it is all about getting close to nature. Carry a power bank for your phone or make sure your camera is fully charged as there will be plenty of good photo opportunities. Day 3 - from Infag to Tizgga. On your third day you will be walking from Infag to Tizgga and your lunch break will be in Imi Ourmer. You'll start walking soon after breakfast, making your way out of the village and towards the valley. Walking along the dirt road, you'll come to a river and you'll have to continue walking along that on a narrow but easy trail. As you'll be crossing several villages, you'll get to meet more people and you'll be able to observe local life a bit more. In Imi Ourmer, your lunch spot, you'll have the chance of visiting a cooperative where local women dedicate their time to the art of traditional carpet weaving. The walking time between Infag and Imi Ourmer is short around 2 and a half hours. After lunch, you'll cross a couple of villages until the trail becomes a steep uphill until your final destination, the village of Tizgga, the highest point you'll reach during your time hiking in Morocco. The village has some pretty views over the mountains, but it is incredibly modest. Overall walking distance: 13.5 km Overall walking time: 7 hours, including lunch break and various stops. Highest point: 1953 meters above sea level. Lunch break: at a local house in Imi Ourmer. The views on your third day of hiking in Morocco are stunning. Soon after getting out of Infag, you'll reach a valley with a river flowing through it, and a viewpoint from where you can enjoy an encompassing view of your surroundings up until the snow capped mountains. The village of Imi Ourmer, where you'll be having lunch, is set scenically along the river. Along the river there is a channel system used by local women to do laundry in the traditional way, and that is a nice thing to observe. This is one of the villages you're likely to enjoy the most, as the host family where you'll be having lunch has a nice, comfortable home (by local standards) and it is very welcoming. Tizgga, where you will spending the night, is a village of very modest people who are however absolutely friendly. They will make it a point to show you the most intricate traditional clothes and even offer you to try them on to pose for photos. Though the first part of the day is fairly easy and the walk is pleasant, the walk up to Tizgga can be challenging as you'll be at a bit of an elevation, and the road you'll be walking along quite steep. Other than that, it is an absolutely pleasant walk. You'll be tempted to buy a carpet from the women's cooperative there and then, but keep in mind that you'll be going through the same village on day 4 of this hiking itinerary, so you may want to spare yourself (or the mules) the effort of having to carry extra weight for at least one day. Day 4 - from Infag to Imintala. On your fourth day you will walk back down on the same trail you followed the day before, reaching the village of Imi Ourmer by lunch time. After lunch you will walk towards Imintala, one of the largest villages in the area, where you'll be hosted in a beautiful, very large traditional home that compared to the others where you'll be staying will feel significantly more comfortable - this is the only night where you'll be sleeping on a bad, though with your sleeping bag. The village itself is more lively compared to the others and one of the most interesting one you'll be coming across when hiking in Morocco, and chances are you'll come across group of kids engaged in ball games who'll be glad to involve you, or other youngsters walking around for errands. Overall walking distance: 12.8 km Overall walking time: 6 hours, including lunch break. Highest point: 1939 meters above sea level. Lunch break: at a local house in Imi Ourmer. For the first half of the day, the sights will be the same of those of the previous afternoon. After lunch, as you'll be walking towards Imintala, you'll have views of the mountains and of the small villages scattered along the way. Unfortunately, there isn't much of a sunset view from Imintala or in its immediate surroundings, but it's still nice to get out a bit and admire the views. What to expect This is one of the easiest days of walking - for those who prefer going downhill. There are no major challenges along the way, and you will be happy to know that once in Imintala you will be able to enjoy a proper hammam. Day 5 - from Imintala to Amizmiz. Your final day of hiking in Morocco will also be the longest one, but you won't encounter many challenges. The first part of the day will be spent walking towards Sidi Hssayn, where you will have lunch at a local home. After that, you'll make your way towards Amizmiz, the initial point of this hiking itinerary, where a car will be waiting for you to take you back to Marrakech. Overall walking distance: 20 km. Overall walking time: 7 hours, including lunch break. Highest point: 1486 meters above sea level. Lunch break: at a local house in Sidi Hssayn. Similar to the previous days, you will be looking at dry mountains where you will be able to spot several Amazigh villages. What to expect This is a long day - not so much in terms of challenges, but in terms of the distance you'll be walking, almost all of it on dirt road. Be prepared with snacks and plenty of water to keep your energy flowing. General Information And Tips To Enjoy Hiking In Morocco The best tip I can give you if you plan to go hiking in Morocco is to get prepared for uncomfortable conditions. The hikes aren't strenuous per se, and although you won't