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The Dance of the Masai Warriors

Masai Warriors

Masai Warriors

With long legs, and grace they leap

Strong lean arms extend grasping sticks and swords protecting the village from all that come to feast at nights

The hungry lion realizes he stands no chance against these jungle kings. With a loud growl he gives up his life.

Grunts of Joys, All the cattle is safe, all stomachs are filled, a severed Simba’s head to feed the giver of their might

With joy they leap because another boy just became a man and will getting a wife

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As I searched for my roots in Africa, I asked our tour operator to take us to a Masai Village. The Masai Warriors are a nomadic group of people who live in small communities throughout East African countries such as Tanzania and Kenya. Majority of their diet is made up of beef, cow blood and milk. Their life is simple and their wealth is in the amount of cattle that they own.

Masai Dance

A pic of the Masai

A pic of the Masai

 

 

 

We arrived at the village, which was a group of about 30 huts built around a circle. Due to numerous tourist visitors many of the teenage boys spoke English, (thanks to the Kenyan government). The first thing I noticed when visiting the village was the flies. A guy met us at the front and as he welcomed us I noticed the numerous flies on his face.

Masai Males

Masai Males

Later I found out that the villagers have a symbiotic relationship with their cows. Masai do not practice Agriculture since they live among predators. John, a Masai I met told me that about a decade ago they tried to grow maize and two men were killed trying to defend the fields againsts killer elephants. Cows are the primary source of food and building material for the Masai. Their dried skin is used as bedding and the dried dung is used as construction material. Cows are so valuable to the Masai people that the front room in the Masai’s tiny home is used to house calves at nights. The Cows fresh dung attracts flies, thousands and thousands of them! The people were covered in them. I saw one child with about 15 flies on his face. I instinctively tried to fan the flies away as the mother grabbed the child thinking I was shooing the child. I smiled and stroked the child’s face trying to convey to the mom that I wasn’t shooing the child. Honestly I have never been around that many flies and my first instinct was to run back to the Safari van, however I realized that these villagers were nice enough to allow me into their village and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity due to my fear of the flies. Heck I could always take a shower or three back at the lodge.

Masai woman reparing her home

Masai woman reparing her home

I saw a lady on a roof, spreading dried grass. My tour guide told us that in the village, women build homes. He also told me that Masai women are very strong; they gather water, do the laundry, build homes, cook and gather firewood, make necklaces etc. I asked him what on earth the men did. Men take the cow grazing, gather the sticks and build a fence around the village to keep out predators such as lions at nights. Even though the women do most of the work, the men learn to be strong and fearless. A Masai boy’s coming of age includes spending weeks in the wild on his own and killing a lion. (The practice of lion killing is now discouraged due to the sharp decrease in the lion population.)

This is heavy! Picking up a Masai woman's load

This is heavy! Picking up a Masai woman’s load

Another part of the tour that interested me is the Masai home. The homes were small and circular built with sticks, clay and dried cow dung. The homes were very simple and unventilated with dirt floors, beds made of sticks and covered by cowhide. The house was extremely dark and smoky with only a small window (about 6”X6”). One thing that amazed me was that the cooking is done in the tiny, dark house which requires some serious skills.

Beside a Masai Home

Beside a Masai Home, Im 5’6″ so not very tall

Masai Bed made of Dried Cowskin

Masai Bed made of Dried Cowskin

The only window in the Masai house. It is really really dark in there

Before my trip, I considered bringing items for the villagers such as clothes, food and first aid items, however I decided not to in the end. Silly statistics would say the Masai live on less than $2/day which would classify them as poor. Their diet is packed with fats and low in grain which is a far cry from the Standard American Diet. When I went to village, I saw healthy, lean, fit people compliments of their low carb diet. They were well fed, happy and very educated with the life skills required to survive in the jungle. . Their lifestyle involved herding cows, starting a fire using friction (although I’m an engineer I can only do that in theory), and fighting off predators. I saw no need in the village and I was happy I didn’t show up with an arrogant, savior mentality.

