The Maasai people 

Wednesday 11/10/17: On the road back to Arusha, we see a group of early-teenage boys in black robes with lines of painted white geometric lines striping their faces like zebra. Our driver, Tuma, explains that the boys’ robes and paint means that they have recently been circumcised and must be separated from their villages until healed. This controversial tradition is still practiced amongst the Maasai people though the accompanying routines are now less severe. Nowadays, the boys must leave their homes at dawn but are allowed to return at night to their own bed. In the past, these boys would have had to stay away for the entire 3-6 months. The operation itself still sounds pretty brutal. No anesthetic is used and if the boys scream or cry during the procedure that uses a special knife, then their post-ceremony is cancelled, and they are not accepted as men by their fellow villagers. We ask Tuma if we can stop to take photos but he hints that it might not be appropriate and seems keen that we find more suitable alternatives later (i.e. the ones pretending and charging us muzungus!). 

We visited a Maasai village in Kenya but their people are everywhere across this region, with shepherds constantly moving their herds to find better grazing. Each Maasai village is comprised of one family who lives in a circle of huts surrounded by a larger circle of tall branches and spiky trees to keep out wild animals. Their cattle and livestock are brought into the centre of the hut circle at night and the vicious fence keeps everyone safe from predators.

Their huts are made of cow dung and sticks and is nibbled on during the night by their cattle so needs rebuilt every couple years. Each man can have as many wives as he chooses. Each wife costs 10 cows (5 male and 5 female) regardless of how talented, pretty or resourceful she is, which is good to know! While the village we visited is a real family’s village, it is a regular stop on the overland tours’ itinerary. The jumping warrior dance that we see hasn’t been serendipitously stumbled upon but has been set up for our arrival. 

The family that we talk to does genuinely live there but the children aren’t fazed by us so are obviously fairly used to seeing white faces. This sense of staging only slightly detracts from a fascinating insight into how these people live. 

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