If you have read some of my other posts you know that I like to experience the ‘real’ people and places in a country and not just stay within the tourist’s boundaries. I had made a special arrangement to visit a Maasai village so that I could try and get a sense of what life must be like in one of the driest and hottest places in the world. I love the sun, fortunately, but it still didn’t take long for me to start struggling with the heat. Excellent sunscreen, applied often, is not only advised but a MUST if you want to survive outdoors there. And a hat!
The Maasai are a fascinating people who for the most part seemed happy despite the challenges the rugged, arid land presents them with. Like many villages around the world it is a community in which everyone contributes to the good of the community. Children are watched by all adults regardless of whether they are their parents or not, which is just as well as it seemed to me that little ones and animals were running everywhere.
Tradition and ceremony are incredibly important to the Maasai. I spent two nights in the village and on both nights I was treated to a display of traditional dancing and music which was exciting to watch and listen to even though I didn’t fully understand the meaning of it all. My guide, Simel, was born in the same village so knew everyone well. His English was understandable but I had to listen very carefully due to his thick accent. He told me that not every dance or song was performed for a reason and that the village was celebrating and performing for me, which I found very touching. Simel also told me that they had given me a Maasai name – Nalangu – which means “came from another tribe”.
I’m not very adventurous when it comes to trying new foods I admit. When presented with a bowl I had absolutely no idea what I was being offered, but fortunately upon seeing my wary look Simel explained that it was primarily locally-grown vegetables mixed with a little animal fat that had been mashed into a pulp. While it didn’t sound particularly appetizing I was surprised to find that it didn’t taste bad at all, and knowing the people of the village would have been offended if I had refused their kind offering I ate it all. I suspect it was nutritious; I love vegetables but typically do not eat them mashed.
I was sad to leave the village and spent about 30 minutes saying my goodbyes and thanking everyone in the worst Maasai accent they had probably ever heard…lol. I left with a beautiful red tunic that I purchased from one of the villagers as a way of repaying their kindness and hospitality. Being a fiercely proud people they would not accept money from me. Don’t get me wrong; I love the tunic and have worn it several times since returning, and every time I do it reminds me of the wonderful people I met there.