February 11: Ngorongoro Highlands

After two great nights at the Lake Burunge Tented Camp it is off to the Ngorongoro Highlands. Before lunch, however, a visit to an actual Masai village to experience "A Day in the Life of a Masai" was arranged by Ahadi. As stated in earlier pages of this journal, the Masai are a semi-nomadic tribe of Africa that have stayed true to many of their long-standing traditions.

The Chief of the village along with his assistant "junior" Chief welcome the group and begin the day's lesson in the ways of the Masai. Starting with the traditional cloth and stick, the group learns how each man upon completing his rite of passage is awarded the red cloth as a badge of honor as well as a symbol of his maturity. The stick is his to protect himself and his livestock. Remember, a Masai's wealth is defined by the number of cattle he owns. Each needs to be protected from predators in order to assure the wealth remains. The homes or huts are built of a mixture of cow dung and mud and roofed with thatching from the brush. It is the woman's job to build the house as well as maintain it. After a rainy season the hut may need to be re-dunged several times!

This Chief has nine wives ranging in age from middle age to late teen. Each wife has her own hut and the chief rotates as to where he sleeps. Wife #1 is considered the senior elder and in charge of all the other wives. If for any reason there is a disagreement among the women or a problem that needs to be addressed, wife #1 will call a "female" council meeting and try to discuss and resolve the issue. All great attempts are made to avoid alerting the Chief. That could result in physical punishment to the "problem creator" or worse. The women of the village work very hard to keep the men happy!!

One of the long standing traditions that the Masai consider a source of good health is to drink the fresh blood of a cow. In order to obtain this and not kill the animal, the cow is pierced in the juggler vein with a sharp arrow and then quickly bled to fill a gourd. As soon as enough has been extracted, the animal's neck is stitched up and release to the rest of the herd. The gourd is then passed among the men for a toast and swallow! Even the small children like getting into the act. Most of the group passed on joining the beverage pass, but did cheer on those who did indulge.

Once completely satisfied, the group recollected in the main center of the village to observe the entrance of the women. Dressed in the red traditional cloth and beaded with wide, broad beaded necklaces and earrings, the women danced to a hypnotic beat as they paraded out of a hut to the men patiently waiting with the group. The dance required the women to shrug their shoulders to the beat of the music resulting in the beaded necklace to dance to the rhythm.

Gently and with kindness the Masai women slowly encircled the women of the group and began dressing them in the traditional attire. Each was wrapped in the cloth and given a beaded necklace to wear. Then with a little coaxing the women were encouraged to join in on the women's dance. At the same time the men of the group were being "dressed" accordingly and taught the man's role in this dance. Within minutes the Masai and the visitors were dancing to the sound of the clicking of the tongues and the chanting of the voices while interacting with each other. This is a "jumping" dance with the men and women individually pairing off to "jump" to the beat with each other!

But a woman's work in the world of the Masai is never done and the dancing had to stop in order for the women to teach the art of hut making. First the mixing of the dung and then the stuccoing the side of the hut was encouraged for all the women to participate. Then it was up the ladder to thatch the roof in a long skirt with #1 wife!!

Wife #1 finished the visit by inviting the group into her home for an opportunity to ask questions. One question that startled the group was that she had no idea the ages of her nine children. The Masai do not keep a record of birth and have only been asked for such since the advent of required education of all children of Tanzania. Without a birth certificate or proof of birth, a child can go completely unaccounted for in a school census. The tribes are encouraged to send their children to school, but many hold back half of the children with the boys tending to the herds and the girls helping the women. It is usually the smartest that are kept home, for they learn the skills the fastest.

After saying goodbye to the village the group drove on to Karatu and a wood carver's shop to witness the art of woodcarving done by hand. The woods used are either ebony or mahogany, both of which are very hard and difficult to carve. After observing the craft in motion the group was given an opportunity to purchase some small items.

A full day of learning was capped off by arrival to the new lodge for the night. Tloma Lodge is a working coffee plantation as well as a garden. The individual buildings are surrounded by tropical flowers and bushes. The front lawn displays the beloved soccer field. Much a contrast to the Masai village visited earlier in the day.

Ahadi Introducing the Chief

Junior Chief with His Mentor

Son Of Chief


Cow Selecting Time for Bleeding

Chief (in Middle) Selects the Right One

"I See Her!"

"Let's Grab Her"

"Hang On Tight!"

"I'll Just Tie This Rope Around Its Neck So that the Vein Jumps Out!"

Don't Let Her See What is Coming!"


Chief Holds Gourd while Junior Chief Stitches up Wound

A Toast to the Group

Chief Gets First Sip

Bill: "Okay, I Think I Can Do This! Tastes Like Chicken, Right?"

Children's Turn

Pass The Gourd

Here Come the Women

Dance To The Beat Of the Clicking of the Tongues

Look Mom, I Can Do This Too!

How Do You Shake This Necklace?

I Don't Want To Play Now

Women Form The Circle

The Group: "Which Foot Goes First?"

Karen: "I Think I've Got It!"

Neville: "Do That Again -- I Am Not Sure I've got It."

Neville: "Look Tony and Jim, It is Easy -- Just Raise Your Shoulders and Shake!"

Jody" "Christine, Wait For Me -- I Want to Play Too!"

Jump Dance

Sue Not Quite On the Same Necklace Beat As Her Instructors

Diane: "Sue, Nice Outfit!"


Three Well Dressed Women

Christine and Neville -- The Perfect Masai Couple

Nell Helping Wife #1

Christine's Turn to Thatch

Sue Filling In Some Holes

Neville: "You Know, Christine, When We Get Home I Think You Should Do This To Our Roof!"

Sylvia: "I Really Didn't Mean To Poke a Hole in Your Roof!"

Mixing the Cow Dung with Mud

Christine: "Okay, I Have This Ball of Dung, Now What?"

Christine: "Hey, This Isn't So Bad"

Sylvia: "Look Mom, Dirty Dung Hands!"

Wife #1

Woodcarvers at Work

Christine Helping

View From Tloma Lodge

Tloma Lodge Front Lawn