In my tour, or should I say safari, to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, my group had a chance to visit a Maasai Village. The Maasai are one of the semi-nomadic Nilotic tribes in Kenya and probably the most known tribe outside Kenya. They extend across the region living in Kenya, Tanzania and all over the Great Rift Valley.
From the Maasai village we visited, there are 2 things that I took with me that will always come to mind whenever I think about Kenya – the vibrant red colour and the beautiful smiles of the Maasai women.
The Maasai Village presented an opportunity to experience how life, at its most basic form devoid of all the complications of a modern city, can be. Once you cross the village bush gates and leave your familiar life behind, it is almost as if you have entered another world that offers a totally different view of the concepts of comfort and safety.
Looking at the small houses made out of mud; a fire place in the middle of the room or a very narrow opening in the wall providing for some light and fresh air and some wooden sticks in a narrow corner of the house serving as a bed, was a humbling experience for me.
Learning the ancient art of basic life support as practised by the Maasai for centuries such as how to light a fire by rubbing 2 wooden sticks together until friction forms a spark, was really an impressive sight to see. It allowed us to get a glimpse into how life a long time ago may have been.
As we came into the village, we were received with the traditional salutation of ‘Sopa’, which in maa means ‘hello’. Once in the village, we could see how well the Maasai had managed to preserve their heritage, culture and their ways of life.
Yet somehow, at the same time, they are coping with the daily demands of an ever changing outside world. What best to depict how they have achieved this balance than to come across a Moran keeping watch over his cattle while on the other hand conversing away on his mobile phone!
A Maasai village is a depiction of the organisational spirit of community. Here you see how the most important possession of the Maasai, the cattle, sheep and goats, are secured at the end of each day, in the shed inside the village, to keep these treasured assets away from lions.
Cattle are very important to the Maasai. They provide a very important part of the basic diet: raw milk, raw meat and raw blood.
Perhaps the one other thing the Maasai are famous for is their ability to hunt down and kill a lion almost with their bare hands, or to be more exact, just using very basic weapons like spears or a small hammer-like wooden club which serves as a sort of last resort weapon for close combat with the lion!
The rule of engagement in properly using this weapon is to try to hit the lion’s mouth when it is biting your arm or leg! We were not lucky to see the Maasai hunting lions but we had the chance to see their celebration dance.
The dance is characterised by their well-known jumping style that is usually followed with songs calling fellow morans to the hunt. The sound of the horn gathers the hunters. Lions are central to Maasai culture and are associated with many of their rituals.
We were also lucky to watch a group of women perform a traditional Maasai song. The women were dressed in their traditional attire which includes the ‘shuka’ worn around one of the shoulders.
Elaborately coloured necklaces and bead disks adorned their necks while ornaments hang from either ear lobe with smaller piercings at the top of the ear and very short hair. If my notes are not wrong, it was a wedding song that we had had the chance to hear.
We could not help noticing the children watching our every move in as much fascination as our thrill at being here. In almost every corner of the village there was a pair of curious eyes looking at us, not demanding or asking for anything – just looking with big open eyes and a very friendly smile.
We were informed that the local school we were to visit was not far from the village. This gave the children a chance to have proper education and a view of the outside world.
My story will not be complete without mentioning the vibrant red colours which are synonymous with the Maasai. This colour is a sign of power. There was red everywhere you looked.
Children, women and men had something red they were wearing. The bright red colours contrasted so well with the dry, brown and dark yellow colours of the Savannah.
As we left the village, the pictures of those warm and beautiful smiles from the women went with me – they look so great in my photos. They will remain etched deep in my mind to always remind me of the great and warm times I spent in Kenya and that shall give me a good reason to return someday.
We later went for a game drive at the Maasai Mara National Reserve where we a enjoyed watching the amazing wildlife. But that is a story for another day.