The Maasai Village…Chief Richard…Rightfully proud of his village, his people…

Chief Richard posed inside one of the houses with us.
With our flight leaving at 1:30 pm, we knew the only time we had available to visit the nearby Maasai Village was Tuesday morning. (Maasai is spelled with two “a’s” when referring to the tribespeople, with one “a” when referring to the Masai Mara)
Had we decided not to visit the village, we could have embarked on one more morning safari with Anderson.  Enthralled with the enormous number of animal sightings and the stories that followed, it was time to round out our Masai Mara experience, especially after several other guests suggested a visit to the village was definitely worthwhile.

The entrance to the Maasai Village sealed off at night when no tribespeople may leave. The danger of wild animals is high at night and the utmost security is implemented. These fences made of sticks and cow dung provide a barrier to deter the intrusion of mostly lions and elephants. Years past, the Maaasi were allowed to kill invading animals (using handmade spears the men carry at all times. Now with conservancy efforts by the government, killing any animals in the reserve is strictly prohibited. If invaded, Chief Richard must contact the rangers for assistance. As a result, he is the only villager required to carry a cell phone, neatly attached to his colorful clothing which he proudly showed off as the only modern convenience in the village.

The village was located less than a five-minute drive from the camp. We certainly could have walked deciding instead to accept the ride offered by Camp Olonana with our limited time frame, preferring to spend the time with Chief Richard.

Chief Richard warmly greeted us at the entrance to the village.

After a delicious breakfast, our first actual breakfast eaten at the lodge, we were ready to see the Maasai Village.  Almost completely packed, with our ride to the landing strip scheduled to depart at 1:00 pm, we’d left ourselves plenty of time to have a stress free departure, which is always our ultimate goal when moving from one location to another. 

One of Chief Richard’s two wives. Each wife has her own house, made by women only hands using cow dung and mud. The houses will last for 9 to 10 years before they begin to crumble. The tribe moves to a new location every 9 to 10 years, leaving behind all the houses, taking along all their household goods, livestock (cows and goats) and they begin building a village anew.
Conscientious Concierge Christine informed us during breakfast that our flight time had changed from 2:00 pm to 1:30 pm with no apparent bearing on our 1:00 pm departure from the camp. The landing strip was a 20-minute drive from Camp Olonana but we were stopping at a nearby resort to pick up our pilot, Edwin, who was having lunch and needed a ride. Oh.
The roofs of the homes are made by the women-only using cow dung, dirt, and grass. Stepping on cow dung is considered a sign of good luck and we were encouraged to do so as we wandered through the village. I decided to step on it as much as possible after hearing we’d be picking up our pilot for yet a smaller, single-engine plane ride back to Diani Beach. Apparently, it worked, right?

Anderson had hoped to be able to take us to the landing strip himself, rather than another staff member. This would require him to complete the morning safari on time. 

As we entered the village the wives of the warriors designated by two bands on their ankles as opposed to one band for single women, unmarried or widowed, waited to perform the ritual welcoming dance as Chief Richard familiarized us with their simple yet hardworking lifestyle.

We were hopeful, wanting to spend any last minutes with him going over our glorious safari. We had left a generous tip for him the prior evening in the event he wasn’t able to drive off to the landing strip. Of course, knowing Anderson, he doesn’t disappoint and at 1:00 pm he was helping us load our bags into the Land Cruiser.

As more guests from Camp Olonana arrived, the women and children waited patiently to begin their welcoming dance.
The children were included in the welcoming dance dressed in their finest colorful garb as we all waited for the other guests to arrive.
These dogs, staying awake at night to protect the village from invasions by elephants and lions, slept under the shade of a tree. The sun was hot. I also took refuge under the shade of this tree.
The villagers, appreciative of the visits from guests at various camps throughout the Masai Mara, in no manner, had “commercialized” their village in an attempt to make more money. Their net worth, Chief Richard explained is totally determined by the number of cows they own. When a guest asked how many cows they had, Chief Richard explained that they do not reveal the number any more readily than we’d disclose how much money we have in the “cash machine.”  (He was familiar with “cash machines” as opposed to an actual bank).
Chief Richard also waited for the remaining Camp Olonana guests to arrive in order to tell his story of life in the tribe.
Finally, the other guests had arrived. The tribeswomen gathered us into their “dance line” hoping we would chant and dance along with them.  Feeling a bit overheated, I hesitated to join in but Tom reminded me discretely that they may be offended if I didn’t. He grabbed a bottle of water for me. I took a big chug and joined in the line, later glad that I had.

When the ritual dance and chanting werecompleted, Chief Richard enthusiastically shared the story of his village, his life, and his people. 

Once hydrated and “beaded up” I actually enjoyed the ritual singing along in my usual awful voice, having never been able to carry a tune or in this case, a chant.

At present with two wives, he finds himself preparing to take a third wife, yet to be chosen, although his wedding plans are in motion. She must be from another tribe. His first marriage was arranged by his parents, his second wife chosen by his first wife and, he is allowed to pick his third wife. He was excited about this fact, chuckling and rolling his eyes in playful anticipation.

Upon sharing his marital status with us, he began asking the four women in our group as to how many family members, we have in our immediate families, including if applicable, how many husbands we’ve had.

The tribeswomen were anxious for us to attempt “mashing” the cow dung with the stick used for that purpose. Actually, I was adept at this task and the Maaasi women were pleased.