be camping throughout this trail, you'll be sleeping at local homes (more about it below) which are as far as it can be from luxurious - in some cases, you won't even have a sink to wash your hands and brush your teeth before going to bed. This is definitely not a trip for people who expect modern day comforts and who can't let a day go by without getting online. I recommend giving yourself enough time to follow the itinerary and add a few days in Marrakech at the end, so that you can enjoy a proper shower, rest in a good hotel and then move on to your next destination. You may not be able to get a map of the trails but you can definitely download the tracks on Wikiloc, even more so as they work offline. Though - as I have stressed throughout this post - you shouldn't be walking this trail alone, having a trail with a map that you can follow will also give you an idea of your daily challenges. Continue reading for more tips on how to make the most of your time when hiking in Morocco. The best starting point for hiking in Morocco Atlas Mountains is Marrakech, which is very well connected to other countries in Europe and beyond via flights with major and budget airlines. Marrakech Menara Airport is at just 10 km from the city center, but with traffic it may take you more than 30 minutes to reach your hotel. Taxis are easily available right outside the terminal, but in case you don't want to fiddle with money or worry about having to haggle a price, you can book a private transfer Where to sleep in Marrakech. Chances are you'll have to spend at least one night in Marrakech before you start your hiking trip. I actually recommend spending a few days afterwards as well, to explore the city - which has a lot to offer - and rest. The good news is that there are some excellent hotels in town, for all tastes and budgets. The center of Marrakech is easy enough to explore. The nicest part is the Medina - though rumor has it that the Medina of Fez is even better. I recommend getting lost in the narrow alleys to look at the small shops, sipping tea, having a snack here and there, enjoying local life and grabbing all the photo opportunities you can think of. If your time in the city is limited, you may want to go on one or two guided tours to make the most of it. Reaching the Atlas Mountains and the beginning of the trail It takes about one hour by car (or two on a combination of local buses and shared taxi) to get from Marrakech to Amizmiz, where your hike will start. Nomadic Tribe will take care to arrange your transfer. When to go hiking in Morocco Atlas Mountains The best time to visit Morocco Atlas Mountains is between March and November, when there is no snow. Summer months tend to be hot, though much cooler than in the rest of Morocco. I generally don't recommend hiking in the summer, so if you are planning a hiking trip to the Atlas you should go between March and May, before it gets too hot; or in October and November, before it starts snowing. I visited Morocco and hiked the Atlas Mountains in mid April and days were sunny, with pleasant temperatures that dropped at night, when it became rather cold and warm clothes were a must. Another factor to keep in mind is Ramadan, a month during which Muslims fast during the day. Personally, I wouldn't recommend visiting at that time of the year - mostly out of respect for locals who will be fasting. In 2020, Ramadan will be between April and May. Several companies organized hikes throughout the Atlas Mountains, but I can only comment the one I used. My multi-day hike in Morocco was organized by Nomadic Tribe, a new tour operator which strives to promote responsible adventure travel and whose mission is to connect travelers with indigenous communities throughout the world, whether they want to travel alone, with friends or want to join an already formed group. Via the Nomadic Tribe app you'll be able to find information about the indigenous communities you may want to visit, read the itinerary of the trip, see if there is a tour leaving and book it. You will also be able to share your experience - much like on other social media - with photos and posts. Before I go on to describe what your accommodation will be like while hiking in Morocco, let me reassure you that the lack of comfort during the hike will be made up by the incredible company of like minded people and by the smiles of the local families, who will go our of their way to make you feel welcome (I don't think I have ever met such, and of their children who are absolutely adorable. Throughout your hike in Morocco Atlas Mountains, accommodation will be pre-arranged for you and you will be sleeping in tiny Berber villages, in local homes which are very modest by our standards, but where families often rent out one or two rooms (usually the living room) to visitors and prepare their meals. While the food is delicious throughout, the sleeping arrangements are modest, but in a way they contribute to creating a special bond with among the group members. Don't expect any luxury: you'll be provided a sleeping bag and some blankets to keep you warm at night, and you're likely going to sleep either on the floor on thin mattresses, or on the (very hard) couches. Usually, the entire group shares the room. During my hike, we slept in a bed (with our sleeping bags on tops, as linen was not provided) only on the last night of the trek. None of the houses where you'll be staying will have a bathroom as you know it. In most cases, you'll have a squat toilet and, at best, a sink to wash your hands and brush your teeth - in some cases not even