Sabah Society

by :

The Carefree People You Meet

What kinds of people live in the land of eco-treasures? All kinds of colours and creeds. The population of about 2 million comprises over 30 different races speaking over 80 local dialects. The beautiful thing is all these diverse ethnic groups live together harmoniously while at the same time preserving their own culture, traditions, festivals and customs, to make Sabah a multicultural exotic experience unlike any other.


o        KadazanDusuns

The largest ethnic group, the KadazansDusuns, make up about a third of the population. These are the prosperous agricultural rice producers of Sabah, although in recent times, many have found success in modern professions. They are well known for their unique customs that feature female priestesses called “bobohizan" presiding over still practiced ancient rituals.


Probably the most popular festival in Sabah is the “Pesta Kaamatan". This is a Harvest Festival of the Kadazans/Dusuns celebrated in May, featuring traditional dances including one of the high priestess bobohizan in search of rice spirits in a trance. Other festivals include Hari Raya, celebrated by the Muslim community and Chinese New Year celebrated by the Chinese.


o        Bajaus

The Bajaus are skilled fishermen as well as good rice cultivators. They are also experts in rearing ponies and water buffaloes. Dubbed “The Cowboys of the East", they are renowned for their horsemanship. Catch them every Sunday and on festive occasions at the picturesque Kota Belud “Tamu" when they deck up in their resplendent traditional costumes riding brightly decorated ponies.


o        Muruts

The Muruts reside mainly in the hinterland where many still live in traditional communal longhouses. Once feared for their head hunting, the Muruts are great hunters with spears, blowpipes and poisoned darts. It is a rare treat to join one of their weddings, famous throughout the land for their elaborate displays of bride-wealth, dancing and feasting.