Home » Cultural Encounters in Mount Elgon
Mount Elgon National Park is one perfect mountain hiking Uganda safari destination situated in the Eastern region of the country. In the region where Mount Elgon sits are very much rich and interesting cultures of the mainly two tribes of the Bagisu and the Sabiny. On a safari in Uganda to Mount Elgon National Park, taking off time for a cultural encounter with the locals is a good way to understand the people of this region. Learn about the cultures here and know how to plan for cultural encounters in Mount Elgon National Park during your visit here;
The Gishu traditions
The Bagisu tribe famously known as the Bamasaba consider Mount Elgon to be the manifestation of their first father Masaba and hence they call the mountain by this name. The Bagisu people have an interesting culture and practices for instance the famous imbalu ceremony. Imbalu has very many beliefs attached to it, Myth has it that the removal of the foreskin from an adult males’ private part initially started as a punishment given to one of the men who always snatched other men’s wives. Later after however, when the man recovered he was more admirable to women than the other men and therefore all men undertook circumcision to stay admirable by their women.
Another story states that, the custom started with a Gishu ancestor who wanted to marry a Kalenjin girl from the Barwa clan in Kenya who was asked to make a covenant of circumcision with the clan including his ancestors. For the love he had for the girl he accepted the circumcision. The Kalenjin people have a great culture that on a Kenya safari meeting them will be so rewarding.
It is believed that when the horns are blown for a new circumcision season, the young boys are inspired to announce their intentions to be circumcised and the surgeons get possessed by the imbalu spirit and start trembling involuntarily. When the boy announces his intentions of getting circumcised, he is advised by the elder men about the challenges of the “knife” such that he doesn’t show fear. Showing fear means he will be shunned by women and other men.
For years, the tradition has grown stronger that older men who are not circumcised are forced to get circumcised therefore many teenage boys decide to get circumcised before the age of 15 to avoid being dragged at an older age. The culture is taken so seriously by the Gishu in that if one dies before circumcision, the body is subjected to circumcision before burial. After the circumcision process, the ceremony is followed by ululation and giving of gifts to the bravely circumcised. The functions are open to the public and even travelers either who safari Uganda for Mountain hiking or on a cultural tour in Uganda can join.
The Sabiny traditions
While on a trip at Mount Elgon, you can also visit the Sabiny especially if you are in Sipi falls. Here you can meet the Sipi Widows’ Group for entertainment and a highlight of the lifestyle in the region. The Sipi Widows’ Group will take you on a guided walk through the beautiful coffee plantations and the guide will demonstrate the different activities involved in coffee growing such as planting as well as picking, grinding, washing and storing the coffee.
Tourists on Uganda safaris mainly touring mountain Elgon will also learn about life of the local Sabiny as one can meet local residents, and participate in different traditional weaving. Learn about interesting African cuisine through cooking, as well as tasting of local Ugandan dishes. Tourists can also visit the local women’s handcraft shop located in the nearby trading Center, where visitors can buy the art and craft made by the local women. From the trading center, visitors are requested to Proceed to other places where coffee trees are maintained, get involved in educative activities such as raising awareness about the negative effects of female circumcision which is the traditional practice done the sabiny local people.
They say the best way of understanding the people is by understanding their cultures. Uganda is one country with over 52 tribes each with unique traditions making it possible for tourists to get involved in activities of any community they find interesting. On our popular 3 Days Uganda Wildlife Flying Safari to Kidepo, a visit to the Karamojong and IK cultures is rewarding since they have a unique culture in that region. The Batwa are one of the smallest tribes still existent in Uganda and they formerly lived in the forests of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. To visit the Batwa tailoring a Uganda gorilla safari especially our popular 3 Days Uganda Gorilla tour to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, 3 Days Uganda Gorilla Trekking Safari to Bwindi and 3 days Uganda Gorilla safari in Bwindi are a great way to have a memorable trip.