that. Showers are not a thing in the villages of the Atlas Mountains - you'll be able to use a traditional hammam a couple of times, and that will feel enormously recharging. Make the life of those mules as easy as possible by packing light. The first thing you should consider when packing for a hiking trip to Morocco is that you have to be comfortable during the day, and comfortable and warm at night. You also have to show respect for the local customs. While women won't be asked to cover their head, both men and women should be dressed modestly, covering their shoulders, chest and legs - much like locals do. This packing guide reflects the fact that you won't really have a chance to shower and get changed that much - keep whatever you pack at a minimum, and please remember that mules will be the ones carrying most of the weight and you should strive to make their lives as easy as possible. Try not to carry more than 7 kg with you - spread between your daypack and the backpack that the mules will be carrying. Having said so, there are some items you should take with you and some things you are better off leaving in storage at your hotel in Marrakech. Here's what you should take: Wet wipes - you'll need them to wash yourself, your face, your hands any time water is not readily available (which will be often). Hand sanitizer - for the reasons I have just said. A small bar of soap - for the one time you'll be able to use the hammam. Deodorant. A hat, a scarf and gloves. Good hiking boots such as Salomon 4D 3 GTX A pair of flip flops or, even better, walking sandal so that you can rest your feet at the end of the day. A pair of hiking pants (which you'll wear during the day) and a pair of leggings to wear at night. For pants, I love Kuhl Cliffside Convertible. Three t-shirts - one to wear, one as a change of clothes, one to wear at night. I am a fan of the Kuhl Sora< t-shirt and the Kuhl Wunderer shirt, both long sleeves. For short sleeves, you can opt for something like Kuhl Kyra and Kuhl Sora. A fleece such as Kuhl Alska and a good jacket such as Firefly Hoody. A daypack such as Osprey Daylite Plus which you will carry during the day, and a slightly larger one such as Osprey Tempest 40. A refillable water bottle, with a filter, such as Lifestraw A small quick-dry towel. A change or two of underwear and socks. And here what you should leave in storage at your hotel in Marrakech: Shampoo, conditioner, make up - you'll honestly be lucky if you have a chance to use the hammam, and if you do so, you have to keep it quick. Anything dressy, jeans, nice shoes - you won't have a chance of wearing any of that. Laptop - you won't have any opportunity to plug it in! Swimsuit. There will be many occasions as you will be hiking in Morocco that will make you raise your eyebrow in disbelief or concern. Below are a few things you should consider, and a few easy things you can do to encourage change. Using mules to carry weights is a common practice in Morocco, and part of the local culture. Chances are that even though you may decide to carry your backpack throughout the hike, mules will accompany the group to carry things such as sleeping bags, toilet paper and even bottles of water. The easiest thing to do to make the life of these animals easier is to pack as little as possible and to ask the local company who is in charge of organizing the logistical support to not carry water, and suggest that you'll be using a water filter such as life straw for your water bottle, which you can refill regularly. Despite the fact that Morocco is doing better than the neighboring countries when it comes to renewable energy, there is little doubt that it has major issues when it comes to waste disposal. You'll probably notice that there are various often very close to the villages you'll be walking through. Waste collection is sadly not a thing in the most remote villages of Morocco Atlas Mountains and more often than not the only way to get rid of waste is to burn it - with terrible consequences for the environment, and toxic effect to the air. While recycling waste policies have yet to be implemented in Morocco there are a couple of things you can do to minimize your impact - the main being to avoid using plastic. Using a filter for your water bottle is one of them, so that you can avoid buying plastic bottles. The Amazigh are nothing short of welcoming. In each village you will be visiting throughout this hiking itinerary, you'll meet with local families - not only the ones where you will be having lunch or where you'll be sleeping, but also their neighbors, relatives, as well as small shop owners. They will all show curiosity towards the visitors, and an interest in interacting. Keep in mind that: The Amazigh are Sunni muslims, both men and women wear traditional clothes; their main source of income is cattle and agriculture (which is why they share worries for climate change, as it emerged in conversation my group had with them); they live in clay houses with little modern comforts; and donkeys and mules are often the only means of transportation they use to move from one village to the other. The language barrier (the communities you'll be visiting speak Tamazigh, and only on occasion they will know a few words of French) will be such that you will need your guide to act as interpreter - that's why having a good guide is fundamental. Make sure to ask show respect for the Amazigh at all times, by dressing modestly and by asking for permission to take photos - you'll soon realize that most people are happy to pose for photos. Interacting with local