The Maasai Village
Many years ago I took a spontaneous trip to Africa with two new friends, Jane and Trish. After arriving in Nairobi, Kenya, the small safari group assembled and organized for a ten day adventure. We traveled between camps by foot with our leaders, Simon and Helen, nine guides, and camels, cooking on fires and sleeping in the open, under the African skies. The beginning of my personal adventure was terrifying as we were surrounded by scorpions, ticks, spiders, snakes, mosquitoes, and wildlife. We took hot bucket showers hung from a tree or went for a swim in the river with hippo’s and crocodiles. Simon could not believe I was afraid of this environment…he thought NYC would be a much scarier place.
After walking for miles and riding camels through rivers, we eventually came upon the most gorgeous and primitive Maasai village.
The Maasai Village
The Maasai’s culture and beautiful style is part of a simple lifestyle. Their small homes are usually oblong in shape with rounded corners and low ceilings. All of the homes are built by the women and their construction usually takes four to eight days (pregnant and elderly women are excused from building). Each woman is responsible for her own hut and she is also in charge of renovations. The Maasai tribe has a deep and sacred relationship with cattle so most of the house plans include fences and sheds for the animals.
Red symbolizes Maasai culture and it is the color believed to scare off lions.
The Maasai wear bright-colored cloth, predominantly red, wrapped around their slender frames. Created with metal wire and vibrant beads, the elaborate Maasai jewelry is an important part of their skill and elegance. The Maasai are people with a long and extraordinary culture. They have lived in areas of Tanzania and Kenya for hundreds of years.
We entered the home below (with permission) into complete darkness. If not for Jane’s flash, we would not have found this beautiful mother with her two children.
All materials used for building Maasai houses are natural and collected from nearby forests. The first step is to build the frame, which is done by pounding timber poles into the ground with rocks or wooden hammers. The poles are interlaced with a lattice of smaller branches. Twigs, leaves, and grass fill the gaps between the posts and rafters. Finishing touches are done with a mixture of cow dung and water. They plaster inside from the ground up. That’s it…the sun does the rest.
The houses are sparsely furnished because these people focus on needs rather than wants – a few stools beside the fire and hides used to sleep on.
There are no windows so it’s very dark inside and takes a few minutes for your eyes to adjust. They create a small hole in the roof for a fireplace. These houses have a sleeping, cooking, and storage area. The village people spend most of their time outside as a community and use their homes for basic necessities. There is no electricity, running water, toilet, a/c, or any other luxuries. The cow dung ensures that the roof is waterproof. When it does leak, they will apply another coat of cow dung.
Traveling across this beautiful country with its breathtaking landscapes of mountains, plateaus, rivers, plains, and wildlife was unforgettable.
Main Photo Credit: Jane Smith