Visiting a Masai Village
It was a bit of a fresh chilly afternoon and we were driving out of Talek Village. The roads were still wet and partially flooded from the previous days’ rain. The wind blew fresh in our faces and I was happy sitting next to Klaus who was feeling better as well. The previous weeks had taken some physical strain on him so we decided to start off our family time in Kenya with a lighter programme.
Personal Safari guide and friend, John Masek, had arranged a visit to a nearby rural and original Masai Village for us.
When we arrived, it felt like somewhere out in nowhere, disconnected from the outer world. There they stood: tall, dressed in traditional red patterned Shukas; showing off their individual hair – art and Masai jewellery.
A group of young Masai warriors welcomed us as we got out of the vehicle.
The Maasai are famous and easily recognizable thanks to their traditional robe, the Shuka; it is a bright-colored cloth, predominantly red, wrapped around their lean and slender frames; red symbolizes Maasai culture and it is the color believed by these people to be able to scare off lions even from a great distance.
Maasai jewelry, created with beads and metal wire, are just as famous: men wear wrist or ankle bracelets, and sometimes belts and necklaces too, while women feature an explosion of color and jewelry: they wear tens of bracelets and big flat bead-decorated collars in various patterns and colors, that identify the clan they belong to and their social status.
The oldest chief greeted us first, then the younger English-speaking chief.
Greeting dance by Masai warriors
After a small introduction chat, the group of young warriors started a kind of dance;
Grunts followed chants and the pounding of feet, harmony, and heartbeats. They moved forward as one unit. One flow, one rhythm, one movement forward. There were no drums, only voices as instruments and rhythm. As the men got closer, the volume of their chants rose, the intensity of their movement increased. Up, bend, forward. Up, bend, forward. A human pulse, a human beat that reached into one’s bones even as it traversed the open air.
We felt a bit overwhelmed at first, especially the children; not knowing what was about to come. But quickly the younger chief took Lucas to the group and almost instantly Lucas found himself in the middle of the young warriors imitating their rhythmic movement – the ice was broken.
Inside the Masai Village
Then we were allowed to enter the inside of the village. The houses of the village were all built in a circle which was then protected by a thick thorn bush hedge. Reeds and branches woven into a kind of barbed wire give extra protection to the village and the livestock, for example when wild animals visit at night.
When we came out through the “fence” into the “pen” Masai men and women were welcoming us on the other side and made us promptly feel like special guests. As soon as we stepped through the entrance to their village, it felt like entering a different world and the time seemed to go in a slower pace.
Cattle was grazing around us, chicken were roaming freely next to small children playing in the dirt and looking at us curiously, staying at a distance.
Another welcoming song and dance followed. This time by the women of the village. Lena and I joined them and it became clear to me very quickly, how dance, singing and a smile can bring a special connection between us humans; even if you don’t understand their language you start to enter into a special bond.
For just this moment we were part of their village.
Jumping like a Masai warrior
What would be a visit to a Masai Village without the famous and well-known jumping of the Masai warriors?
Since we left Cape Town, Lucas wanted to see jumping Masai as he couldn’t believe they could really jump that high like he had seen on TV documentaries.
Accompanied by a humming sound and chanting they started jumping, one after the other, always a bit higher until some of them were about a metre or more above the ground.
Then Lucas was asked to try it out. At first a bit shy he soon followed the invitation.
And I must say, he did really well! Once he got into it, he was not about to stop.
The younger chief explained to us that originally the jumping is a competition between young bachelor warriors.
It’s a sort of mating dance, a way for a young Maasai man who has just become a warrior to demonstrate his strength and attract a bride.
The one that keeps jumping the highest till the end, is recognised as a strong and proud Masai warrior.
After a while even John got bees in his bum and couldn’t help it but jump with the group – although he had been a little bit out of practise since he being married and being father to three children.
Making fire like a Masai
When everyone had taken a breath, the children were taught how to start a fire only with a stick! They took out their Masai knife placed a flat smoothly shaped wood on top, then took a stick which they turned by rubbing their hands. Then when some heat appeared a bit of dry grass was placed around the stick and within seconds smoke appeared.
The kids were so fascinated, they couldn’t believe their eyes!
I must add that I think it takes some good Masai practise because when we tried it later at home (because we got the stick and the flat wooden plank as a gift) it didn’t work. So, the kids still believe that it was some kind of magic happening that day.
After all the singing, dancing and making fire we were allowed to see the inside of one of the Masai houses. The houses were out of mud and most of them had no window, just a tiny hole. Peeking our heads inside let us smell cold fire. It was pitch dark inside. We switched our torches on so that we could at least our way in and what awaited us inside.
There was a fire place, dishes in a bowl and a small bed. We were told that a whole family of six lives here in this tiny space, sleeping, cooking, eating and in between some roaming chicks.
Quite challenging I thought, even the four of us had hardly space to be in the hut at the same time and it felt difficult to breathe.
How surprised the children were to find a domestic cat sneaking around the house, here in the middle of the African bush.
At the end we took a browse at the curio section of the village where there was all kind of Masai jewellery on offer like armbands, necklaces, little figurines and walking sticks…selling these items to tourists is part of their income.
It was hard to decide but eventually we each had found something we liked so we could also support their village with our contribution.
The sun had come out and it was definitely getting warmer. Klaus took a few pictures of the Masai warriors waiting under a tree and then we were escorted out the village pen.
A waiving good bye and a smile as we stepped through the “fence” back into the outer world.
Although it was only about 2 hours, we spent in the Masai village, I am certain the experiences we and the children made will stay for a lifetime.
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