I had the pleasure of visiting two Maasai villages while I was in Kenya, and I wanted to share the experience with you and show you some pictures and tell you a little bit about this famous tribe that most of us have heard of, but know little about.
My first visit to a Maasai village was when I went on my Safari trip to the fabled Maasai Mara Natural Reserve early in my stay in Kenya. I didn’t have such a positive experience that time as it seemed like just a tourist stop.
Luckily I met a friend on the Kenyan coast who has a project where she worked with one of the Maasai villages to construct a house, not very different to the typical homes the Maasai live in (except much comfortable:), so that people can come and spend a night or many seeing how the Maasai live.
I made the journey from Nairobi via Narok and it took around 8 hours by public transport. I was lucky to be able to spend a few nights there and spend the days talking to the people and exploring the village and even had a chance to go to a market day which was very interesting. Here are some pictures and things I learned about the Maasai and at the bottom there is information about how to do a village visit the way I did it.
They live in central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.
Source of food/income
They are a patriarchal and pastoral people, who don’t really grow their own food, but live off of the animals they raise, and wealth is mainly measured in cows.
Their food mainly consists of meat from their animals, cow blood which they drink, and they also drink the milk of the cow.
The men’s responsibilities are to tend to the animals and protect them and their families and tribe. The women’s roles are to take care of the children and build the homes, and recently as tourism has become a source of income, to produce and sell crafts to the tourists.
Coming of Age Rituals
At 14 boys have to undergo circumcision without any type of anesthesia and they cannot show signs of pain while this is done out in the open in the middle of the village. If the boys show pain it is a sign of weakness and it brings shame to their family. Shortly after circumcision the Warrior stage of their life begins and with a group of boys of the same age they are sent to live “in the bush” or away from their villages and loved ones for a period of up to 5 years. They take with them some cows for food who they have to protect from wild animals and hone their survival skills. In the past each boy had to kill a lion to be considered a Maasai man.
Young girls also historically underwent female genital mutilation, also called circumcision, but this practice has been outlawed in both Kenya and Tanzania (It sadly still goes on).
Law and Order
The laws governing their communities and lives is oral, and the older men of the tribe are the one’s who settle disputes.
Men are supposed to marry after they have returned from their warrior stage to a girl that his parents choose. Men can marry more than one girl, but the first one is chosen by the parents and he can choose the additional ones. However, it is very much linked to wealth as when a boy marries a girl he has to provide the family of the girl with 10 cows, 3 goats, 3 sheep and some other smaller things.
While at least some of them are often moving their animals to where there is grass, they tend to live in locations for 9 years as that is the time they estimate it takes the termites to eat the foundation of their homes, which is in wood.
All in all I was very grateful I had the chance to go and spend a few days seeing how the Maasai live and learning more about their culture. While the Kenyan and Tanzanian government have instituted programs to encourage the Maasai to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, the people people have managed to preserve their culture continued their age-old customs. I would recommend that you go and spend a night or two in the villages instead of just spending an hour or less like most tours do.
To visit the village I did and/or learn more about the Olonyori Maasai Adventures-Community Project
Sigrid Skirvervik Bruvoll (Nasha):
+47 98476309 or +254 707135655
Mike Nkoile (Alex):
+254 718 705127