The inhabitants of Gili Meno belong to an ethnic group called the Sasak. This name can roughly be translated as “original inhabitants of the islands”. The Sasak language is entirely different from the Balinese language. Due to an astonishing linguistic diversity, there is one official language in Indonesia in order to facilitate inter-ethnic communication. This language is Bahasa Indonesia, spoken by about 200 million people. The younger generation of Gili Meno speak English, some even speak a little French or German, which is important for the island’s growing tourist sector. Foreigners who arrive on Gili Meno with some words of Bahasa Indonesia will surely be greeted even more warmly than usually. But even without, the people of Gili Meno are very hospitable without being obstrusive. Guests will simply feel like being part of the family.
Little is known about the history of the Sasak. Between the 16th and 17th century, the Sasak converted to Islam. However, some animist rituals still play a role in Sasak religious culture and traditional medicine is especially important to the Sasak. There is a mosque on Gili Meno. While the island’s inhabitants are tolerant and open-minded, out of cultural respect one should still avoid lying on the beach topless. Restaurants or Cafés should not be entered without a t-shirt.
The Sasak people