One of the things that we were hoping to do during our safari in Tanzania and Kenya was to visit an authentic Maasai village. Due to COVID restrictions, we weren’t sure whether it was going to take place, but we were pleased that we were able to do it before leaving Maasai Mara to head to Lake Naivasha. The fee that you pay to visit the village goes to help with the costs of education and other needs that the village might have. There is also the opportunity to buy handmade items from the people of the village, but it is not required.
Our visit started with our Maasai guide, one of the son’s of the chief, telling us about the people of the village and about their daily lives. There was a demonstration of how they used the horn of an antelope to use for communication as well as to make music. Afterwards, several of the men gathered to perform a ritual warrior dance where they would jump as high as possible to prove their bravery. Of course, the men were encouraged to participate, so we did the best that we could, but definitely could not jump as high as the Maasai. Before entering the village, the women gathered to do a welcome dance and song for us and again the women were encouraged to participate.
Once inside the village, we saw many different villagers, including some of the youngest Maasai boys and girls. We were taken inside a traditional Maasai home and learned about how they were made from mud, straw, and cow dung. The rooms of the homes are small, but there is a living area, bedroom, and even a guest bedroom to welcome guests and family members. Once the children of the house reach a certain age, they move out of the house to stay with other family members.
The Maasai men are not monogamous and we learned that the chief of this particular village had twelve wives. The men with multiple wives were not to spend more than a single night with the same woman before staying with another wife. Most wives are chosen for the men and the dowry is always the same number of cows and goats that must be paid to the parents of the man. If a man wants to choose his own wife, he must pay his parents cows and goats in order to do so. Our guide had a single wife that he chose himself, laughing with us that having more than one wife would be too much trouble.
We were then shown how they could start a fire with a stick, flat piece of wood, and a knife. They are so skilled at making fire this way that they can get some of the grass to start on fire in less than a minute. After watching the men making the fire, we continued on to the market area where the villagers had a variety of artwork, jewelry, and other items for sale. Even though we knew that we weren’t obligated to buy anything, we did buy a couple of items in order to reflect back on the experience in the future. Prices are not set and they make you an offer and a slight amount of negotiating is expected, but not to the point of being insulting to them.
We have been to several different traditional villages throughout our travels and we find each of these experiences to be very special and rewarding. We believe that learning about the culture and history of a place is part of one of the most important aspects to travel. Visiting the traditional Maasai village was certainly one of the highlights of our time in Kenya and Tanzania, just as we’d hoped that it would be.