The Maasai people: A Vanishing Lifestyle

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The wheels of our van kicked up blonde dirt as we entered the land of the Maasai.

Men wore vivid red fabrics, moving large herds of cattle along the dusty road’s edge, using sticks to guide them.

It was our first full day in Africa, but let me back up. Who are the Maasai, and why would I want to meet them?

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Five years earlier, I went to an event of creative thinkers, called Idea Fest in Louisville, Kentucky. There I met the authors of The Last Maasai Warriors and heard their story about living in a small village in Kenya, where they sought an education. Leaving was normally forbidden by their community, but their family would allow them to leave only if they did “what warriors do” and slay a lion. The warriors didn’t want to kill a lion, but did in order to receive an outside education. Later they traveled the world sharing their story, not to condone the killing of lions, but to show the extent one will go to receive higher learning.

That day I told myself, “I want to meet the Maasai in Africa”. Then the dream was mostly forgotten.

Maasai_03This was happenstance after all, traveling with my husband who was guiding students to Africa. We arrived in a place, known as “The Land of the Maasai,” nestled between Lake Manyara National Park with over 400 bird species, and Arusha, Tanzania’s third largest city.

The Maasai are a semi-nomadic tribe who make their homes from mud, branches, grass, and cow dung, moving every six months with their cattle and the changing seasons, through parts of Kenya and Tanzania.

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Nomadic Maasai women, and children stand outside of one of several bomas made of mud and branches, where the Maasai live in a communal environment.

They are a highly patriarchal and communal society, where the wealth of the community is dependent on their number of cattle.

Foreigners are welcomed into the Maasai’s homes (or bomas) for a fee as they make their way to safari, with a humming, and high-jumping ceremony, like a living museum. Tourists can get a glimpse into a lifestyle that’s becoming obsolete.

Images and story © Amber Sigman Photography

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Above: Amber Sigman with authors of The Last Maasai Warriors: An Autobiography, Wilson Meikuaya, left, and Jackson Ntirkana.

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