children. As you cross the villages of the Atlas Mountains, you'll meet many children. They are , welcoming and absolutely funny, and they will want to show you their tricks and play with you. They will also ask you for presents - small things such as pens, or - more often - candy or snacks. I encourage you not to give children things that may have a detrimental effect for their health - I saw lots of children with cavities and very bad teeth - or to the environment. Chances are that if you offer them a snack, they will unwrap it immediately and throw the plastic wherever they are. A better idea may be to make a donation to the school - books, paper, pens and even money would be welcome. While alcohol is easily available in Marrakech, where all the best restaurants and hotels serve wine, beer and cocktails, this is absolutely not a thing among the Berber communities that live in the Atlas. You'll be drinking water, a lot of Moroccan tea and the occasional (instant) coffee. I always recommend getting a good travel insurance, wherever you go and even more so if you are going on a long distance hike! You can find more information on this itinerary for hiking in Morocco, quotes for the trip and even get a chance to join a group or put together one on Nomadic Tribe app. Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Nomadic Tribe during my trip to Morocco and I was thrilled to be one of the first to test this itinerary. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain my own. CLAUDIA TAVANI My Adventures Across the World Copyright photos Claudia Tavani
Are you lucky enough to call yourself an adventurer? Lucky enough to create unforgettable memories? to connect your soul with a landscape, to feel alive among the unknown, to understand cultures from other times, to build extraordinary bonds... What if you had the connections? Choosing Nomadic Tribes to enjoy the trip of your dreams is also contributing to improve the quality of life of local communities, improve and preserve the cultural and natural heritage, live unforgettable moments to share and create extraordinary bonds. Traveling with us you encourage the exchange between inhabitants and visitors, to favor more humane and equitable relationships. Traveling with Nomadic Tribes is discovering a more authentic world respecting always the surrounding nature and the local populations to know its true essence, without masks.
Culture can be a driver of sustainable development, as it is defined by the United Nations 2030 Agenda, especially if it is linked to tourism and its impact. The tourism sector has become over the years one of the main drivers of social and economic change in many different countries, both in cities, in rural and in remote areas. The tourist attractiveness is recognized to bring positive impacts such as income, employment, revenues and recognition to territories. Tourism acts in fact as a driver of attractivity, innovation and communities identity empowerment. However, tourism pressure also could bring negative impacts on the area, especially with respect to the local inhabitants. While indeed tourism has generated new opportunities, its development may cause potential concerns on the local communities and the environment. Firstly, tourism pressure has created sustainability problems over natural resources and cities. Secondly, often there is an unequal participation in the benefits deriving from the economic growth driven by tourism. Tourism is a sector of investments of international company in accommodation facilities, it offers a fairly high proportion of low-skilled jobs, thus also not remunerated in an appropriate manner, it is not always accompanied by the enhancement of local productions, both in terms of food and beverage, but above all in terms of artisan production. In general, it is recognized that tourism is a source of income, as it generates direct and indirect employment for local people (from transportation to constructions, to the accommodation business to sites maintenance). As for negative site impacts from tourism, some of them include damage to monuments and environmental degradation, traffic congestion and air pollution, littering and inappropriate parking, and degraded pathways. On another side, local communities also have many concerns about the integrity of some traditions and cultural practices, inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour, and displacement, as visitors increasingly dominate the landscape. These are the constraints to bear in mind to make touristic sites effective drivers of local sustainable development. To sum up these are some actions to consider in managing areas who want to develop a community-based tourism: Connect the sites with local cultural production (performing arts, handcraft, contemporary arts, etc.); Connect tourism strategies with projects of local cultural production; Improve the accessibility and usability for tourists (tools, services, accommodations, and facilities for the visit); Increase a positive visitor experience (identification and management of activities that could increase the perceived quality of the visit and make an impact on the satisfaction of the tourists, for example thanks to the connection with the local cultural milieu); Reduce impacts: prevent or minimize the impacts from tourism on the sites, by redirecting visitor flows, and thus relieve pressure on main destinations; Create incentives for local operators, and change and improve existing systems, products and experiences to reduce site impacts and benefit local people. Engage, through regular