Meeting the Maasai

While on safari in the Maasai Mara, it seemed only right to make a visit to a Maasai village and learn about their culture.

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standing like the Maasai

First off, I think the cow pies front and center in the picture above need to be addressed. To the Maasai, the cow is everything. They breed, raise, herd, eat and drink the blood of cattle. You have cows in your home country? Yep, they belong to the Maasai, or so they claim. Cattle are so important to this tribe, that a man gives 10 (or an appropriate amount) to a woman’s family when he takes her as his wife. As well as using every part of a cow once slaughtered, they use all their resources while alive too. The two main materials used when the women make a new house in the village are sticks and watered down cow dung.

In the specific village we got an inside look at, there are roughly 270 people. One of the more prominent things about Maasai is that they practice polygamy. When a man’s wife can no longer manage the amount of cattle he has, she goes to him and requests he take another wife, to help with the work load. When a man has more than one wife and family, he will go to one house each night, while the children of that house go to another wife’s home or their grandparent’s, and so on rotating.

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the gate into the village
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looking into the circular center of the village

At night, the cattle are brought into the center of the village, guarded by the outer village fence, a row of homes and dogs that the Maasai keep as a security system, in order to be kept safe from Big Cats on the prowl. The calves have more homey accommodations, and are actually kept in the houses at night!

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homes constructed of sticks and watered down cow dung

Not only did we get a look inside the village center, we got a look inside a home, as well! Since they are made out of such a thick material to keep insulated for when it gets cold, the homes are very dark and hot inside.

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Right inside the door there is a small room for firewood and storage, were the calves sleep at night, followed by a sharp right turn in the hallway that leads you to the kitchen which has a bed on each side of it, as well as an attached guest room.

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A group of Maasai men showed us two of their traditional dances, the first dance (pictures above) is done in celebration after killing a lion. It caught Lauren and I a bit of guard, we did not expect to be involved in the jumping!

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With a bit of a language barrier standing in the way, my understanding of this second dance was whichever of the suitors jumps highest gets the girl being competed for.

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The women also performed one of their traditional dances that is performed to welcome a newly married woman.

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Along with traditional dances, we got to see how they light a fire. Using sandalwood and cedar, the men took turns vigorously rubbing the two woods together to catch a spark, which is then folded into elephant grass to burn.

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a woman making a “marriage necklace” for an upcoming wedding
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two of the three most important people in the tribe: the Chief and the “Doctor Man”, the third not pictured is the Midwife

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To say we were feeling and looking a little out of place would be an understatement, and yet we felt so welcomed. After telling our Maasai guide that we lived in America he continued to ask Lauren if she has a car at home, then why didn’t she drive it to the village? It’s crazy how our two worlds can be so different, and yet there we were laughing alongside each other in the Rift Valley of Kenya!

Michelle xx

2 Comments

  1. So, which suitor jumped the highest? Fascinating blog and great photos. Thanks as always for sending them our way.

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