Highlights of Ten Days with the Maasai

Janet Rob BAt very short notice Janet and Rob Bagnall prepared and presented a wonderful account of their 10 day trip last December to south-west Kenya. They set the scene and atmosphere by warming up the meeting with some lovely African choir music.

Janet and Rob brought along a number of photograph albums, some books, maps and then showed a great PowerPoint presentation of their trip. They also covered some tables with a couple of Shúkà (the Maasai word for sheets traditionally worn wrapped around the body, one over each shoulder, then a third over the top of them. These are typically red, though with some other colors (e.g. blue) and patterns (e.g. plaid).

They spoke of visits to a thong recycling factory which produced colourful articles to sell to tourist, a giraffe education centre, and an elephant orphanage. The first part of the trip was driving through the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in land rovers and being amongst the lions, wildebeests and zebra. They were fortunate enough to witness the annual migration as the animals crossed the crocodile infested waters, perhaps the highlight of their trip. There was mention too of a balloon flight followed by the customary champagne breakfast.

Maasai womanThe second part of their trip was the walk for 4 or 5 days through the herbivores amongst the Loita Hills and down into the Rift Valley. They were led by Maasai guides, some very interesting characters. One was Robert, one of the chiefs and respected by the others. He had married an Australian girl and at one time lived at Bondi Junction. He had two 2 wives and said they didn’t get jealous. Apparently they were very good friends as they worked together bringing up his 7 children. Robert was brought up by 4 mums and felt the same to them all. Another guide was Francis who was rather intellectual and studying land management and grazing at university but for the moment had run out of money.

There was lots of laughter when Janet and Rob explained how that the Maasai men are polygamous and take as many wives as they can afford, and are proud of the number of children they produce. More laughter still when Janet told us that ‘The men don’t do very much’. What an understatement! The Maasai men will take themselves off into the forest to contemplate and the like, whilst the women do the hard work. Refer to web site: http://www.great-adventures.com/destinations/tanzania/maasai.html

“They (the women) are primarily involved with the day to day running of their households. They collect water and firewood, prepare meals and raise their children. They milk the cows, clean and prepare the hides and build their houses with dung and mud. Young girls assist their mothers in preparation for their role as wives and mothers.”
We were told how the Maasai lead a simple life but a happy one. The warriors, who often earn money as tour guides, do look very impressive. It was understandable how some non-African women would be charmed by such exotic physical men but the culture is so different that it would be hard for a marriage to last. Janet recommended two books about girls who married Maasai Warriors:

  • Enkop Ai My Life With The Maasai by Catherine Oddie (Aussie )
  • The White Maasai by Corinne Hofmann (Swiss)

Janet explained how the Maasai women pierce their ear lobes and gradually extend the hole to allow very elaborate decorations.

Anyone interested in visiting Kenya should certainly have a chat with Janet and Rob. Rob can even give you a few pointers on how to avoid having your video camera stolen. His disappeared at a security checkpoint, but fortunately found it again under the security guards table. Very strange!

Thanks Janet and Rob for a most entertaining evening.