Visiting the Masai Tribe

More Adventure travel tales in Kenya:
Chalbi Desert
Nakuru Park
Amboseli Park
Other African Tales:
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Lalibela, Ethiopia
African Tribes in Ethiopia
Serengeti, Tanzania
Ngorongoro Area
Blue Nile Gorge, Ethiopia
Bahir Dar, Lake Tana

Kids in front of a Masai house
The Masai tribe is the most well known tribe in Eastern Africa. They are known by the remarkable appearance of the Masai warriors, with their red clothing, beadwork jewelry, and magnificent hair dresses. The tribe originates from Sudan, and migrated south to Kenya and Tanzania during the last millenium. Part of the tribe stayed in Northern Kenya, and is now known as the Samburu tribe. We payed a visit to a Masai village on our first trip to Africa.

Our adventure in Africa started when we flew to Nairobi to join an overland truck tour through East Africa. After the first shock of arriving in a crowded African city, we prepare ourselves for our trip on a campsite in the city. And after our first night in a tent under the African sky, we are on our way to meet the wildlife and tribes of Eastern Africa.

Spotting Wildlife

As soon as we have left the outskirts of Nairobi and arrive at the large plains, we see the first wildlife: a wildebeest. We stop and everybody shoots some pictures, which repeats at the sights of the first zebra, ostrich, gazelle, etcetera. But soon, there are lots of them, and we don’t bother to make more stops.

After a few ours of driving through the plains, we arrive at a small village. Our Kenyan crew member John visits the small market here and returns with a butchered goat. This will be our present for the Masai tribe we will visit.

We continue our way and a little later we leave the paved road, and after a while we enter a field where we park the truck. Our driver Gerard is welcomed enthusiastically by what we learn later is the chief of the tribe we are visiting. This Masai man has been in England to study, but returned to be accepted as chief, although he lives in a brick house outside the actual Masai village.

Walkabout with Masai Warriors

After setting up our tents around the truck, the chief has arranged two magnificent looking Masai warriors to take us on a walking tour. We walk through the barren landscape and see a lot of termite hills, birds, and large insects. All of a sudden, we see a fence of sticks, with mud houses in it. Children run from this village to greet us. A little shy they move their heads toward us to these funny white people pet them. We respect the wish of the Masai not to take pictures, but the experience is great.

We continue uphill to eventually arrive at a cave where the Masai warriors stay during their initiation period. During this period, a warrior was supposed to kill a lion. Nowadays, this is replaced by killing another big animal. We listen to the tales of the chiefs son, and see the remains of a fire, bones of consumed animals, and paintings on the walls, made with animal fat. The Masai warriors pose with us and have as much fun as us.

After returning to our camp, we amaze ourselves about the good taste of a warm beer after such a hot walkabout. Meantime, we relax and prepare ourselves for diner. After dinner it gets, dark, we make a campfire and wait for what is coming.

Masai Dance Rituals

Dancing with the MasaiWhile waiting, we listen to the sound of shouting Masai warriors, until we see a few lights heading in our direction. While humming a group of Masai appears, and they start performing dance rituals. The Masai chief gives us explanations about the meaning of the rituals. We are very impressed and watch with open mouths, until we are invited to join the dance. Uneasy we give in, and perform some high jumping and humming among the Masai. When it is finished, we try to have a conversation with some of the Masai people, but it remains to the level of “me Tarzan, you Jane”. Nevertheless, It was an incredible experience.

As the first rays of sunlight fall on our tent, we are startled by wild noises. Soon we learn that the Masai warriors, who stayed near our tents for protection, make grunting noises while waking up. At breakfast, they only drink tea, with a lot of sugar. And by a lot I mean A LOT, leading to hilarious scenes.

Masai village

After breakfast the chief brings us to the manyatta (group of houses, surrounded by a wall of thorn-tree branches) of his family. Here, we are allowed to take pictures, while he explains the circumcision ceremony and other rituals of the Masai tribe. We also have a look in the small huts, made of branches, mud, and cow dung. It is dark, smoky, and very small, considering that a family has to live in here. The bed isn’t too bad though. We have brought some child clothes as gifts, and a little later we see proud toddlers walking in their new clothes. The Masai family is friendly, and happy with our visit, which gives us a warm feeling. We say goodbye and hop on our truck, from which we keep on waving until they are out of sight.

The Masai Tribe tries to maintain its traditions in a modernizing society. In many ways, they have to adjust, and westerners look upon some of their rituals as being cruel. Yet, we have learned that the Masai people are friendly, and lead a life they enjoy. We hope that they continue doing so for a long time longer.

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