Sabah, known as the Land Below the Wind, is located in the northern part of Borneo. It is a beautiful state in Malaysia that offers an abundance of natural wonders and diverse cultures.
Known for its vibrant and unique cultural heritage, Sabah is home to over 30 ethnic groups, each with its distinct language, tradition, and way of life. The Sabahan are renowned for their warm hospitality, which makes it an ideal destination for travellers looking for an authentic cultural experience.
Here, we will explore the rich and fascinating culture of Sabah and its people, including their traditional customs, food, and festivals. If you're planning a visit or simply interested in learning more about this culturally-diverse state, read on to discover the wonders of Sabah.
Sabah is a melting pot of over 30 ethnic groups, each with unique culture and traditional customs. The largest ethnic groups in Sabah are the Kadazan-Dusun, Bajau, Murut, and Rungus.
The Kadazan-Dusun people are known for their rice cultivation and colourful traditional attire, often worn during festivals and cultural ceremonies. The Bajau people are renowned for their sea-faring skills and unique architecture, while the Murut people live in the hilly areas of Sabah; they farm using shifting cultivation, hunt, and fish in rivers. The Rungus people, primarily found in the northern part of Sabah, are known for their distinctive longhouses and handmade beadworks.
Despite their different ways of life, these ethnic groups coexist peacefully. Their traditional customs and cultural practices continue to be passed down from generation to generation, making Sabah a culturally rich and diverse state.
One of the most notable aspects of Sabah's culture is its cuisine. Sabahan cooking is a fusion of Malay, Chinese, and indigenous ingredients, resulting in unique flavours and dishes.
Sabah's traditional food is a gastronomic delight that tantalizes the taste buds of every food enthusiast. The state is a food lover's paradise that boasts mouth-watering delicacies, from the tangy and refreshing Hinava—a raw fish salad seasoned with zesty lime juice, chilli, and ginger—to the gooey and starchy Ambuyat made from sago flour and served with a tempting range of side dishes. But that's not all! Sabah also boasts of other delectable delicacies such as Tuhau, Bambangan, Butod, Latok, and many more, each offering a unique flavour that will leave you craving more.
Sabah's festivals are a vibrant display of its culture and traditions.
One of the most famous festivals is the Harvest Festival, also known as Pesta Kaamatan. Celebrated by the Kadazan-Dusun community, it is a two-day festival that marks the end of the rice-harvesting season during May. The festival features various activities, including displays of agriculture, exhibitions, cultural performances, traditional games such as buffalo races, and other events. Additionally, people can freely indulge in rice wine as they partake in the festivities.
The Regatta Lepa is an impressive and lively celebration held in Semporna, which highlights the seafaring culture of the Bajau community. Get ready for a spectacle of colourful boats adorned with performances by enthusiastic singers and dancers! This exciting event features a thrilling boat competition, where each represents a unique family or village in a dazzling water parade.
There's no shortage of festivities to enjoy! In addition to the ones mentioned, you can also immerse yourself in the excitement of Pesta Kelapa, Sabah Dragon Boat Race, Chinese New Year, Pesta Rumbia, and many more!