The community with which the Olare Mara Kempinski has established a relationship is located just a short drive away and constitutes an enjoyable game drive in itself. Once arrived within the village, you can meet the people, visit a typical Maasai home, learn about Maasai daily life, enjoy dancing and singing displays and visit the community’s own handicrafts market.
The vibrancy of Maasai culture is unrivalled and typically centres around a brushwood enclosure into which the community’s cows and goats are herded at night. The village is built in line with age-old traditions whereby each woman has her own hut, and male society is regulated according to a complicated hierarchy of age-sets, warrior-clans, elders and laibons (prophet soothsayers). Maasai life is built upon a platform of joyous celebrations, which mark the passage of time from birth to death, the dispensation of justice, the changing of the seasons and the treasuring of the Maasai’s precious cattle. Unchanged for centuries, such celebrations typify a way of life that has remained untouched by the arrival of the technological age.
Utterly authentic, the village visit promises unrivalled photo-opportunities. It begins with a traditional welcome from the Maasai morans (warriors), who will escort you from your vehicle and into the brushwood enclosure. Here you will find all the children who are too young to go to school; and their mothers. Typically, the village elders will be on hand to welcome you and the young morans will demonstrate the traditional kindling of fire. Several long notes will then be sounded on an eland horn. This summons the Maasai from the surrounding villages to come and meet the guests. In the meantime you will be invited to enter a traditional Maasai home.
Constructed by the women, each low grey hut is made from wooden poles and cow dung. Entering through a low narrow door, you will find yourself in a dark room with a central cooking hearth also made from cow dung. There will be a few low stools around the hearth and a wooden sleeping platform made from stretched hides. You’ll be invited to take a seat and your host will tell you more about the Maasai way of life. It’s a relaxed experience with plenty of laughter. Emerging from the hut you will find that a colourful group of ladies has arrived. Dressed in their finest beadwork they will sing while performing some traditional dances – and it is customary that the guests are invited to join the dance. Then the young morans will perform their own songs, dances and jumping displays. Finally you will be invited to visit the simple display of beadwork and carving that has been laid out on the grass.
As well as providing a unique opportunity for cultural exchange, the visits provide a valuable contribution to the finances of community life. The proceeds from the visits, which are passed directly to the community, have so far financed the construction of a water tower, the establishment of a health centre and the education of the children of the community. The ladies, meanwhile, use the money they earn from their handicrafts to establish self-help groups and micro-finance institutions.