The larger the family, the more the women cheered. None other than me mentioned more than one husband.  When my turn to disclose arrived, I unabashedly stated that I’ve had three husbands, Tom is my best and last. 

A “street” in the Maasai village of 56 tribespeople from 4 families, was neat and orderly. The business of selling their jewelry generated from the nearby camps enabled them to purchase more cows which ultimately made life easier for them with the ready food supply.

That comment, “brought down the house” with laughter, cheering, and clapping in unison. The Maasai women are only allowed one husband, where the men may have multiple wives at any given time. I quickly chimed in, telling them that I didn’t have all 3 husbands at once. Again, they erupted in laughter as we all laughed along with them. Chief Richard explained that my multiple husbands made me special in their eyes.  Gee…finally someone thought that was cool.

Boys are circumcised at 15 years of age with no anesthetic. Their manhood is determined by their ability to withstand the pain of the cutting with the man-made tool.

Women were no longer subject to the barbaric ritual of “genital mutilation” for which the 4 women in our group clapped. So often we’d heard of this cruel ritual still practiced in many tribes worldwide. 

One of the most interesting facts Chief Richard shared with us was the Maasai diet which consists entirely of the following:
1.  Beef
2.  Beef blood, only from healthy cows
3.  Milk from cows and goats.

They consumed no fruit, no vegetables, no grains, no sugar, no processed foods in any form, subsisting on a low carb, gluten-free, sugar and starch free diet. Tom and my eyes darted to one another as we heard this.  

Fifty-five of the 56 members in the tribe were all slim and fit with the exception of Chief Richard’s big belly. We surmised he was either partaking in other foods in his dealings with the local safari camps or eating too much meat, milk and blood. Perhaps, it was expected that the chief is rotund as a sign of wealth. We didn’t ask.

Tom and I later chuckled about their diet. The only differences in my diet is the addition of non-starchy vegetables and the deletion of drinking blood and milk, neither of which I care to consume.

Chief Richard explained that his people live long lives, often over 100 years, although they didn’t celebrate a birthday and speculated on the age of an “elder”. Seldom did illness befall his people. If they did become ill, they were quick to use medicinal plants readily available in the area. Midwives aided in childbirth as well as the women providing support to one another during pregnancy and childbirth.

This is the area in which the cows are herded at the end of the day after grazing in the bush.

He stated that if a tribe member fell prey to animal attacks or an accident requiring medical care they would seek assistance from traditional medical care in the area. They value life, limb, and well being, not foolishly avoiding care in emergencies due to tradition.

We weren’t sure if this was the bathroom.
Chief Richard explained the quality of the work-women-ship (as opposed to workmanship) in the support system for the roof.
This is the bedroom where a husband with more than one wife will sleep with the family as he switches back and forth to houses. To signify his presence for the night, he leaves his spear outside the door at night. The round white circle to the right is a window, the only source of outside light for the two-room house other than the entrance. 
The kitchen where they cook the meat. With no means of refrigeration, meat is always cooked, never eaten raw. There are no accompaniments to the meals other than the blood and milk. They do not eat lunch, only meat, milk, and blood in the morning and again at dinner.
The door, which is closed at night offers light during the daylight hours.
The other guests often stated, “I don’t know how they can live like this.” In our travels this past year, we’ve seen more sparse lifestyles. The Maasai were happy people, full of life and laughter mixed with a bit of whimsy. They looked healthy as did their children. Their children were attending a local school, learning to speak English, often sent to universities to expand their education. In Diani Beach, we see many professional Maaasi people holding jobs and living a more traditional Kenyan lifestyle. They are recognizable by their colorful clothing and their kind and courteous demeanor. 
Women are forbidden to enter the tabernacle, a place or worship, and conducting tribe business. During a meeting, women may wait outside of the structure on their knees and may pose concerns and questions. They are forbidden from offering input for resolution. As we approached the tabernacle I stepped back to honor the traditional. Chief Richard invited me and the other women to enter along with the men in our group.  He explained, that as visitors, we were welcome to enter and take a seat.
The handmade ceiling of the tabernacle as well as the remaining structure was made by the men.  It didn’t include the use of cow dung.
This man could have been anyone we’d see out in the world, as opposed to being a Maasai warrior living in this small village of four families with 56 residents.
Chief Richard asked this young man to show us how quickly he’ll build a fire using only wood and straw. The participants on “Survivor” should pay attention to this simple method, actually requiring a second participant as the wood becomes hot quickly.
After only a few minutes of twisting the stick into the small hole in the piece of wood, there was smoke. There was no flint, only the two pieces of wood.
The addition of the straw quickly aided the few sparks to ignite.
Working the dry grass in his bare hands, facilitated the fire in igniting.
It’s a fire! Wow!
As our visit to the Maasai village came to an end, we were invited to visit the house with the beaded jewelry which we could purchase if we chose. There was no pressure to do so. 
Instead, we chose to give Chief Richard a donation as a thank you for his and his people’s willingness to share their village and the story of their lives with us, willingly and openly.
Without a doubt, the visit to the Maasai village rounded out our safari in an enriching manner, leaving us ready to return to our own simple life in Diani Beach, Kenya, with a smile we still can’t wipe off of our faces and a special memory in our hearts to remain with us forever.
Tomorrow, the final review on Camp Olonana and many photos we’ve yet to post. Hope to see you back!