My “Memorable” Masai Moment

“The Pride of Kenya”  is not Kenya Airways it is  perhaps the Masai tribe.   

The Masai is an ethnic group inhabiting the southern part of Kenya and nothern part of Tanzania. 

The Masais are nomadic who move  to greener pastures where they able to feed their animals, especially cattle,  in times of drought.    They are cattle rustlers and also known to be fearless warriors.      They are not known to be agronomists.  

The village we visited had no form of agricultural crops but I read that,  on account  of the increasing Masai population and the dwindling cattle population the Masais are now farming (maize, sorghum, potatoes and cabbage) to a limited extent.     

On our tour, were told that the Masai’s diet in the main, consists of cow blood mixed with milk and other parts of the cow.  

The measure of a male warrior’s wealth is the number of cattle he possesses.    The more cattle the more wives he is able to have on rote but each family lives in a separate house.  

The ride to the village took about 30 minutes from the base hotel Serena at the Masai Mara.  

Along the route Masai villages were scattered, where we observed women walking from the river where they had just collected their “laundry” which dries flat on the grass.  They were all adorned in their multicolored sarongs (“shukas”) and beads.   

Upon arrival at our assigned village we were greeted by the son of the leader whilst the other males laid out on the grass awaiting their turn in the dance.  

We were given a brief history of the Masai, their distinctive culture, traditions and customs.     Their language is Maa.   The guide spoke English very well and told us that most of the other Masai in the village only spoke Maa. 

After the very interesting history lesson, on cue, the males showed off their dancing skills, which included the signature erect vertical jump done singularly in a competitive styling and the neck pump/jutting.   The dance is accompanied by a “call and response” chorus without any musical  instrument.   

Next came the women’s  and children’s turn.    Some seemed unwilling but put on the performance anyway.   The dance  is a thrust and withdraw chest movement accompanied by a “call and response” chorus as well.  

We were invited to participate in a dance circle with the women.  

After the dance performance, we were taken to see a typical Masai house (“boma”) which is a small circular structure built by the Masai women, made of cow dung, sticks, grass and mud.  The one we viewed seemed to have been recently “plastered”, it therefore  was a very quick viewing. The boma consists of a front room where the goats sleep.    We were showed the bedroom.  The bed frame was also made out of mud and the sheet was the skin of the cow.  Next to the bed was the fireplace for cooking and a small chimney 

We were then invited to purchase items.  I didn’t see anything which was special.   Everything seemed mass produced with the village being just an outlet.  I was told that they purchase the material in Nairobi and do the assembly the the village.  I didn’t buy that – no pun intended.     The pretty ornate items they were wearing, which I believe were made by they them, were not available for purchase.    

I chose I few trinkets.   Apparently there is a bargaining system which isn’t unusual in Kenya.  When I was told the starting price for the items which I chose I almost keeled over.  

Long and short of the story is that I gave a donation and left for the return journey to base with my group.    They were relatively happy with their haul.  

Somehow I felt we did not receive the full 100%,   given the price paid for the tour.     I felt the village chosen, was construed in many ways for tourists and the fact that the souvenirs offered for sale can be found in any curio shop for 1/10th of the price didn’t go down to well with me.   

Do I have buyer’s remorse?   No not in this instance.   I learnt, I saw beautiful people, I saw the dance, the singing, the color.   

Asante sana 

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