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Sunday, 28 September 2008

The People: Meeting the Maasai - Page 3

Written by Jim Dorsey
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We step out of the car into the hot blowing dust of southern Kenya, into a different world in a different time.
A dozen stately Maasai in bright red and purple robes surround us.  Ebony colored hands reach out for ours in welcome, and two different ways of life come together.  Maasai means those who speak Maa, but they simply call themselves "the people".

In the center of the village there is a round corral made of tree branches where the goats are kept.  Cattle are in a separate corral and guarded all night by spear toting watchmen.  Animals are central to the Maasai way of life.

The People: Meeting the Maasai, Moses Pulei, Traditional Maasai, Maasai culture, Los Angeles Adventurer’s Club, Namanga, Kenya, East Africa, Jim DorseyThat evening Moses tells us it is a tradition to honor guests by sacrificing a goat.  One is selected and taken into the bush, where two warriors smother it to death.

 

They tell me they consider this more humane than cutting its throat.  I do not agree but am not here to judge.  We are being paid an honor and I respect their customs.  I help to hold the goat down, trying not to look it in the eye.  Once the goat is unconscious, its throat is slit and the younger boys jockey for a taste of its blood.  This blood, mixed with milk, is a staple of the Maasai diet.

The goat is slow roasted over an open fire and we enter a communal dining hut, sitting under a poster of Bob Marley, to eat with our fingers. The meat is delicious and a heaping tray is passed around several times. Our chairs are made from tree branches and covered with goat hide – I would like one for my TV room back home. Moses sits at the head of the table, telling story after story of life in the bush as a child.  How his grandfather taught him to track animals, and how Maasai boys used to have to hunt a lion with a spear to become a man. The government outlawed this practice in the early 1970’s, as too many lions were being killed, but some people still practice it covertly.  He shows us a scar on his leg that he received during a lion hunt.

As he talks, his relatives take turns walking past the hut, sticking their head through the opening and smiling before disappearing, not wishing to intrude, but as curious about us as we are about them.

We are fascinated by his tales of life among wild animals and could listen all night, but it has been a long day.  We are invited to stay in the huts but the sleeping area is too small for me to fit.  Moses has thought ahead and erected a tent outside the boma walls.  All the children gather because they have never seen a tent before.  They call it an “Instant Hut,” and are fascinated that the zipper makes the entrance disappear.

Maasai love to joke and tell us not to worry when the leopards come (not if, but when!),  because everyone has a spear (everyone but us).  When I ask about the safety of sleeping outside the thorn wall, I am told not to worry because leopards do not like white meat!

(Page 3 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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