In The Shadows of Mt. Kenya, The Samburu Nation thrives

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In the shadows of Mt. Kenya, the Samburu Nation thrives, among national parks, private ranches, and communal lands, off the beautiful arid samburu Landscape that support some of Africa’s most impressive wildlife. The Grevy’s zebra and the reticulated giraffe, species found only north of the Equator in Africa, it might be dangerous to roam the acacia grassland where lions and wild dogs hunt their prey. The Samburu ecosystem is one of the most exciting in East Africa. Famous for its large population of elephants and unique northern species of animals found only in this area of Kenya, Samburu stands out as a unique, wildlife rich and diverse wilderness.

The stories of the Samburu are inspirational, as well as sobering. The Samburu are proud of their culture and keep most of their traditions alive to this day, despite constant pressure from the forces of modernity and globalization. And let us not forget the government and their efforts to get these tribes to settle down into permanent homes. But the Samburu have been very reluctant because that would throw their whole lifestyle off balance. Not forgetting the unforgiving nature, they live in a dry and arid area, it is difficult to grow crops and therefore it would mean that they would have to depend on others for their survival. However, they are slowly transitioning into permanent settlements.

The Samburu residency comes with its own uniqueness, in the north central part of Kenya, the famous Rift Valley north of Mount Kenya; the highest peak in Kenya and the second highest in Africa. Their land covers a vast expanse with terrain ranging from high altitude forests to semi-arid grass and bush lands. Their language is called Samburu as well and it is very similar to the Maa speaking Maasai tribe from the south. The Samburu and the Maasai tribes are known to have migrated down from Sudan sometime during the 15th century. While the Samburu chose to settle down in the foothills of Mount Kenya, their Maasai cousins are known to have travelled further down south to claim their land, hence the similarities in language and attire. The traditional attire is so beautiful and no amount of time will be enough for anyone to pull off his eyes.

The Samburu are nomadic pastoralists who usually herd cattle but also have sheep, goat and camel. The wealth of a person or family is calculated by the number of cattle they own. The Samburu practice polygamy and here the family of the groom pays dowry to the family of the bride, so technically a wealthy Samburu man can have any number of wives as long as he can afford the dowry. Their beautiful traditional houses or ‘manyattas’ are mostly constructed with wood, grass and a mixture of mud and cow dung and are done so in this way because it is easily dismantled and carried when they move to a new location.

The houses are almost always constructed by the women of the family. They’re also responsible for the collection of firewood and water, cooking, taking care of children and any other household work, while the men are responsible for the safety of their cattle and the tribe. So it’s fair to say that women are harder working than the men here. The outfit consists of a striking red cloth wrapped around the shoulders called shukka which is then enhanced with colorful beaded necklaces and head-wear called shangas. The neighbouring tribes admired the Samburu’s way of dressing and called them “samburu” which in fact means  butterfly. I absolutely love this outfit and i couldn’t be more proud of country rich in cultural diversity

The amount of wildlife is fantastic, but also troubling as we know that many of these large mammals, cheetah, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, are endangered and probably won’t outlast the century thanks to the Samburu people who have worked diligently to ensure the success of the reserve, so we also recommend that you plan time to visit the local villages and interact with the community.

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