A visit to a Maasai boma

The Alamana camp has operated on a concession from the Maasai for years. Because of this long-term relationship with the Maasai, we were able to visit a boma, the home and corral owned by a Maasai family. The family visited is rotated.

John Maasai drove, and we rode with him.  As we entered the Maasai village he pointed to his house up the hill.  We stopped at these low-slung huts with goats parading by.

boma and goats
boma and goats

This is our host’s boma.  We met our host and his two sons.  We all shook hands. Our host is wearing a dark suit. Both sons speak English; they talked and answered questions.

Maasai host and two sons
Maasai host and two sons

One attends university in Dodoma, Tanzania’s capital; the other a university in Arusha. One son has four brothers and sisters. We asked if their father has more than one wife. Yes, he has five.  There are 20 children from the five wives. The boma has 6-8 huts that house our host’s family.  With five wives, our host is very well-to-do.

William, dressed in red, shows us the corral first.

corral
corral

The huts are built in the traditional manner, dung plastered over sticks. The dung makes the hut waterproof.

entering a hut
entering a hut

The doorway is less than five feet tall so everyone has to bend down to enter.  As you enter the hut, there’s a storage area straight ahead.  You have turn twice down a dark hallway to enter the main room, and we have trouble seeing until our eyes adjust to the dim light.  See the small window in the photo above.  The room has only three small windows like that. The interior photos required flash.

In the photo below, William is kneeling; his mother, grandmother, and wife are sitting on a bed. The ceiling is so low that William can’t stand up inside. See how the ceiling has been blackened by smoke.

William, his mother, grandmother, and wife
William, his mother, grandmother, and wife

In the middle of the room is a firepit with a smoldering fire. There’s a pan of milk next to the firepit.  Milk is a large part of the Maasai diet. This is February, Tanzania’s summer, so the weather is warm. With little ventilation, you wonder about inhaling smoke, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide.  But there were no flies inside. There were a lot of flies outside.

interior of Maasai hut
interior of Maasai hut

We sat on a second bed on the other side of the firepit.  William’s son is sleeping on this bed, which feels like leather stretched on a frame.  There are four generations here. William’s wife is wearing beautiful Maasai beaded earrings and necklaces.

Nancy, Betty, and William's wife
Nancy, Betty, and William’s wife

Outside the hut the women posed for pictures.

William's mother, Betty, Nancy, Joan, and William's wife
William’s mother, Betty, Nancy, Joan, and William’s wife

Other huts and members of our host’s family.  The woman in the blue cape is holding a tiny baby goat.

other members of our host's family
other members of our host’s family

The traditional Maasai livelihood is to raise cattle and goats. They count wealth in cattle, paying for wives with cattle.  When the local grass is exhausted, they move on to greener pastures. The nomadic culture doesn’t mesh well with farming and formal education, which requires living in the same place for the school year.

Maasai cattle raising is reaching its limits. Parts of Tanzania look arid, like the American southwest.  Sometimes there isn’t enough water for all the cattle.  The government encourages the Maasai to sell their cattle, but they resist parting with their wealth.

Some Maasai, like our host, embrace education.  But we see many school-aged Maasai boys herding cattle and goats. Bridging cultures can be very hard.

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charley280

I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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