communication, consultation and collaboration, between and within the main stakeholders, which are government, industry, NGOs and local communities. It is important that all stakeholders interact with each other for integrated management to work. Empower of local communities: greater participation in tourism operations by local communities should be fostered, so as to provide direct economic benefits and alleviate rural poverty, especially in less-known or remote destinations. The community-based tourism could be considered a type of tourism in which to invest in the future, with positive impact for local community to generate economic benefits through offering local products, lifestyles, natural resources and cultures. Santagata Foundation for the Economics of Culture Fondazione Santagata operates in the framework of international cultural policies and guidelines. With reference to the 2030 United Nations Agenda and in synergy with other international bodies, it develops project models for the management of natural and cultural sites recognized by UNESCO Conventions and Programs (World Heritage List, Intangible Heritage, Man and Biosphere Network and other designations). It is in charge of research and advanced training projects related to policies, tools and plans for the management of cultural sites. Cover photo Suliman Sallehi
The trend of adventure travel is evolving in recent years from the pure search for adrenaline to inner transformation, learning about other cultures and experiences that fill the soul. Indigenous tourism, also known as ethnic or tribal tourism, is a particularly rapid growth trend. For people like me, who have had the immense luck of living this type of travels and experiencing a significant interaction with other cultures, these tours have been impressively rewarding. However, with the rapid increase in travelers in recent years, it is important to define how to make visits to indigenous tribes ethical so that they become positive consequences for the preservation of lifestyles, native traditions and their economical sustainability. First of all, indigenous tourism travelers should be aware that their commitment to local communities must be genuine and, no matter if the experience lasts one or more days, they should make a true cultural immersion instead of simply making specific stops in the native villages just to take some photos as if it were a human zoo. In fact, on my trip to Namibia to visit the extraordinary Himba tribe, I understood firsthand the great importance of making an effort to leave a positive impact on their community and how the way you approach and treat the natives becomes a life-changing experience for them too. After four days of travel through one the most amazing and diverse landscapes on earth, our group camped in tents next to a small Himba village, located in Himbaland in northern Namibia, very close to the border with Angola. From the first moment, we mixed with the locals and showed them our interest in learning their culture and traditions, as well as letting them know that we would love to tell them about our way of life if they were interested. The experience was even more amazing than we thought. For three days, each of us became friends with different members of the community. While some of us learned to extract water for consumption, others learned to make crafts, to use mud to cover our faces, to care for cattle. But not only that, we were able to establish sincere dialogues on how we think about transcendental issues such as education, religion, climate change or marriage, and all this from deep respect and mutual admiration. We also had time to celebrate together, organize firelight dinners and perform traditional dances. We taught each other how we dance, how we cook, and even how we have fun! And with that confidence they told us that until the moment we arrived they had a very different impression of foreigners. They saw them as people without empathy and disrespectful who just wanted to take pictures and did not even approach them to have a simple friendly conversation. What is the difference between the impact of our trip and those of other travelers? Clearly, we reaffirmed to them the importance of their traditions and their way of thinking. We made them realize that we are equal and at the same time that our differences make us unique. They learned how rewarding is respectful intercultural exchange. But, above all, our visit was a real economic impact for them. The simple fact of paying for the goats we shared, bringing them basic food or buying their handicrafts was a great help and a hope for them to find a new way to make a living. Logically, a single group of tourists will not change their lives, but if it becomes a controlled flow, they could find a sustainable way of life that will take them out of poverty, help them have access to decent health and many other positive effects to their daily life. When someone raises the dilemma of whether visiting indigenous tribes can help them or contribute to their exploitation, we should think that in many communities the only alternative for locals to make a living is usually labor-intensive agriculture or depending on the government and NGOs -and when this happens in countries affected by extreme poverty or climate change, this is no longer even possible-. I would say to them that "doing the right thing" is traveling with operators who follow a strict code of conduct as Nomadic Tribe and its partners on destination. In this way they ensure that payments go directly to the indigenous peoples and their trips are ethical, responsible, a true cultural immersion and most likely a unique and memorable experience for the traveler and the indigenous community. Photos: Javier Salinas Copyright: Nomadic Tribe
