Iraqw tribe, Tanzania

The Iraqw are of Cushitic origin and live in the central highlands of Mbulu. Known for their statuesque and immobile posture and sharply defined features, they are a withdrawn people who grow their own food and tend their cattle - selling off crops or animals only when it is strictly necessary.

The Iraqw, known as the Mbulu in Swahili, are a Cushitic people of the Arusha and Manyara Regions of north-central Tanzania, near the Rift Valley wall and south of Ngorongoro Crater.

In 2001 the Mbulu population was estimated to number 462,000The Iraqw language belongs to the South Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.

The language is distinctive from their Bantu and Nilotic neighbors and resembles an Arabic sound. The areas surrounding Karatu town in Arusha region is Iraqw homeland and visitors can witness their locally developed intensive cultivation techniques.

Traditionally in conflict with the Maasai, Iraqw homesteads included underground tunnels – aasimo – in which to hide. Visitors can see these elaborate structures during a visit to the Karatu area.The core area of the Iraqw is Iraqw’ar Da/aw (or Mama Issara) in the Mbulu Highlands.

It has long been known for its locally developed intensive cultivation, and referred to as an “island” within a matrix of less intensive cultivation.

The areas surrounding Karatu Town in the Arusha Region are also predominantly settled by the Iraqw.