Visiting a Maasai Village

We visited one of the Maasai villages during our stay at Governor's Camp at the Mara Reserve.  I thought in advance it would be like most other visits to a cultural sight, that they dress up in costumes and put on a historically correct show, but this was truly how they live.  We were told they rely on tourism to get funds that will send their children to school, so who knows how long the traditional lifestyle will remain.  Though there are some Maasai villages where you can stay overnight, we were only there about an hour.  After seeing how they live, I truly had no desire to sleep there, but there are adventurers out there who may want that experience.

The lifestyle is simpler than anything I had ever seen before.  They live in huts constructed with cow manure and grass on a skeleton of sticks.  The huts are protected by a fence of thorny bushes, which I'm told keep lions out at night. The Chief oversees all decisions and it was one of his sons who showed us around wearing the traditional lion's mane hat.  He explained that they no longer kill lions for this purpose, but the hat was in the family so he wears it.
Fencing of naturally thorny plants

simple homes constructed of manure and sticks

No door- just a doorway

We saw a demonstration of how a fire can be lit using just some simple tools and a pile of manure.  Amazing stuff.  These guys put modern boy scouts to shame.  It was only a matter of seconds and they had a fire going.
Put some grass down and add heat

Twirl the stick really fast

A little blow

There's fire!

Then there were questions about the jumping.  They laughed.  I had heard they are expert jumpers.  Yes, they said they could jump. They put on a show, or more of a challenge between them, to show us who could jump highest.  I gotta say for a bunch of skinny guys with rubber shoes made of tire retreads, they could get some air.  Maasai men can jump high!
This height done without shoes!

I asked about when they would marry and how it happened, which led to a tour of a house of the current Chief.  Men marry when they have the means (usually some cows).  Usually it means finding a wife from another village.  The woman will build a house for them to live in and take care of all the house duty like cooking, rearing kids, and making crafts to sell for money.  The men herd goats and cattle. The larger the herd, the more the wealth, so they rarely eat the cows.  They milk them and "bleed" them by making a small cut in the neck vein, which I'm told isn't dangerous.  They use the blood to eat either raw or add it to milk and possibly cook it with the milk.  We didn't see any crops growing or stored, but they can add to the diet with tubers and corn products. It's rare to see fruits and vegetables in the Maasai villages.  It isn't unusual for a wealthy man to have several wives.  This one had six wives, and each woman had their own house.
Though the men are tall, the homes are not

Closer look at the lion's mane hat

The cooking area under a hole in the wall- open fire used

The sleeping space is just sticks covered by a cowskin

Notice the shelves built into the wall to hold things

There were a few short stools to sit on inside

After touring the home, which was very simple and small, we headed out to a large circle of hand made products.  There were carvings, beadwork, leather crafts.  We selected three items and began the negotiations with the women who were in charge of sales for the day.  My husband said to have a price in mind, then he asked what they wanted.  They gave a fair price (which was lower than what I would have paid in a city shop), and he offered a price just a bit lower to make it a normal transaction.  We paid in cash and took our great stuff: a Maasai beaded necklace and walking stick for Omar.  A beaded belt for myself.  I would probably always remember these people, their homes, and their simple lifestyle, but now I had something to treasure, thanks to our Maasai visit.
Omar proudly displays his necklace and walking stick beside the ladies


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