Experience the Iban Lifestyle

| Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Sarawak is truly a celebration of different cultures. Malaysia’s largest state is home to 27 ethnic groups speaking 45 different languages and dialects. Each group boasts their very own unique stories, beliefs, traditions and cultures. Lets explore the Iban Lifestyle.

The Iban people are the largest ethnic group of Sarawak. They were known and feared in the past for their legendary headhunting customs. They have long ceased their headhunting practices but many of their rich customs, art, heritage and culture still persist. Take a boat ride into the dense rainforest to reach the home of the Ibans. Join them on their hunting and fishing expeditions where you can observe and try your hand at catching and cooking your own meal.

The Iban house located at Sarawak's Cultural Village

Long House experience
Nothing immerses you into a culture more than living a day in the shoes of the locals. Sarawak offers travelers plenty of opportunities to do this by providing longhouse experiences all across the state. These longhouses average 20-25 doors with each housing its own family.

Iban longhouse

Visit one of the longhouses to get an authentic experience of the different cultures of the various ethnic groups of Sarawak.

Longhouses are the traditional communal homes of the various ethnic groups of Sarawak including the Iban population. Each longhouse is led by a Tuai Rumah (head of the house), usually appointed by his own group of people. The Tuai Rumah is selected for his leadership qualities and success in life, though proof of bravery such as a human skull or two, was required by the warrior tribes in the past.

Expect a warm welcome when you walk into one of these longhouses. You will be treated to performances such as traditional music and dances. Treat yourself to delicacies sourced from the largely untouched rainforest. Enjoy a sip of Tuak – an alcoholic beverage brewed from glutinous rice and yeast – while listening to stories of legends and folklores of the specific ethnic groups in the evenings.

Iban longhouse

An elder at an Iban Longhouse

Join them on one of their hunting expeditions. You can then prepare and cook your meal using their traditional techniques, an authentic dining experience that you will not soon forget.

Sarawak Cultural Village

The Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong collects all the ethnic groups of Sarawak and condenses them into a one-stop village showcasing the different culture and heritage. This award-winning living museum offers an excellent introduction to the local culture and lifestyle of Sarawakians.

The Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong

The Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong is a one-stop village showcasing the different culture and heritage of the people who call Sarawak home.

Visit the nine authentic replica buildings which represent every major ethnic group in Sarawak – the Bidayuh, Iban and Orang Ulu longhouses, a Penan jungle settlement, a Melanau tall-house, a Malay town house, a Chinese farmhouse and pagoda.  Each building is staffed with members of their respective ethnic groups, in traditional costumes, carrying out traditional activities.  Every house has a “storyteller” who is an expert in describing and interpreting traditional cultures and lifestyles.

After touring the village, visitors can enjoy a multi-cultural dance performance at the village’s own theatre and join in the performances, dances, music and craft lessons. The Cultural Village also plays host to dinners and parties, corporate events, seminars and product launches, and even traditional weddings, in authentic Iban, Bidayuh, Malay or Orang Ulu style.


Related article

Sarawak Textiles

Sarawak Textiles

Let the colours and motifs of Sarawak blow you away as you learn the cultural significance behind  Sarawak textiles. Sarawak’s…
A Sarawak longhouse experience

A Sarawak longhouse experience

  Leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind and experience living with the indigenous people of Sarawak. Replace…
What kind of beads has been said to have the same value as diamond?

What kind of beads has been said to have the same value as diamond?

“Diamonds are forever. One diamond is passed from generation to generation.” I don’t know how many ladies have been influenced…
The ring ladies of Borneo

The ring ladies of Borneo

People of different generations, races and cultures have different beauty standards. For example, drooping shoulders on women in ancient China…