During the Eid celebrating the end of Ramadan we traveled to Kenya for an African safari. Here is the first of several postings detailing our experience in Kenya.
The major portion of our safari was spent on the Maasai Mara in southwestern Kenya. This area of Kenya is the home of the Maasai tribe, thus the name of the savannah as well as the National Game Park where we spent one full day on the safari. We were told that “mara” means “dotted” in the Masai language, and refers to the savannah that is dotted by acacia trees. The area is inhabited by the Maasai people, and meeting Maasai men and women, visiting a nearby village and getting to know the culture some was an incredibly interesting and enriching part of the trip.
The life of the Maasai could not be more different than that lived by Westerners. A typical village is a round enclosure, the fence of which is made of thorny acacia branches. The fence provides protection from lions and other wild predators looking for an easy meal. The Maasai are herders of cattle and goats, which are brought into the enclosure at night. Inside the enclosure we visited are 6-10 huts for the two or three families that comprise the village. Maasai are polygamists, and the married men move from hut to hut, visiting their various wives. The cattle and goats are the source of all their wealth; the more cattle and goats the more wealthy one is in the culture. These animals are also their major source of food. A primary part of their diet is milk or a mixture of blood and milk. They eat some meat and little to no vegetables. Aside from their cattle and goats, bright clothing and jewelry, a knife and dancing stick for the men, they essentially have no other possessions.
The Maasai homes, one of which we had the opportunity to enter, are made of sticks and dried dung. There are no windows, and no chimney. It took quite some time for our eyes to adjust to the darkness, but once they did we were stunned at how small the space was.
Part of the hut houses young goats and cows. The people use a very small common area with a tiny cooking space, and on either of that two sleeping berths. That’s it! Incredibly small, incredibly dark, certainly thick with animal smells and cooking smoke. This visit put our way of life in such a different perspective. It was a powerful experience.
Sharon read a book to her students in Brattleboro that describes the life of a young boy growing up Maasai. He has the opportunity to attend school in Kenya, and then college in the USA. He now teaches in the states during the school year, and returns to his life as a Maasai during the summer. Facing the Lionis a book worth reading if you wish to gain a deeper understanding of this way of life.
While we went to Kenya to see the animals, the Maasai were a part of the trip that will leave a lasting impression on both of us.