Despite the technological progress of the twentieth century, there are still some parts of the world where life continues in the same pace and style that it has done for thousands of years.
Despite the technological progress of the twentieth century, there are still some parts of the world where life continues in the same pace and style that it has done for thousands of years. The small Indonesian island of Nias, 50 miles (80 kms) of the west coast of Sumatra, provides an interesting example of how people virtually untouched by the sophistication of the present day have met the growing demands of today's tourists.
Nias is the largest of the chain of islands off the Sumatra coast...and has become a regular stopping-off point for tourist cruises in the Indian Ocean. For the most part, life on the island has changed little in centuries...and provides an exciting spectacle for tourists from all over the world.
The island is densely populated -- for the region -- with over 300,000 inhabitants living in small hill-top villages. Much of Nias is rocky, and there is no inlet or natural harbour available for either the regular trading ships or the tourist cruisers. This factor has contributed to the stability of island life.
The Nias themselves belong to the Malay family of races. Their light skins distinguish them from other tribes on neighbouring Sumatra...and their island dialects point to a relative isolation from other peoples for many years. But this isolation has vanished with the development of high-speed transport and communications. Despite this, the Nias islanders seem to have found a way to retain their traditional lifestyle...and reap the benefits of tourist finance.
Nevertheless, the island has suffered little from the commercialism associated with tourist attractions. The economy depends mainly on fishing and agriculture with crops grown on temporary fields, and the main export remains copra. But the skilled craftsmen of Nias are finding new work in gold, silver, wood and stone to provide souvenirs for the tourists.
The village of Bawomatalua is typical of the island's settlements. Reached by 82 stone-carved steps -- for additional protection -- the village itself is made up of the traditional stilt-structured wooden huts or "long houses" of the region. Several families lie in each house, using the communal area for cooking and eating, and sleeping in separate private quarters.
Stone and wood provide the basic building materials of the island. The village streets are paved with solid blocks of stone and stone benches make become resting points for villagers and tourists alike in the beat on the day.
One at the most popular traditional pastimes of young Nias warriors is the spectacular stone-jumping. The young men leap over highly decorated stone blocks 6.5 feet (2 metres) in height. In this way, young men and boys were trained to leap the stone defences of neighbourly villages. Today they demonstrate their skills more for the tourist than in preparation for attack.
Similarity, the Nias villagers perform their colourful war dances more for the cameras of the tourists than to call upon their gods for victory in the impending battle.
With the over-incrossing search for new and exciting spectacles and communities to visit, Nias looks as though it might become one of the most popular attractions for tourists in the Indian Ocean.