Tanzania Safari – Part 5: Maasai Tribe

Laughing about the funny faces for the camera

One of the truly rewarding moments of my Tanzania Safari was to get invited to a Maasai tribe by Chief Eliedorop to photograph his family and learn about Maasai life in Ngorongoro. This trip was enlightening for me to see how happy this entire family was with living so simply in the world. We should all learn something from living like this.

Laughing about the funny faces for the camera

The Maasai Tribe

The Maasai tribe are an indigenous ethnic group in Africa of semi-nomadic people who settled in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Due to their distinct traditions, customs, and colorful dress and their residence near many national game parks of East Africa, the Maasai are among the most famous of African tribes. The Maasai have won pasturing and grazing rights to several of the national parks in both Tanzania and Kenya. They live alongside most of the land’s wild animals but have an aversion to eating birds and game. And there are approximately 87,000 Maasai living in the Ngorongoro Conversation Area where now Maasai land boasts East Africa’s finest nature and wildlife areas.

The governments have urged the Maasai people to adopt a more modern lifestyle, but the Maasai tribe have resisted and continued their traditional way of life today even with adopting education, civilization and some western cultural influences. During the dry season (early May to November) all the Maasai used to migrate to the Serengeti and return to the Ngorongoro area once the rainy season started. Nowadays with school, the Maasai have permanent homes and no longer migrate with the seasons. The Maasai tribe still live mostly off the grid, simply, and happy even with adding some modern conveniences into their lives. They try to improve things rather than to lose everything per Chief Eliedorop.

Many Maasai tribes throughout Tanzania and Kenya do welcome visits to their villages, like we did, to experience their culture, traditions, and lifestyle, in return for a fee.

The Chief

Chief Eliedorop

Chief Eliedorop was very gracious in accepting our group into his village to introduce us to his family and show us how the Maasai tribe live here in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Our guide, Victor, set up this outing as he is friends with the chief. We were warmly greeted when we entered the village. It was amusing as the adults all came out to meet us, but the kids were all shyly hiding.  Camera Shy girl

Their Home

Chief Eliedorop and one of his wives showing his home

It was hard to take pictures inside their home as there is no light, only two small slots for a window. It is very dark and it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. The no windows and darkness keep the flies out. The chief did have a battery-free winding flashlight to add some light. Their home consists of one area for the chief’s bed and another smaller one for the wife and smallest children and babies. There is a fire pit in the center of the home for cooking and heat. The older kids sleep outside or in other neighboring houses. The Inkajijik (houses) are circular and are made by women whereas their villages are enveloped in a circular Enkang (fence) built by the men, which protects their cattle at night from wild animals. The fence is made from a particular tree that animals do not like the smell of so the predators stay away from it.

The Wives

One of the chief's wives

The Maasai are polygamy people with the chief having three wives. Each wife has their own house and the chief shifts between each of the houses and wives. The older children can go to sleep in the other beds when the chief is not there. The wives also make beautiful jewelry that I was able to purchase. I picked up a bracelet and a couple of things for my nieces.

Hand made Jewelry

The Children

Group photo of the Maasai children

Amongst the Maasai people, the measure of a man’s wealth is in terms of children and cattle. Chief Eliedorop has five sons and seven girls. All the children are shared among the wives. They are everybody’s children, get along with everybody, and share everything between them. It is a very open family. When families get too large, say a family has 42 members, they will split up and create another tribe with half of them. But, all of the Maasai in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are all one tribe.

Goats and Cattle

GoatsGoats 2The animals are sold to get money and sometimes slaughtered for food. All of the Maasai’s needs for food are met by their cattle. They eat the meat, drink the milk daily, and drink the blood on occasion. The children are the ones that watch the herd while they are outside the village. I had some fun going into the goat pen and taking pictures of the animals and the kids playing. The baby goats were so cute but so loud.Little boy with stickLittle boy with goat

little boy with red cape among goatsHiding among the goats

Taking Photographs

Young boy hanging out by the fenceThe highlight of this visit was the time I spent with the children. I love taking kids photographs and this was no exception. I had some fun with them and tried to get them to make funny faces. It was hilarious to see their reactions when I showed them their photos on my DSLR camera. I just wished I had someone else taking photos at that point, you would have seen the pure unfettered joy of them seeing themselves.

Carli Davidson and I were able to show some of the older kids how to use our cameras and take their own pictures. That was a treat to teach them and see their excitement of what they captured. Look at those budding future photographers!Teaching the older kids how to use a digital camera

More Photos

As you can see from all of these photos and the smiles on their faces, this is one happy family. I wish there were more happiness and joy like this in the world. I hope you enjoyed the photos of my visit to the Massai tribe. The last installment of my Tanzania safari will be on the Serengeti. Stay tuned…

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