Masai - The tribe without meeting whom the Kenya visit remains incomplete. Children of the African gods, these tribes inhabit selected but large parts of northern, central, and southern Kenya and across the border in northern Tanzania. In this blog, I would love to share everything I have known about them from their village school principal - David (English name, although Masai name may be different) during my visit in November 2023.
During my recent trip to the Masai Mara, Nakuru Lake, and Amboseli, arranged by Marvels of Africa, I had the fortune of meeting the Masai tribes in their village around Narok County. They hardly could speak English because their main languages are Maa and Swahili. But their school principal, whose name was David (that's not their real name) could speak English and we got a lot of new insights about the Masai Life from him. Advanced thanks to Mayur, Marie, Himanshu, Steven, Frank, and other members of Marvels of Africa.
Historically they are a nomadic group, building impermanent houses which are either circular or loaf-shaped and are made by women. Their villages are enveloped in a circular Enkang (fence) built by the men and this protects their cattle at night from wild animals.
The status of the Masai men is determined by the number of children and cattle they have! And what got me more interested was, when I learned that in the early days, lion killing was the base of marriage. That means? A man who would kill a big lion and bring the lion's teeth would be fortunate to marry the girl of his choice. Now, the male who can jump higher with both legs wins the female. (Strange? yeah because lion killing is banned now and Masai people are slowly shifting their lives from hunting. While men will be in charge of gathering food, making pieces of jewelry, and teaching the younger generation, females will decorate the house and kitchen.
Do you know that married Masai men have to wear a pair of red horns-like headbands for a month after marriage, which is believed to be sacred?
As I spoke to the tribe and roamed about the village, met the Masai children, and learned more about their studies, food habits, how their lives are changing, their bond with dogs, and the cattle marking system.
The Masais live on meat and drink blood, and water. Rarely vegetables are included in their foods. Cattle fodders are grown by them or gathered from jungles. The Masai children are taught community heritage, Masai dance, hunting, and basic communication skills. One thing I could realize when I was there - the tribe is very close to nature and they depend on natural resources a lot for their living.
They have two kinds of trees in their village one with a soft bark and another with hard bark. Usually, they would light up a fire by arranging some dry bark, placing it on the hardwood, make a small hole in the hardwood while swirling the soft wood branch in the gole rapidly until smoke appears. Then blowing the smoke would generate fire!
Remember the books where we learned how fire was first discovered? Relive those memories with Masais when you come here...
I would like to express my respect to all the Masai women who are slowly coming out of the traditional patriarchal rules that suppress their status in society. The Masai people are not bound within the village but when you drive through the Rift Valley or the road they call Mahi Mahiu, you will come across a huge number of Masai people and small houses. It's heard that Masai had malpractice of female child marriage, foeticide, and forceful abortions for a long time. Female circumcision was done and that was also in a very unhygienic way - 1 blade was used for 10 individuals, leading to infections and deaths. The Kenyan government passed laws in 2015 to finally demolish this and since then slowly, the Masai girls have been trying to get out of the boundary and establish themselves more respectably. #saynotochildmarriage #saynotofoeticide that was the motto.
It has been an amazing feeling when you get to meet the long hailed warriors of Africa and know about their lives. A culture thousands of kilometers away from your home that has been lighting up the history books, a tribe that has seen the evolution of civilization, people that are emerging out of their sphere to the modern world. Asante Sana, to the people who helped us get there and fed us with all the knowledge we never knew of!
You can always refer to this blog before your next trip to Kenya!