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Visiting a Masai Village | Kenya

01/02/2018

Unfortunately, our days of game-driving have come to a quick end. So after being able to see a cheetah hunt, we headed back to Nairobi. As we left the gate of the Masai Mara National Reserve, on both sides of the road appeared the small villages of the Masai tribe. And as our guide recommended us to pay a visit to one of them, we accepted.

The Masai people are considered the symbol of Kenyan cultural. They are easy to be recognised - wearing red sheets (called "shuka"; as they explained us, the bright colour scares the wild animals while they are out in the wild with their cattle) and heavy, beaded jewellery around the neck and arms, by both men and women.

They have a quite interesting living organisation. Men built fences and take care of the animals - Masai people believe that God created the cattle specially for them and they are the "sole custodians" of all cattle on Earth. They use every single part of the animals - the meat, the milk, skin and hides are used for bedding and, sometimes they drink the blood (they told us that when someone is sick, they use the blood as a medicine). Women on another hand have the duty to cook, educate young girls, in order to prepare them for their future of being a wife, make their typical beaded jewellery and build the homes, using mud, grass, wood and cow-dung. The village is in a circular shape, with high fence to protect both people and cattle from the wild animals around, and all houses inside the fence follow the same shape. In the middle forms something like a square, where during the day women sell their art craft to the curious visitors and at night this is where the cattle sleeps, although, the youngest animals sleep inside their owner's house. Masai people measure their wealth based on how many cattle and children they have.

Apparently, they've kept their traditions quite alive, even in these modern times. They welcomed us with some traditional songs and dances, they even invited us to dance with them. One of the dances they preformed for us was the "Jump around" dance - the one who jumps the highest gets the girls.

A curios fact for the Masai tribe is that, they still practice polygamy (which nowadays is outlawed in Kenya). They told us that, even though polygamy is officially forbidden in Kenya, the government don't mind if they practice it, as it's part of their culture and traditions. Which truly intrigued me. Masai represent only 0.7% of Kenyan population. Is this minority so special and important for the government, that it will make such an exception for them? However, the Masai we spoke to, seemed well informed and respectful, when it comes to rules - female circumcision ceremonies are no longer allowed by Kenyan laws, as well as lion hunting.

When arriving at the village we paid 30$ per person (cash), which, we were told, was going to be used to buy books and clothes for the children to go to school. Even though this amount is quite a lot for Kenya, we did not negotiate - education is important and has no price. However, inside we found many children (some of them even with no pants) just playing around. Even when we entered in one the houses (they invited us to see how they "really live"), there were no sights of books. This got me thinking - are they really sending the kids to school? Or they simply let them grow there, wild and free, until they get to an age, where they can start participating in the tourist business as a show off? All of the sudden, I started paying more attention to the details. Their houses had electricity. They use plastic beads, like the ones you can buy in every Chinese or Dollar store. They are not from natural materials. Where do they get them from? Apparently, they know how to work with modern technologies and smartphones (even if the smartphone is not set up in English, as was mine when one of them took it to take us photos)... It might be just my brain, having some troubles to accept and believe that, in 21st century there are still people, living in such poor conditions (from my modern point of view; I don't mean to be disrespectful). They also showed us how they make fire from two different kinds of wood and cow-dung, which was interesting, but then they were very persistent to sell those pieces to us. Actually, they were very persistent to sell us anything...

When we went back to Nairobi and got connection to the world, we started digging more about the Masai tribe, as what I've witnessed was still bugging me. What we found out as an official information was both interesting and not that surprising. Apparently, during the last hundred year, a huge part of the Masai people died as a result of an epidemic disease that killed most of their cattle. And those, who managed to survive this tragedy are currently living in the districts of Kajiado and Narok (where most of them found stable, modern day jobs), as British and Kenyan governments took away their territories to create the national reserves and ranches for settlers.

Of course, there's a great chance that official records and data might not be very accurate, when it comes to tribes in Africa. In any ways, I'm not truly convinced we had a genuine Masai tribe experience.

 

 

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