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Explore Traditional Culture in a Maasai Village

A Maasai village group dancing in the grass.

A trip to the Maasai Mara would not be complete without exploring traditional culture in a Maasai village. When driving throughout Kenya, mud huts are a common sight. Without electricity, running water, or windows, they pose a mystery to the Western concept of a home. YouTube videos show village tours of brightly dressed, perfect human specimens living in these huts that don’t seem real. Instead, it appears more likely that these people are actors who go home to their modern apartments after each show.

Inside a Maasai village - grass with huts.
Inside a Maasai village circle of huts without electricity, running water, or windows.

A visit will convince you that the show they perform is genuine and not acting. They live in huts and follow the traditions of their ancestors. We visited the Mara Rianda village. Their village had a circular layout with a central livestock enclosure that kept cows, goats, and sheep safe at night. Surrounding the livestock was a ring of huts made from a wood frame covered with a mixture of termite mound mud and cow dung. Children lived with their mothers inside the huts until a boy became a warrior and earned his own hut.

Inside a Maasai hut there is a fire burning and a beam of light.
A single beam of light and a fire illuminate the kitchen area and one of the two bedrooms.

A boy must have many skills to become a warrior. They learn to fight, hunt, herd, survive, and lead. To advance from boyhood to manhood, they participate in a circumcision ceremony. After spending a night in numbing cold river water, they demonstrate their bravery by having their foreskins removed in front of the community. Cuts, once made with a single blade, were replaced by single-use sterilized razors.

Two boys jumping and five watching.
Boys training to be warriors are having a jumping competition.

Like using new blades, their traditional lifestyle was fading as modernization lured them with cell phones, exposure to other cultures, and education. Their meat, blood, and milk diet, which made sense when they were nomadic, now includes grains, vegetables, and fruits. Many wore Western attire instead of the colorful shuka and jewelry. Their village hired a mobile solar service to charge their cell phones.

A close up of a boy blowing on a kindling fire.
Building a fire with wood rods is a skill that could be replaced by a lighter as new cultures begin to influence Maasai traditions.

Yet, along with these changes, many traditions remain. They greeted us with rhythmic chants and dances. They used smokey fires in their huts to cook food and hide their scent from animals. They only ate cows, goats, and sheep, protecting all other wildlife. They went into the bush to bathe and use the toilet, knowing the rain would wash it away. Their beadwork used vibrant colors with intricate patterns that had symbolic meaning. They did not use banks. Children belonged to the community, and any adult could punish them. Women did most of the labor, and men did the ruling – they could not believe that in the West, men cook, shop, clean, and work for women. They claimed to have no understanding of being queer.

A Maasai boy tending to cattle.
Herding cattle is a tradition that will probably never go away since cows are the most important thing to the Maasai people.

Our visit to a Maasai village was not a tourist attraction but an authentic experience. The people were beautiful, lean and fit, with healthy skin, clean clothes, bright jewelry, and warmth. Be sure to include a village visit to complete your trip to the Maasai Mara.

Two ladies pass each other with huts in the background.
The Maasai women do most of the work while the men make most of the rules.
Blankets with souvenirs for sale.
At the end of the tour, the Maasai women will sell you handmade jewelry and souvenirs.

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Hi. We are Paul and Cindy, two biologists, fit and over 50, who enjoy exploring, photographing, and blogging about our outdoor travel. Our journey is to find outdoor activities that are away from crowds, kind to nature, and authentic. We carry backpacks, stay in clean accommodations, and feel that good food is as important as good friends.

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