Friday, March 4, 2011

a Masai welcome...

The Masai tribe of Kenya has somehow managed to retain it's ethnic culture, despite all western influences.  For the most part, they live live just as they have for centuries.  They are a semi-nomadic tribe...

...and still herd their cattle as they always have.  If there is no source of water...they move on.  The cattle are their source of food...and their entire way of life revolves around their cattle.  He who has the most cattle and children is the wealthiest!

Just outside the game reserve where we were on our a Masai village.  We were invited to go for a tour...and were glad for the opportunity.

The Masai warriors were ready and waiting for us when we arrived.  They welcomed us with a traditional dance.

To be a Masai warrior is something to be proud of in their culture.  From boyhood on they learn the responsibilities of being a man and a warrior...with their fathers and other elders as mentors.  Their role is provide security for their animals and families.

Part of their routine is to jump...from a standing position straight up. And jump they did!  Apparently the higher they jump...the better their chances of finding the perfect wife.

They challenged our guys to come jump with them.  Here's what we discovered...white man can't jump!

And when the dance was over...they wanted to pose with the girls.  They were a friendly lot!

Then the girls came out of the village to welcome us...and we followed them back for a tour.

Their village is small...maybe ten little mud homes. The houses are built by the women...of sticks, mud and cow dung.  They are tiny...usually with two rooms and not high enough for adults to stand fully upright.  Around the circle of huts is an enclosure made of sharp sticks with thorns...used to protect the tribe and their cattle from predators.  The entire herd of cattle and goats is brought into the village for night.  We were very careful as to where we stepped! 

The chief's youngest son was our tour guide.  It seems he must have broken with tradition, as he was still attending school and spoke fluent English.  He invited us into his home...sleeping and cooking quarters for his unmarried siblings and his parents.  We stooped to enter...and found it so dark and smoky inside that it was difficult to see.  There were no windows...just a tiny hole in the roof which let in a little light...and allowed some of the smoke from the smouldering fire to escape.  We couldn't get back to the fresh air soon enough!

Our tour guide was the youngest of nine children...and he introduced us to his mother.

Stooped and tired...she looked much older than her 65 years. 

Her grandchild played nearby...unable to open his eyes for the flies that clung to him.  Our hearts went out to these people...

...especially the children.  When our tour was over...we discovered it wasn't really over! 

The only way out of their compound was past the tables they had prepared for our benefit...tables spread with their handiwork, which they were hoping we would purchase.  Of course we all came away with something. 

Some took a long time to make their purchases...they know how to drive a hard bargain.  Hubby, on the other hand...decided to pay more than the asking price.  They needed the tip more than we did...he reasoned.

While we 'shopped'...the children played nearby. 

The women and children all keep their heads shaved.

Both men and women pierce and stretch their earlobes....and wear metal hoops in their ears.   The Masai are a tall and distinctive looking people. The men are usually seen wearing a red shoulder cloak and carrying a spear...while striding purposefully across the field.

On their feet...they wear sandals made of old rubber tires.  When he saw me photographing his feet...he wondered if we might want a pair of sandals just like his.  He escorted us back to our vehicle...and we said our farewells before returning to our safari camp.  Little did we know that we would be meeting again in a few hours.

Following our afternoon game drive, we signed up for a bush dinner.  We had no idea what exactly that meant...but we knew we would be eating around a campfire out on the reserve (while the lions roamed nearby)...rather than back at the lodge.

We never really expected to have fine linens and china out there...but we did.  The food and fellowship were great!  As for the entertainment...

...our Masai friends came out to perform...this time around a fire.  It was a Masai welcome we won't forget! 

Over the past year I was involved in supporting the MCC goat stocking program, aimed directly at helping the Masai people become self-sufficient even in times of drought. Our friends in Kenya took part in the first goat distribution last week, and you can read about it right here.  In big and small ways, there are things we can do to help those in home and around the world.


