During my recent visit to Kenya, I decided to spend a day with the Maasai Warriors – although I had done that in Tanzania few years ago. The idea was to get to know as much as I could about them, take candid shots and videos. I did. I have been fascinated with this set of semi-nomadic people for a while now. While my curiosity is not completely satisfied, I think I may have learnt a lot during this visit than I did before. My fascination towards them continues.
This particular village that I visited, sits very close to the Rhino Camp where I stayed. Although a “entry” fee of USD 15 (KSH 1000) applies, it is worth every penny. You pay it once, they remember you – then you are welcome anytime.
The life of Maasai revolves around their cattle. These are given priority above everything else. The village headman’s son told me he once killed a lion. I asked why. “Lion killed my cattle. So I kill lion.”
Made sense when said like that. The size of his machete, the determination on his face and the presence of the lion head (read here) itself supported his statement. From then on, I tried not to cringe every time I stepped into the dung! I was not too keen on having my head displayed in the village square!!! In every Masaai village that build in a circle, cattle stays in the centre. Easy to keep watch, according to the tradition. Cattle is used to trade, to settle scores and as dowry.
Surprisingly quite a few Maasai men spoke passable English. Women generally tended to the children and their homes or sat under trees and make bead necklaces that were hawked to tourists. You will also find women carrying necklaces, shawls, bracelets etc by the park gates and are quite pushy when it comes to selling! There are of course, the smarty – pant youngsters who will try to make a deal with you – for example they will try to sell you a wrist band in exchange for your sun-glasses or watch! Yeah, I was smart enough not to sell my GShock!!!
I accepted the invitation to visit their house – a circular structure made of cow dung and mud. Electricity is unheard of. I had to maneuver a little to go through the main door that turned sharply the moment you entered and ended at the central room which was also the kitchen. It was here that food was cooked on wood fire. On either side of the kitchen, were “beds”. One was reserved for the elders and the others for the husband, wife and kids. Yup – that’s all. The smoke might cause a bit of coughing and burning of the eye if you aren’t used to fires inside a rounded cubbyhole.
The Maasai men showed me how to light a fire using wood and knife (video up soon) and let me dance with them as well. Naturally they are agile and tall and no way I could jump as high but it was fun. I am not sure if I was rude when I refused to eat some of their ugali but I had concerns about my delicate stomach. You must remember, if you plan to stick around the village for long – that there are lots of flies around. Surprisingly, it didn’t bother them one bit – I swear I saw flies crawl into ears, eye and noses of kids who continued to play in the mud quite unconcerned.
What was really most amusing (and educative) was their use of leaves for toilet paper! They showed me a particular type of leaf, which even to my touch felt softer than some of the papers we pay a small fortune for! I really cannot remember the name of the plant though! I wish I did. Could save a lot of money that way.
About Masai (Maasai)
Maasai people (also Masaai) are semi-nomadic and found in Eastern Africa – namely Kenya and Tanzania. It is largely a patriarchal society and believe in settling everything with ‘cattle’ which is their ‘holy wealth’.
They have a very distinct sense of dressing, bright, checkered shawls and beaded ornaments are very common. Very few kids go to school although there have been govt initiatives to educate them. Hygiene doesn’t feature very high on their agenda – but really, if the lack of it hasn’t wiped them off then it’s really okay. I am not judging here!