Maasai tribe in Lewa

Learning their way of life (24 June 2014)

Our visit to Lewa was not just about seeing the animals, but visiting one of the best known tribes known as the Maasai people. A semi-nomadic tribe who live mainly in Northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya, they have a deeply rooted history, and is known for still embracing and going about their traditional way of life up till today. On our last day in Lewa, we had a chance to take a morning day trip, a rather long, bumpy 1.5 hour ride from our lodge to a small village of one of the Maasai tribes.

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Good morning Ostrich, we see you again!

As we had to get up a bit earlier that day given the long drive ahead, we were treated to a lovely surprise from Alex, where he and the chefs from Lewa Safari Lodge had prepared a safari gourmet breakfast spread for us by the river. It was pretty stylo I think to be able to sit on nice deck chairs with proper linen on tables by the river while having eggs any style and toast with a cup of piping hot Kenyan coffee. Pretty sublime, except I did glance nervously now and then to make sure the crocodile we just saw a day earlier was not hovering anywhere near me, I think my sweet pink fur would have been like an amazing dessert to the scary croc!

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Once we had our tummy filled, we sat on a long and bumpy ride, but saw pretty spectacular views of the landscape and around 1 and a half hours later we arrived at one of the Maasai people’s village.

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Amazing view of the landscape on the way to the Maasai village.

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My first view of the Maasai village.

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Our guide, oops forgot his name. He was really friendly.

We met our guide who spent the next 2 hours with us explaining to us about the history of the Maasai people. Loved the colourful clothes that he adorned, everything was traditional other than that touch of modernization with the mobile phone! We were told that the Maasai people believe that all cows belong to them, it was pretty funny the way he said it, we all cracked up! Rather patriarchal in nature, both the boys and girls go through the rite of passage which is circumcision at different ages. The boys usually around 16 and the girl can start as young as 12 years of age. For the boys to become men, going through the circumcision process in front of everyone and not shedding a tear or flinching shows that he has become a man, otherwise he is known to be weak if he even shows any signs of fear. In the past, the Maasai men was known to have hunted for lions after circumcision and those who successfully do it become warriors almost like a celebrity, to the rest of the tribe. The women also go through circumcision as it is believed that they do not have the right to have sexual feelings and hence through circumcision, that is removed. I think for women to go through circumcision still in today’s modern society is a hard fact I find hard to accept even though it is pretty much rooted in these tribes’ culture.

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We noticed how white and straight their teeth is, and we all agreed it’s thanks to no processed food. Their main diet consists of honey, sheep milk (mixed with cow blood, yikes!) and lamp or beef. After explaining their culture to us, our guide showed us how they make fire and also find honey, quite an eye opener indeed!

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A short bush walk to see how they make fire.

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So cute the donkey!

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They showed us how they find honey, pretty fascinating.

It was pretty impressive how they made fire just from dried elephant dung and wood. Definitely a survival skill good to pick up from them!

Although they don’t hunt anymore for obvious reasons the animals are endangered, they replicated what would be a typical way to set a trap for a small animal in the past, which composed simply of a suspended string to a sharp spear like branch which would launch down once the animals landed in the pile of branches at the bottom of the tree.

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We then headed to the village where the Maasai ladies were singing in their language and invited us to join them to dance. I was too busy filming as you can see below in the video. What drew me most to them is definitely their colorful gorgeous tribal clothes and their elaborate beaded accessories which they make themselves. The Maasai people are polygamous and it is very normal for a Maasai man to a few wives, and it’s interesting how the wives help to build their homes, prepare food, manage the cattle and sheep which is their main livestock, and seems many other things.

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The Maasai ladies give us a warm welcome with their singing.

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YL and JC join in the fun and dance with the Maasai ladies.

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A Maasai mother warming up milk for her child.

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Another heartwarming scene of a young Maasai mother and child.

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An elderly Maasai lady.

As mentioned earlier, the women make these low 5 ft high houses out of cow manure and tree branches. It’s amazing how a family of up to 8 people typically sleep in such homes that can fit at most 2 – 3 people, really baffles me, and I don’t quite understand how they don’t build ‘windows’, I figured it would help to ventilate the air a bit better. We went in to have a first hand look, which was not really pleasant in terms of the smell, and the living conditions weren’t really great, just imagine fitting a kitchen, some kind of bedroom all in an area that is probably as big as just one’s bedroom.

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Exterior of a typical Maasai home, made of dried cow dung and branches.

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A typical bed in the Maasai house.

It’s interesting that we came across some senior Maasai men playing this game below that was pretty popular when Y was a kid, during the era of five stones and kicking the feather and this. I never quite figured out how to play this though.

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Maasai men playing this old classic game of beads.

Next, we were treated to the Maasai’s version of dancing and singing. Personally, I prefered the ladies’ singing, although it was pretty funny seeing WT and SH get into the action by dancing with them. Well, I had to edit my video below to exclude that portion as much as I would love to show the full uncut version heh heh.

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The diet and all the exercise must explain for the Maasai men’s taut physique.

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YL and WT joins in the jumping dance.

We left the Maasai tribe of course with buying some of their signature beaded things. I bought one of the beaded mugs that I thought will be great as a stationery holder, and something to remember Kenya by. It was culturally enriching and a humbling experience to still be able to see one of these age-old tribes keeping to their traditions in terms of conducting their tribe and their day to day living. I learnt from some new friends I made with during this trip to read this book called “The White Masai” which is quite an insightful read into understand the culture of the Maasai people – next on my reading list!

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Display of the Maasai people’s handicrafts.

This marked the last day in Lewa and we looked forward with anticipation with what was in store for us in Maasai Mara. I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing the view and landscape below ever! Thanks again to Alex our guide from Lewa Safari Camp for the wonderful game drives and hosting us!

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