Maasai traditions

Although I loved the Safari experience, my heart was longing to meet local African tribes. After spending a long day at Tsavo East National park, our guide offered to take us to a nearby Maasai village in order to fulfill my wishes of interacting with locals.

Upon arriving at the Masaai village, I was intrigued by the basic attire worn by this clan. Based on media coverage, I was anticipating them to dress up in heavy jewels. In reality, Masaai tend to wear light and bright fabrics which they wrap around their body to keep them cool in hot climates.

After paying 1000 Kenyan shillings to enter the village, we were introduced to an English speaking member of the tribe named Jackson. Jackson insisted I ask him questions so I went ahead and interviewed him about all aspects of his and his tribe members lives.

So here is a summary of some very interesting facts I came to know.

Village Residents

This village alone was composed of 1 Maasai family.

The breakdown:

1 Father

9 Wives

56 children- of which Jackson was one of them.

I didn’t get to ask how many children they each had but I am certain it was of a high number and what you see in the pictures is just a few of the many children of the village.

The Age Of Marriage 

Maasai women according to Jackson, chose to marry at roughly the age of 27 while the Maasai men he mentioned married in their 30’s.

I found this surprising considering this was a primitive tribe and I had linked late marriages as a sign of progressiveness.

He did mention however that there is no strict rule of thumb for a marriageable age, as women can and do marry earlier if they desire children earlier, and same goes for men.

Click here to view the Maasai marriage dance Jackson and the village residents performed for us.

Money making schemes

You may or may not have heard about Masaai’s having the reputation of being manipulative.

I however was not aware of this “stereotype”. I continued asking Jackson about all sorts of culture/customs/norms related question. He asked my friend and I if we were Muslims. We agreed. Following us disclosing this piece of information, Jackson started to mention how he was a practicing Muslim also. He continued by telling us he had a Muslim name “Ali.” Fascinated by how he is a Muslim convert, I started to ask him about his journey to Islam, his conversion to the religion and specific details about the religion. His answers were vague and not very convincing.

Soon after disclosing his name as Ali, Jackson began to emphasize how he was planning on teaching Arabic to the children and how he needed funding in order to set up a mosque in the area.

Following the entire tour of the village, Jackson emphasized the importance for us to purchase hand crafted jewelry made by women from the village whom he claimed would heavily benefit from the purchases financially.

Being told my purchase would assist the local women, I went ahead and purchased a metal bangle. It cost 800 kenyan shillings which is nearly the same cost in Canadian dollars you would pay for at jewelry in retail stores in North America ($6 to $8).

I personally didn’t feel scammed because I purchased the bangle with the intent to help out. However, if you are not looking to make purchases, stay strong and don’t let the Maasai’s guilt tactics get to you.

Cows Blood 

Flashback to the year 2003, the reality series Survivor was still in its reign of popularity. The 3rd season was filmed in a remote village in Kenya. One of the most memorable events during this season was a group challenge where contestants were required to drink cows blood to help their team win. This ritual according to the show’s host was “Maasai tradition”.

I remembered this tradition so vividly ( and the memory of contestants vomiting at the mere thought of swallowing blood )

As I was departing the village, I still hadn’t found out the answer to a question I had long wondered about “Why do the Maasai drink cows blood?”

My Safari tour operator stopped an elderly warrior and asked him this question in Swahili.

His answer was plain and simple.

STRENGTH!

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