The Maasai are probably the most celebrated tribe in the world of tourism, with their recognizable bright red checked cloth and their famous ‘jumping’ dance. The Maasai live across Kenya and Northern Tanzania in East Africa. The fascination of tourists with this colourful tribe is aided by the stunning savannah landscape which provides as the backdrop to the experience. Now our imaginations can’t delink the lions of the Serengeti in Tanzania or the Elephants at Amboseli in Kenya with the Maasai people.
My partner and I were on an extensive East African safari adventure and between one national park to the other; we passed by many Maasai villages. While the focus was firmly on viewing Kenya and Tanzania’s big 5 (lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos & buffalo), we were growing more and more intrigued with the Maasai and wanted to spend some time interacting with this beautiful tribe. As it turned out, our safari guide said that it could be easily arranged, in exchange for a few bucks of course.
And so, on a still African morning, we drove into their village. Our guide took the necessary permissions and fixed the commercials and before we knew it, the show was on.
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The Maasai men and women formed two separate groups for the dance and this is how we were greeted. The men performed their signature Adamu or the jumping dance where the entire group sings and the young males try to outdo each other by jumping higher and higher in the air. The women form a circle around them and start chanting as well.
While this song and dance is a show for the tourists, it must be known that the Adamu is an integral part of the Maasai culture and the jump is a sign of their manhood.
After this amazing start to the day, things started to slow down and we were able to sit and speak with the villagers. A few of them could converse in basic English so we asked them all the questions we could, such as what they eat, which festivals they celebrate, their everyday life in the savannah and whether or not they are connected to the cities. We were given great insights into this and were also shown around the village.
We went inside their mud huts, saw how they cooked their meals and even visited a small class room for teaching children. While it was clear that their purpose of having us over was the money we provided, they were genuinely hospitable and their unique culture is very much true and alive even in the 21st century.
The Maasai are a very proud warrior clan and have lived on this land for centuries. They are nomads of the open sky savannah home of theirs and maintain their traditions in the face of the modern world. Now many of the young Maasai are also playing a critical role in monitoring and protecting the wildlife in their national parks and in reducing conflict between the man and the beast.
We were glad to have a glimpse into their lives and would recommend this to the travellers to East Africa.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.