Last year in July we visited Kenya and Uganda. We saw several World Heritage sites, like Rift Valley Lake system, Kasubi Tombs in Uganda and Bwindi Impenetrable forest. It was both nature and culture, gorillas, hippos and Bugandi kings. It was educational and interesting. But meeting Masais, although it’s not a world heritage was interesting, exciting and very nice experience. They are the people who choose to live in symbiosis with nature, in simple huts. They hunt, they have cattle and goats and they just live, like they always used to.
We were previously told that Masais don’t want to be photographed. The explanation we were given was that some believed that we were stealing their souls. Maybe, maybe not. But it was OK if we previously payed and visited them in their village. Well, whatever the reason and explanation I’m not surprised. I would also be very unconfortable if everyone poited a camera at me, just because I had colourfull, traditional garments. And I would come up with an explanation, that at least some people, would respect. I admit that I took a photo or two in secret, and other people on the tour did as well, but we never put cameras in their faces.
When visiting the Masai village in Masai Mara we were allowed to take as many photos as we liked and ask as many stupid question. Happy hour for happy tourist.
Masais were traditionally dressed as they usually are, they were tall and gracefull and very friendly. They treated us with respect and accepted our cameras, our curiosity and our, sometimes strange, questions.
The Masai warriors started with showing us a traditional dance. There was a lot of jumping, very high. I still don’t know how they do it, but they reach great highs from standing still, like there was no gravitation. Very fascinating.
There was also a kid running around the village. He abserved the dance and we all could see that he was learning. In a few years he also is going to be jumping, like the others.
After the dance it was time for women in the village to sing for us. They are as colourfull as the men and also short haired, but a little bit shorter. The little boy did not observe them as intensively, but he was running around with a stick. Future warrior.
After dance and song we were divided in groups of two and went inside the huts. Why? To drink goats blood? No, Masai do that, we were just going to see the huts and talk to the warrior that the hut belonged to.
Our warrior was son of the chief, as several others, since the chief has several wifes and several children, and maybe future chief. He told us that not only humans, but sometimes also goats sleep in the hut. The village is moved every seven years, mostly because of the termites that destroy the houses. The Masais choose to move before the houses are destroyed and find a new place for a village.
We asked some questions and talked about their lifes. Very interesting. Finally we bought some necklaces. They looked like a lion tooth, but we were told that it was a soft rock, carved as tooth.
After visiting the hut we went out to the village again. The questions continued. Masais showed as a plant that was used as mosquito repellent and some other plants as well.
Finally the son of the chief showed us some fur. It was lion’s fur. Masais used to go out and hunt a lion to proove their manhood. Nowadays it’s a little bit different. Enough animals die because of the poachers, so Masais work as park rangers. When a lion has to be checked by a veterinary, or chipped, Masais help out and get to cut some of the hair from the fur. The tradition still lives, a little bit altered. Lions stay alive and happy and Masais as well.
The visit in the village was indeed interesting and giving. I would for sure go again and see these friendly people.
People are never world heritage sites. Should they? I think so. Entire cultures should be protected as well. It has today become survival of the one with most money and biggest gun, not the fittest, smartest and most connected to the nature.
I’ve read lately that there are plans in Tanzania to throw out Masais from their land to build a hunting ground for rich, spoiled people who want to kill lions and leopards. (source: Avaaz) I hope it’s wrong, but money talks. I hope that it’s not going to become reality.