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My favorite part of the visit was dancing with the Masai. The men were long and lean with beautiful dark skin clad in colorful blankets called Chukka’s. Their dance involved jumping and man could they jump high. They could beat anybody at my crossfit gym in box jumps. As they jumped they made a grunting noise. The women also sang and danced for us. They were stunning and walked with such grace as if on a runway. They were decorated with beaded jewelry, beautiful chukkas and shaved heads. We danced, sang (well tried) and jumped until we were out of breath, (didn’t take long).

Dancing with the Masai

Sleeping with Hippos

 

Hippos in the River

Hippos in the River (Wikipedia photo credit)

Hippo

Hippo. Took this pic from my table at lunch

My bucket list included taking an African Safari. My tour company, Marura Safaris, booked us into a luxury tent located in the middle of the Masai Mara Reserve along side the Mara River called Ashnil Mara.

As we drove from Nairobi through the Kenyan Country Side, we were taken aback by the impressive views and all the animals we saw in the wild as well as a few herds of cows led by a fearless, Chukka Clad Masai Warrior.

Herd of Cows being led by a Masai Warrior

Herd of Cows being led by a Masai Warrior

We stood in the Safari Vehicle with our heads hanging out taking in the majestic scenes. We saw Elephants, Ostriches and even 2 baboons in the height of passion.

Ostriches

Ostriches

Passionate Baboons

Passionate Baboons

The driver stopped suddenly as we drove pass some mundane savanna grass and told us to look at the lions. On Closer look we realized that there were 4 large lions in the grass gnawing on the Carcass of a wildebeest. My desire to step out of the van and take a picture on the Savanna died immediately!

Lions camouflaged by savanna Grass

Lion in the Grass

Lion in the Grass

After about 4 hours of driving, we finally arrived at the Ashnil Mara Camp. The staff ushered us to the dining room and gave us our pre-assigned table overlooking the Mara River.

 

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We saw crocodiles bathing in the sun, a giraffe grabbing a snack and hippos enjoying a dip.

Hippos Sun Bathing. Imagine Sleeping a few feet from this

Hippos Sun Bathing. Imagine Sleeping a few feet from this

I asked the waiter if the animals are able to come onto the property. He assured me  that there is an electric fence. He pointed out the fence which turned out to be a flimsy piece of wire.

Giraffe on the other bank of the Mara River

Giraffe on the other bank of the Mara River

The room was majestic with king sized beds, a beautifully furnished balcony overlooking the Mara River and Walled by a think white tarpaulin (they did say it was a tent). The room was luxury at its best.

Room Overlooking Mara River

Room Overlooking Mara River

My Bed

My Bed

After dinner I sat by the fire chatting with a Masai Warrior named John as he cleaned his teeth with a stick from a nearby tree. He made me a cleaning stick and assured me that it was better than my toothbrush. I didn’t want to try it fearing getting sick but I didn’t want to turn down his act of kindness so I accepted his gift and started picking at my teeth making a mental note to say an extra prayer and swallow some pepto Bismol later that night. He told me that the hippos sleep in the river at night. The thought scared me since mature hippos weigh up to 5 tons!

me and john

Masai Warrior John and I

As it got later I returned to the room excited about spreading out in the comfy bed. It was a little cold and as I crawled into bed I realized that the staff had placed a bottle of hot water under my blanket. I turned out the lights and snuggled up to it. The night was a different kind of quiet. No cars honking but there were crickets and other night insects everywhere humming the melodies of the night.

Suddenly I heard some loud grunting as if many hippos decided to sing a chorus. I thought of the fact that the only thing separating me from these 5000 lb killers was some flimsy tarpaulin and flimsier wire. The room had no phone and it was almost a block to get to the club house. I wondered why I decided to get my own room. I was downright scared until I drifted off to sleep.  And oh what a wonderful sleep it was.

 

Maybe its the fresh air or the fact that I was in my “ancestral lands”. Maybe it’s the fact that I was not on top of the foodchain or the luxuriousness of the tent.. Who knows? I can truly say the best sleep that I have ever gotten is when I slept with hippos

 

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Open mouth Hippo ((Wikipedia photo credit))