Fun and Learning During Holidays in Maasai Land Kenya.
If you have ever dreamed living with a tribe, thanks to the survivor TV series. I am a Kenyan and I have always dreamed of one day visiting a Maasai tribe, note because I don’t know them the curiosity that killed the cat live alive inside of me. With careful planning I was able to make my very own visit to a Maasai village after climbing Kilimanjaro this past July. It’s an experience that was deep engraved in my brain although I had read a lot about the Maasai and how their nomadic lifestyle and culture have been endangered and threatened over the years. Living with them is an experience on its own. I also know that there are a lot of touristy, unethical scams out there and I wanted to be absolutely sure I was going to a culturally sensitive, real life Maasai village. I did some research and found the perfect place for my visit.
The tour agencies operating in Kenya are of great help when you want the visit the Maasai, an integral part of the community are the tour guides who work for a small fee from those visiting and at the same time making sure that their culture is not ridiculed and is preserved to the best of their knowledge. In a fast developing country like Kenya to promote environmental conservation as a tool of socio-economic development is a major challenge, having in mind the damping done by those claiming to be offering aid to marginalized communities like the Maasai assisting in conserving their culture and way of life. For a small fee, I had to spend a night or two at the camp and immerse myself in the local Maasai culture. I would be the only guest for the night.
The Maasai are among the best known African ethnic groups due to their distinctive customs and dress. As nomadic pastoralists, they traditionally herded their cattle on seasonal rotations across the open savanna of Kenya and Tanzania yet new laws instituted by the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments ended their traditions and forced many into camps where they have suffered poverty, malnutrition, lack of education and economic opportunities to survive. It is an all too common story with native cultures across the world and today many governments and NGOs are doing their best to preserve and protect these tribes from disappearing off the face of the earth.
Cultural conservation camp is a non-obtrusive resource center that lies within the heart of nine different Maasai villages covering a huge landmass that takes days to cover on foot. They offer resources on water and soil conservation, management of natural resources, land use planning, climate changes and energy, education and training, food security, and women’s empowerment. As a guest, I was able to pick from a list of several cultural activities to learn about the Maasai and their way of life. Besides the four-hour land tour of the Bomas (traditional Maasai mud huts) and the neighboring community, my next favorite activity was learning how to bead.
The Maasai women are known for their extraordinary beadwork that for centuries has been a mark of beauty and prosperity among the Maasai tribes of Eastern Africa. Through the creation of the Project Women program, Maasai women now have the opportunity to establish a business that reflects and celebrates their rich cultural heritage while improving their livelihood and protecting the environment. The program is an informal network of Maasai women’s groups that get together to make their gorgeous beaded jewelry and then sell it at local markets nearby. It has transformed these women’s lives as well as their children and family.
I had the opportunity to sit down and get a one-on-one training by a local Maasai “mama” named Mary. I realized that making Maasai jewelry requires a steady, careful hand and is not as easy as it seems. Here are some photos from my lesson. I met Mary with warmth and smiles. She is the mother of Jacobo, a local Maasai and my tour guide for the next two days. Unfortunately we could not communicate as I don’t speak Mary’s native tongue nor does she speak English. So all the time with me was spent with gestures and smiles at true reflection of Kenyans at large.
Like most Maasai women, Mary was beautifully adorned in her handicraft and art. She wore brilliantly colored necklaces, bracelets and anklets all beaded by hand. She also wore long, heavy earnings in her overly stretched ears. I learned that it is a traditional sign of beauty among the Maasai women. They begin creating a small hole in their ear when they are very young and continually place larger sticks in the hole to enlarge it. Over years, the ears will finally be stretched out and to keep them in place, the women must continually wear heavy earnings.
I have had fun in life but there no better fun than having it while still learning. I hope it’s your time to have the spectacular experience and have fun as well.