Back when we were climbing Mt Kilimanjaro, we met a guy who had been climbing this mountain for the last 12 years. He had been diagnosed with cancer and decided he wanted to climb the 7 summits, and now climbs Kilimanjaro for his charity, CancerClimber Association yearly. Since he’s been here so many times, he gave us some tips of things to do while we’re in Tanzania, one of which was visiting a Maasai village. “It’s very touristy,” he said, “but worth going once.” So when Abdul asked us if we wanted to stop at one on the way back to civilization, we said yes.
This option is a $60 per vehicle add on, so $30 for each of us. We pull in and are greeted by our guide, a guy who had grown up in this village and speaks very good English. The rest of the village comes out to meet us as well.
We’re first shown the traditional welcome dance.
The men do all the dancing and sing the lower registers while the women stand to the side and sing what sounds like to us, the words to the song.
Our guide explains to us the meaning of the different colors of robes that they wear. Red is for bravery, blue and purple are for water and black is worn by the young warrior men after their ritual circumcisions. It makes for a very colorful community. After the welcome dance, we are taken inside the fence of the village and shown another dance where the warriors compete to see who can jump the highest. Again the women watch from the side, jumping into the song as necessary. They also dress us up in some of the traditional women’s jewelry.
The Maasai are traditionally a polygamist society. Each village consists of a man and his wives. Each wife has her own hut, and the husband rotates around them, staying with each woman. When a woman decides to marry a man, she agrees to marry all his other wives as well. Young men looking for wives must look to other villages as they are related to everyone in their own. If a male visitor comes to the village, men are expected to give up their bed and it is up to the woman to decide if she wants to join him. Any resulting child belongs to the husband, not the visitor and is brought up as such. So basically, while it’s a patriarchal society, women still are allowed to chose their own lovers if they desire.
Our guide shows us the inside of the huts so we can see what it’s like to live there.
It’s worth noting how small the entrances are. I am by no means, a large person (tallish, but normally proportioned), but trying to walk through the entrance of these huts squarely results in my hips getting stuck in the doorway. All the villagers laugh at my predicament. Amy, being petite, has no problems. Lucky.
The inside is dark, the only light coming from the doorway and a small hole in the ceiling where the smoke from the fires escapes. There are two beds made of animal hides, one for the wife and the other for her children. To build these huts, the men gather the supplies and bring them to the village. The women then are responsible for building them. It takes quite a bit of time, but they last for 10 years.
Once back outside, we look at all the jewelry the women have made and decide what we want to buy. It’s really expensive, and they really push you to buy something! I’ve heard people visiting other Maasai villages in Kenya don’t have this same experience, but for us it was a bit much.
At this point, as per usual, I have to run to the bathroom. They are built outside the fence about a hundred yards from the village. Of course I take a picture.
We then head over to the school house where all the kids are. All Maasai children in the village attend school here before going to regular Tanzanian schools when they’re older. The kids are really charming and show us how they know the English alphabet.
I almost had to restrain Amy from taking this little one home with her.
After that, our tour was over. We walked back to our truck and I asked if they could use any paper and pens in the school. Our guide said yes, so I was able to give them the stuff I had brought along with me for just such an occasion! I hope it was really helpful for them!
Overall, it was kind of an expensive add on for what we got. It was really short and we were pushed to buy jewelry that was way overpriced. But it was neat to see the thousand-year-old traditions being lived out right in front of us. If I had the chance to do it in Kenya, I might do it again, but otherwise this is a good one time opportunity.