A visit to a traditional Sasak village is a necessary part of your trip to Lombok. There are two villages like this a few kilometers north of Kuta, called Rembitan and Sade. Even if some of these traditional villages today may have become tourist traps a visit can be an interesting experience.
All the guides, souvenir sellers and donations to the village is something you will have to tolerate, this is an important income and maybe you help preserve a culture which otherwise would have disappeared?
Rumors has it that Sade is built by the government just to trick money from the tourists, but this is probably not true; the people here are following the old “desa adat” traditions, even if they in some ways have adapted to modern times. The population is about 500, who makes a living of farming and selling “ikat”-textiles to the tourists. The inhabitants has to follow very strict rules, it is not allowed to marry outside the village and they are following the Wektu Telu religion, a form of Islam mixed with Hindu and old animist beliefs.
There are only three types of buildings in Sade (three is a very important number in the Wektu Telu religion); a large “beruga” or traditional ceremony hall with six pillars, “lumbung” with four pillars for storage of rice and other food, and “bale tani” which is used as living quarters. The roofs are covered by alang-alang (elephant grass) and constructed in order to keep the temperature inside cool on hot days and warm on cooler days. Other Sasak villages has tried to use bricks for construction, but these houses proved to be humid and unhealthy.
The buildings are made of three main components, wood for the pillars and the framework, bamboo for the walls and alang-alang for the roof. No nails or tools of metal is used during the construction period, still the buildings are quite solid and will give sufficient protection against the weather and wild animals. Each house is between 4 to 6 meter long, and split in three sections; kitchen, sleeping room and living room.
The start of the construction of a new house is taken seriously, first all necessary materials and tools have to be gathered, then a “kyai” (a religious teacher) is consulted to find the best day to start. Normally this day falls on a date with an odd number, and the event is announced by beating on a bamboo gong in the village so everybody knows what’s going on and can give a helping hand. The first day all framework and pillars are expected to be completed, if not this will bring bad luck. ¨
A kyai spread seeds on the site at the end of the first day and perform some special prayers. The ceremony ends with a dinner where everyone takes part. A properly built Sasak house can last more than ten years.
In old days the villagers only lived of the fish they could catch in the sea and the few cattle they owned. Only during the wet season were they able to grow something on the rice fields, if the rain was delayed famine occurred all over the island. To have some alternative income the women started to weave, and today these ikat-textiles are increasingly popular among the tourists. More modern methods has made farming possible also in the dry season.
A traditional Sasak family do not live exactly as we are used to, the head of the family do not normally sleep inside the house. The men is supposed to sleep outside under the stars, in a lumbung or on a balcony outside the house. Only women and children will sleep inside. When a boy is 12 he must follow his fathers example.