The Sasak people of Lombok and their culture

The Sasaks are the traditional people of Lombok who live in villages straight out of another time, another place.

Our village guide explained many aspects of his people’s fascinating life and culture, as we wandered through the earthy pathways dotted with wooden houses – no concrete roads or brick buildings here.

Rice is drying on the floor outside the Sasak house

Rice is drying on the floor outside the Sasak house

We were invited into a traditional home with its extremely low thatch roof (made of alang alang).

The reason it’s so low is that it forces visitors to bow before entering, as a mark of respect to the owners.  I guess it also stops the tropical rains from coming in at an angle.

Bow before entering

Bow before entering

A newly wedded Sasak couple will live together inside the house until the first child is born.

Then things change for the man.

He will still be allowed inside the house, but will sleep on the balcony on his own, while the woman and child sleep inside the flimsy walls.

Balcony of a Sasak home

Balcony of a Sasak home

The one roomed spartan house contains a kitchen, which no western cook would be able to deal with – I challenge you!

Kitchen inside flimsy walls

Kitchen inside flimsy walls

The kitchen might not be state of the art, but I’m sure the food cooked in it is delicious.

The room also has a bed – but please forget your pre-conceived ideas about the purpose of such a piece of furniture… as this bed is not for sleeping on!

A bed - never slept upon

A bed – never slept upon

The bed is used for praying only (and, by the looks of it, storing the odd sack of rice too).

So the mother and children actually sleep on mats on the floor.  You can just see the mats up there in the rafters.

Please come in, out of the sun

Please come in, out of the sun

Yaniq walks across the threshold from the balcony into the room… ahh, so now I understand the real meaning of that word.

You ‘thresh’ some rice and to stop it getting blown away by the wind you put a wooded section under the door to ‘hold’ the rice in place i.e. keep it in the storage area, in the room.  You can see that Yaniq is stepping over the lower wooden part of the door frame – the threshold.

Now the floor itself is interesting, it is made of a mixture of clay and cow dung (no bullshit – really cow dung!).

Step into the past

Step into the past – stepping on smooth, contoured cow dung!

Their belief is that man was originally made out of clay so it is fitting to have this for the foundation of the house.  In fact, pretty much everything here comes from nature.

Lumbung - Rice barn

Lumbung – Rice barn

There are no windows in a Sasak house, but the lumbung, rice barn, has a bamboo window.

View of the side street

View of the side street

The Sasak people are primarily rice farmers.

The rice is dried on the ground and then stored in the rice barns (lumbungs).  They do also make some wooden artifacts and the women weave.  Oh yes, and then there is tobacco…

Tobacco drying in the sun

Tobacco drying in the sun

The Sasak people really know how to get the most of what is available in the environment… even bamboo nails are used to link the wooden/bamboo parts of the walls together.

Man living in, and with, nature

Man living in, and with, nature – chickens and motorbikes!

Our Sasak guide put my number into his phone (a Blackberry) and is going to let me know when the next Nyale festival will happen – I hope I can make it back there for this festival which celebrates the return of the colourful worms of the sea!

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  1. Our journey through Lombok | Julie in Bali

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