Perhaps you’ve seen photos or video of the Maasai people on the plains of Africa, wrapped in their bright shukas – the vibrant reds and purples of the woven cloth contrasting with the ochres and golds of the savannah.
The men stand tall while the women adorned with colorful beaded headwear and necklaces appear as a distinctive people, unique from most other cultures around the world. For the Maasai are an ancient pastoral culture, the long-dwelling inhabitants of East Africa and proud bearers of their herding lifestyle.
Traditionally nomads through what is today Kenya and Tanzania, the Maasai are now settled in small villages comprised of mud and thatched huts, their corrals, stocked with their major currency – cattle, goats, and other small animals.
While on safari, you can take a break from your wildlife tracking and enjoy a visit with a local tribe, meet the people and learn something about their lives.
Just Ask Your Guide
And he’ll arrange a visit at a nearby village for a different kind of cultural experience. As mentioned, the vibrant colors of the Maasai’s garments stand out from the greens and browns of their surroundings.
You’ll also notice their jeweled layers of bright beads – these are a form of identity and social status. While here, you can participate in community life by purchasing some of this handiwork, helping to support the village. Your purchases are sure to become souvenirs with a story, reminders of your time on safari.
No Place Like Home
While in the village you’ll have an opportunity to visit their homes, called bomas. They’re small mud structures, usually built by the community’s women. Starting with a scaffold of small poles and branches, they are covered with a cement of mud, grass, cow dung, urine, and ash. Rising only 1.5 m (5 ft), the small structures cover an area of roughly 3 x 5 m (10 x 16 ft).
In this small space, the family sleeps, cooks, and socializes. Entering the boma, you’ll find it dark and close… you’ll probably have to crouch down. Yet you’ll see distinct areas for sleeping, cooking, and just relaxing.
Sometimes this space is also shared with the livestock, however, there are also other bomas or small corrals the men have constructed to house their herds. The men also construct protective barriers around the village made of wood, sharpened sticks, and thorns to keep predators like lions away from their livestock.
Join the Dance
Maybe you’ve seen or heard about the Maasai’s adumu, or jumping dance. Placing themself in the middle of a circle of dancers, an individual will jump higher and higher in rhythm with the singers and dancers.
Don’t be surprised if you’re called in as a “volunteer” to join the fun. There’s nothing like letting loose in a Maasai village, the warriors all around, encouraging you to jump ever higher. Make sure your companions have their cameras out!
We’ll Show You the Way
Your Africa Kenya Safaris guide will be happy to arrange your visit to a local Maasai village at Amboseli Park or the Masai Mara Reserve. The cost is only $20 per person and is payable directly to the village chief.
Add another perspective to your African safari and immerse yourself in the world of the Maasai.