The Masai

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During our two-day safari tour we got the chance to spend some time in a traditional Masai village for part of the afternoon. The Masai people are cow herders and nomads; they migrate with their flock and live in small huts as a community.
When a Masai tribe moves to a new location they send ahead about 20 women to build the village. They work, one home at a time, for close to a month to set up enough huts for everyone in the tribe. The huts are made from cow dung, mud and sticks. They are small. Very small. Inside, there is just enough room for two makeshift sleeping areas, a stool and a small fire hearth. Traditionally, the hut is for a man, his wife, and any children under the age of ten. There are also male and female huts for unmarried children over 10.
When we got the chance to go sit in one of the huts, it was like walking into a fly infested furnace. The heat was insane. I would have thought that the mud huts would have been a welcome afternoon escape from the scorching sun outside; unfortunately, the fire inside kept the hut as hot as hell both inside and out. A young man sat inside the hut and talked to us about the Masai ways. Sweat poured off my face and back while thousands of flies flew into my eyes and ears. Concentrating on the conversation was difficult to say the least.
The village that we spend time in consisted of about 20 or 30 small huts. They were enclosed in a fence made of bundled sticks that closed in the community. Just outside the fenced area stood a small, wooden hut. This was the village’s elementary school. 50 children attend this school every day: 25 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon, both male and female alike. When the children have passed all their classes, some will move on to a nearby town to attend secondary school. The others will herd cows or build huts with the rest of the community.
When our small group arrived at the village we were greeted by a traditional Masai welcoming dance. The men chanted and grunted in a line, then paraded around with small hopping movements and shaking sticks like batons in the air. We were herded into the dance with no preparation and looked like fools trying to figure out the steps without smashing into the person in front. When the dance had finished the men performed the “warrior dance”. All the men stood in a semi circle, yipping and hollering as two men step forward and try to out jumped each other. An old woman grabbed me by the hand and had me stand with the other women who were also chanting and lightly hopping as they watched the men. Then before I knew it, I was thrust a long stick and shoved into the warrior circle to out jump the men in the village. I thought I held my own against the first guy, who eventually stepped back and was replaced by a second jumping man. He kicked my ass. There’s no other way to put it. His feet were practically at my waist when he jumped. There was no keeping up if my life depended on it.
Overall it was pretty neat to see the traditional Masai way of life. The only complaint I would have is how the Masai have capitalized on tourism over the years. Even though it is required to pay $15 a person as an entrance fee to the village, before the tour was over, people were already bombarding us to buy trinkets and jewelry. I felt overly pressured to spend at least a couple bucks on a souvenir before the tour would continue. That was the only off-putting factor to the afternoon. Otherwise, it was an eye-opening peek into the nomadic world of the Masai culture.
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3 thoughts on “The Masai

  1. Thanks for sharing your travels! Ahh! Life outside the comfortable, air conditioned West. How long will you be traveling Africa? Here is hoping it is a great time. Alex

    Like

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