Call me crazy but when I was trying to decide on a destination to go take my nine-year-old, there seemed to be only one clear choice – an African safari. My youngest son K has always loved animals and so it was logical. I knew that he would be enamored with the animals, but what surprised me more was his ability and willingness to participate in a visit to a local Masai settlement without any hesitation.
For our experience I chose to stay with Angama Mara, a luxury safari camp in the Masai Mara region of Kenya on the edge of the Great Rift Valley. One of the activity options they offer is a visit to a local Masai village. This was exactly what I wanted. While I enjoy traveling in comfort, I also seek out any opportunity to interact with locals. K was less than excited when I proposed it. But, with a little insistence he gave in.
Meeting the Masai
The Masai are identifiable by their characteristic red clothing and their jumping abilities – which we did see up close and personal and is even more amazing than on any video! There are a million Masai in Kenya and Tanzania. Typically, they live in small tribal settlements with extended families and their prized cattle. We were welcomed by John (his English name) the son of the chief. We were guided through one of the homes and I know K was a little taken back by the very rustic nature of the house. He told me more than once, “I guess my bedroom isn’t so bad…”
We then spent some time learning how to make a fire – with two sticks. To be honest I always thought this was impossible. You’ve seen those videos where some guy rubs two sticks together and boom there’s a fire? Yea right! But, these guys proved to me that it is possible. With a little help, K got a fire going with just two pieces of wood and some straw. This was a really cool experience!
We were able to try on some masks that are used for special celebrations and rituals. My favorite was this one made completely with ostrich feathers. Fashionable right?
Towards the end we were able to purchase some beaded goods from the women who make them. Beading is another one of the skills the Masai are known for. After we had gone through and made our choices, John gave the word that everyone who we bought from should give us a gift. This was not necessary but a cultural custom. He had the talking stick after all.
What’s a Talking Stick?
If you see a Masai man walk with a stick in his hand that looks a bit like a club (it has a rounded knobbed top) you’re looking at a talking stick. Whoever holds this stick has permission to speak and for the rest of the tribe to listen, and do as he says. This is most often the tribe chief or a representative of the chief. The chief and his family commands a lot of respect from the rest of the tribe but he also has a big responsibility to protect and make the best decisions for everyone.
Even though we spent just a few hours visiting the Masai village I know this experience will have a long lasting effect not only on me but more importantly on K. I feel so grateful that I was able to introduce him to a new culture in a very real way!
School: oh you want to take him from school for a week? We’re a little worried about homework. Me: oh I think he will learn plenty while we’re away. Fire building with a Masai tribesmen. #masaimara #Kenya #Africa #lifeskills #familytavel #worldschool #travel #wanderlust #culture #visitkenya #angamamara
Amanda is the blogger behind the website MarocMama, a fearless guide to food and travel. She lives in Marrakech, Morocco with her family and loves to share culinary experiences and unique destinations around the world with her readers. She visited Kenya this October on a mother-son trip. You can follow her adventures on instagram and on her MarocMama facebook page. She also has an incredible cookbook of Moroccan recipes you should definitely check out!