Becoming Maasai

Kenya, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Parties, Festivals & Events — By on December 4, 2006 at 5:43 am

While we thought the safari would be the highlight of our brief visit to the land of the Maasai, we soon discovered that our most exciting adventure had yet to come. Since we only had one more day to spend with Emmanuel before heading back to Nairobi, he told us he’d arranged for a few friends and nearby villagers to come to his house to perform a special ceremony – – one which Holly, Amanda and I were enthusiastically requested to be a part of. We happily accepted the invitation, excited at the chance to part of an authentic Maasai ritual. Little did we know just how big of a role we’d been cast to play.

We awoke the next morning to a cacophony of clanging pots, squealing kids and distant drum beats sprinkled throughout a steady hum of voices coming from outside. Emmanuel and his wife Lily, both donned from head to toe in traditional tribal garb, cheerfully bid us good morning and outfitted us in our very own Maasai-ware — chunky oval necklaces packed tightly with patterns of aqua, sky and royal blue beads – – to help us look the part for the day’s activities. We were ushered into the front yard where we quickly learned that the term ‘a few friends’ must translate differently in the Maasai language. Row upon row of local men, women and school children blanketed the lawn as more people continued to pour down from the hills and enter Emmanuel’s gate. While we had met a couple of Maasai the day before at the game reserve, witnessing an entire tribe come together in full face paint, distinctive red robes and ornate jewelry was a site worthy of a National Geographic spread. With distinctively tall and willowy frames and striking facial features, the Maasai are easily the most beautiful people we’ve seen in the world. We were instantly captured by their friendly dispositions, open manner and natural elegance.

After making the proper introductions, the girls and I snagged a spot on the grass at the front, eager to watch the Maasai in action. But before we knew it, the three of us were upgraded from spectators to star performers. Pulled from our seats by a large group of Maasai women, we were ushered straight to the middle of their inner circle and encouraged to dance along side them. At first we stumbled along unsure of what to do, but with their expert guidance, we soon fell in step beside them, swaying our hips and swinging our arms to the rhythm of their spiritual song. And while our moves might not have qualified us for Soul Train, our best efforts to fake the funk had the women in stitches. They laughed out loud, grabbing us by the hands and pulling us into a group hug. One after the other, the Maasai women pressed their faces up to ours, leaving streaks of red ochre paint across our skin. “You are Maasai now,” one woman cried as the crowd cheered.

Our scarlet stained cheeks baking in the sun, Holly, Amanda and I continued to dance across the lawn with our new sisters until it was time to exit for the next performance. Sweaty and exhilarated, we happily plopped down on the ground to watch the Maasai men show off their vertical prowess. Until we saw it in person, we wouldn’t have believed it, but with each leap, they got at least 3 feet of air under them. How do these men jump to Jordan-worthy heights, you wonder? Well, all we can say is: it’s a Maasai thing; you wouldn’t understand!

Check out more photos of our favorite “NBA All-Stars” and of our extraordinary journey into Maasai-hood:

(There are a ton of pics -seriously, like 25- so please be patient! :))

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  • Dellie says:

    These photos are glorious, colorful,and have shown me a tender side of the Maasai Warrior tribe. What a kind sweet group of people they are. Generous and welcoming. You girls were very fortunate to have Emmanuel as your guide and mentor as he not only kept you safe but arranged your personal initiation ceremony into the Maasai tribe. You have met SO many gracious people along your path these last months–the amazing memories are so numerous. I am humbled by what you are doing. Be happy and be safe as you continue on your journey,young warriors.

  • kristarella says:

    I’m scared to look at the photos on this slow computer, hopefully they’ll work on my home computer.

    That’s a beautiful story! “You are maasai now.” I look forward to reading some of your archives and future posts!