The sky was black and millions of stars were overhead; suddenly the moon was rising from behind the rocky hills of the golden desert of Wadi El Gamal, while me and a small group of lucky volunteers were laying on the dry soil. It was our last night at the camp. The end of the experience finally arrived, and after saying goodbye to most of the fellow volunteers, the few of us that decided to stay for another night went back to our tents. Just a few of us were left; just hours before we could count dozens of people sitting and walking everywhere. We all decided we were not going to sleep in the tent tonight. We’d been waiting for this opportunity, and finally the night was all ours. Hazem, a volunteer who quickly became a friend, and I, took our sleeping bags, laid them against the side of the main tent, and played Arabic music on our radio, in a very low volume. Someone lit a fire and the dog named “Khawaga” (translated to “foreigner”) circled the sleeping bags before sitting. The shooting stars hunt began, and there were only winners. I was enchanted by the fantastic panorama—the campfire on one side and the deserted valley in front of me. The Egyptian tribes that had traveled from across the country to meet here were already on the way back to their villages and oasis, some of them returning to remote places in the middle of the desert. The previous week had been intense and demanding – the weather was hot and there was a lot to do – but also rich in satisfaction. I was a foreigner who had just arrived in Egypt, I didn’t understand a word of Arabic, and I was suddenly surrounded by hundreds of Egyptian people that were organizing an event. I was the first Italian ever to take part in the Characters of Egypt Festival. It was late 2010. Not sure if it still happens, but back then the Festival took place every year in different venues around Egypt. Here, Bedouins and tribes from different parts of the country gathered and camped together for three nights, sharing their culture, rituals and knowledge. Some of the tribes were completely unknown until the founder of the festival, Mr. Walid Ramadan, started traveling across Egypt attempting to discover lost and unknown populations. His effort was to persuade each tribe to participate in his grand project. Ramadan’s intentions were simple: to put a tribe with good skills in extracting water from the desert in contact with another tribe who lacked the skills; the tribes that were good at agriculture to shared their tips, and so on. My involvement in the process happened by chance as I was casually surfing Facebook I saw a video about the event. My imagination instantly took me to the venue. I decided I was going to attend the festival as a visitor, and I started to find out more information about transportation, not an easy task, as the camp of Wadi el Gamal is at about 150 km south from Marsa Alam. Around the same time I was trying to figure out how to do that, I met a woman named Rowan who I soon realized was associated with the Characters of Egypt Festival. Rowan told me I could volunteer with the organization in charge of organizing and assisting the event. That sounded just perfect! I had never volunteered, but for sure I dreamed about such an experience before, especially while abroad. As a travel photographer and blogger I was assigned to the “press and documentation” committee. My task was to take photos of as many events as possible, and then at the end of each day I had to write a journal about what I saw, and of course share the images with the rest of the group. Other than this, my team and I had to take care of the needs of the press that came from across Egypt and many neighboring countries. Many of the professional photographers, video producers and journalists who came to the festival had no idea what Characters of Egypt was about – they were sent by their agencies to cover a basically unknown event that everyone ended up loving and will never forget. Professionally, the biggest satisfaction from the experience was having my photographs published in a very well known Egyptian magazine named Campus Mag. I couldn’t believe it when they called me to ask me for some of my shots. If everything else wasn’t enough, I also have a tangible memory of those days, like a trophy that I took home with me and another reason to be proud of taking part in such a project. Before this experience, when I thought about Egypt I imagined pyramids, camels and desert. Only a few people know about the existence of tribes or ever had a conversation with a Bedouin or know anything about their lifestyle. Thanks to Facebook (it reached the oases, too!) I am still in contact with some members of the tribesmen I met in Egypt. In only a few days I discovered the beauty of camping in the desert and developed a strong interest in eco-tourism. I realized how many opportunities volunteering can give me and everyone in our pursuit to understand other cultures. I had the chance to get involved in the heart of the culture, allowing me to meet locals inside their community: not as a tourist/local in a detached relationship, but rather as a team of people living side by side, eventually beginning new friendships. The people I met at the Characters of Egypt Festival are still some of my best friends in Egypt and were the ones that nine months later took me to the airport when I left. Copyright photos: Giulia Cimarosti