  1. A wonderful experience...but somehow a little sad. It does bring home the differences between our two worlds.

  2. Well, that was a very interesting and informative early morning read! How different their culture is from ours! Thanks for sharing, Judy. Dairymary

  3. The Masai people are so very distinctive looking. I can just imagine your Hubby trying that jump!...and I loved that he just paid for the goods (and more!) rather than haggle. We have quite a collection of odd CDs because we always buy whatever music has been presented to us when we travel - have to support the arts!

  4. Oh, thank you for all your wonderful writings about your time in Kenya and the fantastic pictures....I will never be able to travel to the places you write about, but I go with you after the fact....This is wonderful. They live a less cluttered life and they look happy in the life they have.

  5. Their textiles are so interesting. Did they have any of their distinctive fabrics for sale? Did you get video of the dances? I would love to see those!
    To think they let visitors see inside their houses...that is incredible.

  6. What beautiful people! The hospitality they showed you was touching. When they seemingly have so little, this is their life and they embrace it just as we do ours. I remember our trips to Africa and Peru and being so moved by the love that was showered on us and their precious hearts. Fine linen, dinner, shopping, offers of shoes, home tours......Scot and I are continuing to enjoy our time with you and Elmer on this tour.

  7. I am always amazed at the beautiful fabrics that these people have. Your photos capture the atmosphere so well

  8. What a wonderful peek into this culture. That is too funny that you affirmed that white men can't jump. I can't jump either. An unforgetable experience for you...

  9. What a fantastic experience you've shared with us. The Masai people are beautiful, tall and so erect in posture. And their clothes, brightly colored and worn effortlessly. Are they any less happy and content with their lives than we with all our possessions? I wonder.

  10. Very interesting field trip! You wonder how they live like that. You wonder what they think about us white people who come to check them out? I'll bet you were never so glad to get into your bed that night.

  11. Judy. thanks for taking us on this great jouney. Amazing Masai tribe - I could handle wearing their clothes but not living in their homes.

    Elmer, good on you for not driving a hard bargin when shopping, but giving a tip - must have surprised them. That was so you!!

    Poor boy with flies covering his face - my heart went out to him.
    Great blogging always.

  12. Seeing is believing. It's hard to actually believe that people still live in that kind of housing. It would of been very difficult for me not to bring/support their little vendors table. I'm sure they were so happy and thrilled to be a part of your life and experience.
    The world is a better place because you have taken the opportunity to share your travels with us and open our eyes to new experiences.

  13. Looks the same as the National Geographic pictures from the 70's! Crazy cool!

  14. Wow. . .thank you for sharing this Judy. It must really be something to see this in the realness of time.
    All that the rest of the commenters said sums it up so perfectly.

  15. You just can't imagine how much I am enjoying this trip with you. I find it so amazing to see this part of the world. You are gifted at pictures and documentation. I feel like I should be paying admission like we used to at our local travelogs:) Thank you so much.

  16. Loved that I could tag along on your excellent virtual travelogue! Great pictures and you relate your experiences so engagingly! To be content with whatever we have and where God has place us! I feel sad for those who have so much and are still not content and probably never will be. Thanks for a great post!

  17. Love that last shot of them in their red cloaks at the fire. So dramatic.

  18. Such beautiful people. Really enjoyed the photos Judy. Wow, what an amazing experience you had in Africa!!!


  19. Great Post! I'm glad I found your blog!!

    Common Cents

  20. The Masai people know how to welcome you and share what life is like for them. How interesting, but also sad to see. It looks like such a hard life for them.
    Sure makes one appreciate the things we often take for granted.

  21. The Masai are such interesting people and helping them to be even more self sufficient with the gift of goats for each family is such a wonderful project, Judy.
    I hope that little boy will get medical help for surely his eyes must be infected from those flies. It's so sad.

    I am back from my whirlwind trip to Australia. The long flight made me need quite a bit of "catch up" sleep!


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson