Brotherhood Tales: Maasai

Brotherhood Tales: Maasai

The Maasai warriors,  young and fearless, old and experienced men, have been preserving their culture and tribe’s values for centuries. But, there is more than this that meets the eye behind those beautiful shots that photographers have captured. 

The flight from Serengeti to the Maasai Mara was quite bumpy, we flew through rocky turbulence that seemed to last forever. As we reached, it was still dark outside, with a sliver of the moon hanging in the enormous African sky amongst a gamut of twinkling stars. The next morning, a group of 10 people set foot to experience the tribal community of Africa, the famed Maasai, an indigenous ethnic group in Africa of semi-nomadic people settled in Kenya and northern Tanzania. We were welcomed by Namunyak, a Maasai chief wearing a red and blue chequered shuka (cloth wrapped around the body) while holding a spear in his right hand. Their native language is Maa, but they also speak Swahili and English.

Namunyak explained that the Maasai measure a man’s wealth in terms of cattle and children rather than money. So, a herd of about 50 cattle is respectable, the more children the better, and a man who has plenty of cattle but no children or vice versa is regarded as poor. Traditionally, the Maasai women shave their heads and adorn patterned or stripped shukas with multicoloured beaded jewellery. The Maasai are monotheists who believe in a single deity with dualistic nature­—the kind-hearted Engai Narok (Black God) and the maleficient Engai Nanyokie (Red God). The Maasai society is firmly patriarchal in nature, with elder Maasai men sometimes joined by retired elders, determining most major matters for the Maasai tribes. 

A woman in the Maasai society is given no rights and is passed on from her father to her husband, to bear more and more children. The main diet of the tribe is slightly shocking—a blend of raw meat, cow’s milk, and blood. Our local guide, Adisa, mentioned that other tribes of Kenya have adapted more readily to modern times. In contrast, the Maasai have preserved their traditional ways of life and still follow them. 

As tourists exploring a new realm of cultural experiences, we learned about the cultural practices of the Maasai, wherein to become a moran (Maasai warrior) and prove his ability,  a man is supposed to hunt and kill a lion using a rungu (a wooden throwing club or baton). But, luckily or unluckily due to the depleting number of lions in the wild, this practice is now forbidden. 

Described as a mating dance, the adumu or the traditional Maasai jumping dance, is for young Maasai men who have just become warriors to demonstrate their strength and want to attract the women to be his bride. Marriage involves a substantial bride price in livestock. Before we bid farewell to Namunyak and his clan, we bought multicoloured beaded jewellery and slippers, and happily added a rich experience to our kitty.

When to go

June–October 
 A visit to the Maasai village is organised as a part of the Safari experience by safari operators, lodges, and camps.

How to go

By air or make a  road trip out of it.

•    Arrive at Nairobi, Kenya at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

•    Multiple airstrips fly down to Maasai Mara.

•    Drive down by road from Arusha, Tanzania.

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja is a feature writer at L'Officiel India. She is a silver jewellery hoarder and an aesthete of all arts. You can find her unraveling new stories day in and day out.