Safaris are considered to be for only wild life viewing by most tourists that visit Botswana but one of the best safaris that you can take in order to get to know more about the country is by taking a cultural safari to the country. Your cultural trip will also include learning about the history of the people and all about their cultural practices. The Botswana people have a very unique culture and from the time that they faced the dealing with the colonialists, it did not matter which tribe you belonged to for as long as there is unity among them. Although the culture that is practiced in the country has been infiltrated by the western world, there are a few cultural practices that are still being carried out in the country that still identifies them as Batswana.
The national language in Botswana is the Setswana language and the official language is English. Many of the Botswana people speak English making it easy for tourists to communicate. There are however other languages that are spoken and these are Kalanga language, Bushman language, the Kgalagadi language and the Sindebele language. Christianity is the most practiced religion in Botswana although you will find other religions like Islam and the Hindu religion.
The culture of the Botswana people
There are a lot of tribes in Botswana and all these live harmoniously together and all these have their different values and traditions that are practiced. The tribes share a few traditions but they all practice some rituals that are completely different and this is what makes them unique from teach other.
The Batswana greet each other with a handshake that is the left arm reaches out to clasp the right fore arm and locals normally do this although tourists can also join in the greeting and the greeting does not segregate whether you are female or men. In the northern part of Botswana the elderly people are greeted while you are kneeling down.
When you fail to communicate with any person in Botswana or if they fail to understand whatever you are trying to say to them, signs are used in order to ease up on their communication. However some of the signs that are used and are considered extremely rude include pointing at someone using your middle finger and an erect middle finger. Make sure that you at least learn sign language and if you cannot then it is better to get a tour guide who will help you with the translations although it will not be so bad if you take a few lessons in the National language for easy communication with the locals.
The Batswana believe eye contact is the best way to know whether you can trust someone. When you find two people talking while looking at each other straight in the eye, it means that they are trying to find out whether the other person they are talking to is trustworthy and if one looks away while being talked to then it means that they cannot be trusted.
Some of the customs that are shared among the different tribes in Botswana include:
- The Batswana do not wash undergarments of other people and that is why you will find that even in hotels, there are several laundry baskets placed in your room so that you get to wash your own undergarments.
- When they are going to church, they put on different colors to show which sect they belong to.
When it comes to marriages, the locals are allowed to inter marry even though they all have their different rules that they believe in but all these are smoothed down so that the marriage goes on as long as both parties respect each other’s values.
The people of Botswana
Botswana does not have a large population and all they are normally referred to as the Batswana. The Batswana people are separated into two groups that is the Setswana speaking group and the non-Setswana speaking people. The non-Setswana speaking groups of people that live in Botswana include the Banoka people who were originally referred to as the River Bushmen, the Bakalanga people who live around Francistown, the Basubiya who live in Kasane town, the Basarwa people who live around the central Kalahari game reserve, the Mbukushu who live around the Okavango Panhandle and the Baherero who live in Maun and the Okavango delta.
The Setswana speaking group of Batswana people include the Batawana people who live at the edges of the Okavango delta, the Bangwato people who are the largest group in the country and they live in Serowe town, the Bakgalagadi people who live in the Kalahari and they are the oldest group in the country, the Bakgatla who live in Kanye and the Babirwa people who live in the Tuli block.
Despite the fact that there are several tribes within the country, the people of Botswana believe in a community based way of living that is they work together and their unique culture that is the Ubuntu culture unites them strongly. When you listen closely to how the Batswana communicate, you will realize that the languages sound similar and that there is just a small distinction among them.
The Botswana people since time immemorial have been known to be great potters and basket weavers and this has made tourists who have a love for pottery and craft to visit Botswana. They were greatly known for their pottery skills and they used to make pots for daily use like cooking, fetching water before they actually started making them for commercial purposes. The clay that was used to make the pots was always collected and molded by the men before they were taken to the market.
Besides the making of pots, they are also good at making other crafts like beads that are mainly made by the Bushmen and the baskets that are always sold to tourists. When you visit Botswana, you will be able to go out to the different villages and learn how to make the crafts or just admire how they are made and get yourself some souvenirs while in the country.
The culture and traditions of Botswana
Botswana locals were originally polygamous people and their marriages were always arranged between families. Most of these marriages were always arranged right after the both the girls and boys underwent rituals that introduced them into adulthood. The arrange marriages were always carried out by the groom’s uncle and it was only the parents that were involved in the negotiations of dowry before the wedding took place. Even though it is now only practiced by the Baherero tribe and some rural communities, it was considered as a way of preserving culture and friendship in the community.
Just like every other country on the African continent, every Botswana tribe has a totem and these are in most cases animals. The totems are unique identifications which are used to differentiate the communities to which the Botswana people belong to. It is also a representation of a past event attached to a specific animal and if a specific animal you are supposed to treat it with respect and it is not eaten.
- The Bangwato tribe have a duiker as their totem and it was made their totem because it is believed that it saved the life of their chief once.
- The Basubiya people have hippos as their totem and this is because of their close proximity to the Chobe River where many hippos can be found.
- The Xaniqwee people have an aardvark as their totem and the history behind this is that as they were migrating to Botswana through the Kalahari, the Aardvark fed them and provided them with water as well.
The food in Botswana
The Botswana culture cannot be complete without talking about the god food that is prepared by the locals. The staple food for most of the Botswana people is known as the Seswaa and it is a combination of Pap served with meat stew. This can be got from the different restaurants in the country and if you are lucky, you might also be able to learn how to prepare these meals from the locals. When it comes to eating food in the main course for most Batswana people is the lunch meal and in the evening, they end up taking mostly tea and something light to go with the tea.
Remember that there is no specific time for you to go to Botswana for a cultural safari because it is an all year round trip but it will not hurt if you get an experienced tour guide to take you around the country experiencing the culture that is portrayed by the different tribes that live in Botswana. A cultural safari trip to Botswana will give you more insight on the cultural practices that are practiced in the country and it is also a better way for tourists to actually get to know the locals first hand.