It was a very lonnnng day. We reached the Maasai Village near our hotel (Maasai Mara Sopa Lodge) high on the slopes of Oloolaimutia Hills. It was a good hour before sunset. The Chief’s son welcomed us along with the red-garbed Maasai men who regaled us with the traditional Maasai jump dance. Maasai men are known to be tall and fierce. Their high jumps (on straight legs in a narrow pose) speak of their stamina. But there’s really more to these rituals than meets the eye.

First off, there’s Emuratta. Upon reaching their teens, the Maasai boys are inducted to the first ritual of manhood. Unlike regular circumcisions, these young men aged 14 upwards go through the primitive circumcision ritual without flinching, without showing any pain. They graduate into being young warriors called morani after this ritualised ceremony. These morani then move to a manyatta, another stage of “manhood” where they are divorced from the tribe, and literally live by themselves garbed in black/dark clothing and wearing chalk marks on their faces. This encampment may last up to 10 years, during which time they should have slayed a lion before they finally graduate to full manhood. Tough, huh?

πŸ“Έ by Ernie Albano. (What a shot!)[[[[[[[[

It’s easy to simply visit a Maasai Village, watch these men perform the adumu or jumping dance, have a picture taken with these men garbed mostly in red (they think red scares off the lions), and fail to understand these important manhood rituals of Maasai men. The Maasai culture compels these morani or young warriors to kill a lion before coming home to the tribe and being eligible for marriage. They bring home with them the lion’s mane and perform the “final” manhood ritual of adumu as part of the Eunoto ceremony which can last for more than 10 days. The Eunoto includes the jump dance or adumu (the higher, the better, to impress the watching “would be brides”) and their first sip of alcohol. After the Eunoto, these young men proceed to shave off their heads as a sign that they’ve fully graduated as full-fledged Maasai warriors. They can then return to the tribe, pick their brides and start their families.

Another great photo by Ernie Albano.

Peals of laughter echoed when I tried jumping with these lion-slayers. On weaker knees, I joined a travel buddy visit one of the Maasai houses made of straw, sticks, grass, mud, cow dung and urine. The Maasai women build these loaf-shaped houses which we found dark inside with smoke billowing from a tiny kitchen. Moses, one of the Maasai men, led us inside and briefed us on Maasai life and culture. He tried teaching us some Maasai words by writing with a stick on his dark thigh. Then he proceeded to sell us some trinkets crafted by the Maasai women. πŸ˜‰

We trooped back to our hotel with a few trinkets and other souvenirs. On our way out of the village, I spotted one Maasai lad and imagined how he’d “suffer” through the emuratta and the manyatta. Would he kill another lion just so he can do the jump dance, marry and raise his own family? Days after this visit, we met a young lad – no facial paint – alone with a sad, forlorn face. I wonder too what was in his mind. πŸ˜”