Sharing my passion of food, travel all things that make my heart sing

the maasai

the maasai

since i can remember, i’ve always been so incredibly fascinated and eager to learn everything there is to know about African tribes.

specifically the Maasai. their brightly colored konga’s, their beautiful tall lean bodies and their infamous warrior “jumping dance” competition.

the Maasai are one of the very few tribes left in all of Africa who still live and carry out all their original traditions.  this means no electricity and no running water, multiple wives, no formal education, along with so many other traditions that are truly unique.

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a quick background on those who aren’t familiar with the Maasai: since every Maasai tribe depends solely on their livestock, they are pastroalists. meaning they pick up and move quite frequently once all the grass in their area has been eaten by their livestock.  over the years, the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments have been persistent on trying to get the Maasai to take up a more sedentary lifestyle, but no such luck.  the government has met them in the middle and allows them to settle in many of the national parks in both countries and travel between the two countries freely without a visa or passport (because clearly they have neither!). which is truly such a great thing, that they’re still able to live the way they want without being forced to change by outside influencers, let alone the government.

young boys are sent out with the calves and lambs as soon as they are able to walk, and continue to guide the livestock throughout their lives every day.  every 15 years, a new generation of “warriors” will be initiated, the boys that are included are between ages 12-15.  during this process one of the fun, and most popular traditions, that they learn is the “jumping dance”!  at the coming of age ceremony of each new warrior, can involve ten or more days of singing, dancing and ritual.  how great right?!  a circle is formed (or semi-circle) by the warriors, and one or two at a time will enter the center to begin jumping while maintaining a narrow posture, never letting their heels touch the ground.  the other men in the group raise the pitch of their voices based on the height of the jump. this was the part i was most eager to see after seeing so many photos and videos of this lively tradition!

so after about a 15 minute drive down a dirt road, surrounded by little villages of rondavul huts, tall, lanky Africans wearing red and blue wraps and no sight of an electrical line; we knew were were close!

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as we pulled up, children came flocking to the car, ready to invite us into their homes.

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as soon as the leader greeted us at the door, with arms opened wide, he pulled us inside and offered us hot tea.

who says no to hot tea from a Maasai warrior? the leader at that. not this lady!

the moment we took a seat, two women came rushing out of the kitchen, red and blue wraps draped over their arms motioning for us to stand right back up.

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before we knew it, we were all “maasai’d-up” and covered in beautiful jewelry!

clearly my excitement was nowhere near being stifled back.  i let it shine through effortlessly!!

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is this real life?!

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a tin filled with steaming tea, in a cow-dung and clay-built home, surrounded by a Maasai family.

life is good.

after learning a little more about their history, their family and meeting some adorable little ones, it was time to head outside!

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first stop: their bank.

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filled with animals, of course!

fall in love and want to marry that lovely lady? you gotta head to the bank and get some of your “money” to offer her father in place of her hand.

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with my camera in my right hand, and some i-want-to-stick-you-in-my-luggage children in my left hand, we headed to where the best part would take place.

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the singing and dancing.

we were lead across their village to the smaller gathering of homes for this ceremony.

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just the walk alone was truly peaceful, as we pass groups of warriors and elders heading to the same spot as us.  all ready to give us a great peak into their ways.

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the leader always begins by saying a word, almost like a “que” for what song he wants next and the others say another word back then they begin.  it’s almost like a chant but with “beat-boxing” (let’s imagine that, ha) for the rhtym and music.

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and as the singing and chanting gets louder, the men will one by one hop (or get pushed by their fellow “buddies”, ha!) into the center and begin their sky high jumps.

 

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if one doesn’t get off the ground effortlessly, the others laugh themselves silly. as it’s a game with them!

this guy clearly proved his warrior wrong and jumped very high, and they all had a little chuckle about it as he landed gracefully back on the ground and went back to his spot in line.

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then the next wariror gets in and tries to jump higher than the last.

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we weren’t the only onlookers, as the entire family gathers around their men to enjoy a little friendly competition.

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i could listen to them sing for hours.  with every new song they would begin, more goosebumps would arise and tears being held back.

at one point, as one of the women grabbed my wrist and pulled me into the center of their dancing circle, i had to close my eyes and truly just be there. feel it.

be utterly, 110% fully present. because i knew it was a moment that would soon pass but i would need to capture in my heart so it could last forever.

just seeing the joy as the maasai stand around, enjoying each other’s company, was one of my favorite things to do.

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i took note of how truly happy they were to share only a snippet of their ways with us, and to allow us to share in their lives only if for a few hours.

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after the above photo was taken, and i showed them the screen so they could see it, i go “gosh, i wonder which one is the outsider?!” they all started laughing hysterically!  at least they have a great sense of humor, eh?!

after the dancing and songs came to a cease, we were pulled into a hut to learn how they make their fire. aka: compete with each other on who will actually spin the stick the fastest and create smoke before the other.. boys will be boys anywhere in the world!  they giggle the whole way through when one knows they’re getting closer to the billowing smoke before another.

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with family squeezing a peak through the door to see which gets the fire first, all whispering taking bets who will look the failure in front of the “mazingos” (white people).

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before leaving, the women displayed their beautiful jewelry in hopes we find one we love enough to bring home ourselves.

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quickly, both emily and i spotted some baubles that just had to come home with us.

standing around, chatting for a few with the older ones, using hand gestures to communicate, it makes you see how big the world is and all the other people out here who are on the exact same path as you: seeking happiness.

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we made our way back to the main hut and sadly handed in our kanga’s, but every time we wear the jewelry, it will sure to remind us of this great experience.

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thank you Maasai, for opening your villages for tourists like myself to see an experience.

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if you find yourself in the Kenya or Tanzania area, put visiting a Maasai village at the top of your list. you won’t regret it.

 

 

 

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