21-09-2023 5.803 Views
A veritable crossroads of civilizations, Nepal is a point of junction between two major cultural areas: Hindu India and Buddhist Tibet. Mostly Hindu, Buddhism is however strongly rooted there, especially in the north of the country. More than fifty different languages and dialects are spoken. Nepali, the official language of Nepal, is spoken by the majority of the population.

The south of Nepal is inhabited by populations of Indo-European origins. The populations settled in the mountains in the north of the country are of Tibetan origin. These two large groups coexist in the middle part of the country (hills or middle mountains) where ethnic groups speaking Tibetan-Burmese languages are also settled. All these populations and ethnic groups have preserved to a large extent their languages, beliefs, customs and lifestyles, and Nepal is a veritable cultural mosaic.

Nepal is not very urbanised, although the Great Kathmandu Valley and the narrow Terai Plain are some of the cities that are the focal points for Nepalese people. However, the majority of the population of Nepal lives in small villages scattered in the lowlands, perched in the hills, hung on the mountainside or nestled in the hollow of the high Himalayan valleys. The higher one rises to the north, the more austere the habitat becomes, the more rustic the houses become, the more difficult the living conditions become. Beyond the tree line, there are only small pastures and temporary huts where shepherds shelter during the summer. Higher up, you end up in an essentially mineral world dominated by rock and eternal snow.

Everywhere at the strategic and touristic points of Nepal, and also in more remote areas, children know how to ask for a pen or a rupee. Why not, it is up to you to decide. However, avoid candy because the rules of dental hygiene are not like ours !


The gods occupy a fundamental place in the life of the Nepalese. The main religion is Hinduism (80% of the population), but the country also has Buddhists (10%), some Muslims (4%) and a handful of Christians. Hinduism and Buddhism coexist and sometimes even merge, the faithful often taking part in the feasts of the two religions.

Respect for the cow is the sign of the ahimsa, of the lack of will to kill. It is also a sign of respect for the “universal mother”, the cow that symbolizes motherhood, charity and mercy.

More pious and more practical: the cow is the animal that allows the deceased to cross the river (Vaitarani) that separates him from paradise. By offering the priest a cow at the funeral, the deceased could cling to his tail and cross the Vaitarani towards bliss. Nepalese do not eat its flesh, but eat buffalo meat (water buffalo). People of high caste are content, them, with chicken or goat, when they are not simply vegetarians.

Some rules of local savoir-vivre:

  • Turn around the stûpas clockwise.
  • For those who decide to follow the local custom by eating the national dish (dal bhat) with their hand, use the right.
  • Men can go around in shorts and t-shirt, but never shirtless.
  • For women, avoid sexy outfits and shorts.
  • For a couple, public displays of affection are not appropriate.

The national dish, served for lunch and dinner, is the dal bhat, which consists of a dish of white rice (bhat) and lentil broth (dal), which is mixed with rice to enhance the taste. It is accompanied by a curry of vegetables (tarkari), often cauliflower elsewhere, and a mixture of various and spicy ingredients (achars). Most often vegetarian, it can nevertheless be served with chicken or sheep (more expensive).

In the newar kitchen, named after the Newar community, the dal bhat is made of dried and flattened rice petals, and dried beans, all crunching under the tooth! Otherwise, the principle is the same, with vegetable curry, green leaves and various side dishes. Dozens of other preparations exist, such as alu paratha (potato cake), alu tama (potatoes and bamboo sprouts)…

Vegetarian cuisine is widespread in Nepal (for religious reasons, but also because meat remains an expensive product); it is generally varied and excellent. Nepalese can eat chicken, sheep and goat, as well as buffalo, but they do not eat beef.

If there is a constant in Nepalese cuisine, it is the use of the «mixture of spices» (which is called masala): indeed, each cook composes a learned and personal alchemy of different spices (at least 10), thus making the charm and magic of his kitchen.

The other cuisine to discover is the Tibetan cuisine, with, in the first chef, the momos, ravioli stuffed with meat or vegetables that are served steamed, fried or kothey, that is to say fried only on one side (easy to remember!). It is often excellent and very cheap. Also try noodle soups with vegetables and meat, such as thukpa and thanthuk (bigger noodles). For a traditional feast, opt for the gyacok, but it is usually only served to order and for the whole table. It consists of rice noodles, vegetables, mountain mushrooms, meat, all accompanied by rice, Tibetan bread and momos.

Tea (pronounced “tchya”) is the national drink. In the gargotes, it will be served Indian style, burning, sweet and with milk. Nepali tea is the equivalent of Indian masala tea, that is, with spices like cloves, cardamom, etc. Tibetan tea is very different; it is salted and embellished with a little nak butter (the female of the yack). In hotels and restaurants, they only serve black tea in bags, without any taste.

You have to taste once the chang, this Tibetan beer produced by the fermentation of barley grains, to the taste of farm cider. Although not very alcoholic, she quickly turns her head.

The thomba, also Tibetan, is a millet-based beer … but served hot!

Rakshi is the Nepalese rice alcohol.

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