Iraqw - Orientation

Identification. The Iraqw are an agrico-pastoral people who live in north-central Tanzania. No comprehensive ethnography has been written to date about them, although various aspects of their culture have been studied by anthropologists.

Location. The Iraqw inhabit the Mbulu and Hanang districts of the Arusha region in northern Tanzania. Their population is concentrated primarily in Mbulu district on the Mbulu Plateau between Lakes Manyara and Eyasi. The topography of this area varies from the mountainous homeland of Iraqwa Da'aw (2,000 meters) to the lower-lying savanna (1,000 meters). The average annual rainfall in areas of higher elevation is 60 to 90 centimeters, but in the lower elevations of the southwestern part of region the range is from 30 to 60 centimeters. The rainy season begins in November and continues through to April. The dry season is from May to the beginning of November. Temperatures average 18° C.

Demography. In the 1967 population census of Tanzania, the Iraqw numbered 198,560, making them the sixteenth-largest ethnic group in a country of more than 120 groups. The Iraqw are the largest population group in the Arusha region, and, with a population expanding by 3.5 percent each year, they have one of the highest birthrates in Tanzania. It is estimated that in 1990 the population totaled around 350,000 people. Within Mbulu District, highest population densities are found in the Endagikot, Daudi and Karatu divisions.

Linguistic Affiliation. There is debate about the linguistic classification of the Iraqw. Some experts have designated their language as "Southern Cushitic." Whiteley (1958), however, has disputed this classification, finding no connection with the Cushitic languages of Ethiopia. He claims that certain features of the language are comparable to those of Hamitic and Semitic languages.

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