If you’ve been to Tanzania or Kenya on your travels, you’ll be aware of the Maasai Tribe. The Maasai are a tribe of people who live in the wilderness parts of Tanzania and Kenya (and also in the cities) and a lot of them live in mud and straw huts in the countryside. While on tour with Shadows of Africa (highly recommended), we were able to visit a Maasai Tribe at a village known as Rabatt. I’m not sure of the spelling to be honest and can’t find it referenced online, but “Rabatt” is the name the leader of this tribe told us the village was called, you can hear him say this on the first video below.
Getting to Rabatt
Our driver, Timo (an animal and Tanzania culture expert) drove us to Rabatt, which is somewhere between Lake Manyara National Park and Arusha. It’s off to the right hand side of the road as you’re heading to Arusha, and while the village/settlement is known as Rabatt, the village can move. This depends on the grass and ground quality so the Maasai tribe’s cattle can graze. If you’re on a safari in Tanzania or Kenya, ask your driver if you can visit a Maasai Village. There are lots of them about.
What is a Maasai Village?
It is a territorial village consisting of Maasai Tribe members. They live their entire lives within the village and nearby area, they are self sufficient. They have everything they need. They are a community. The Maasai people have their own routines, dances, lifestyle and even their own flag, which I’ve pasted below for you.
How can you visit a Maasai Village?
It’s very easy these days and many are accessible. If you’re on a Safari Tour then just ask your driver to include a visit to a Maasai Village as part of your itinerary (if it’s not already). Not all Maasai Villages welcome visitors, but don’t worry – your guide will know. You don’t go in alone – you go with your guide. Some also allow you to stay over for a really authentic experience. One of the lodges we stayed at (Osupuko) had a load of Maasai Tribe members welcoming us and dancing for us!
What happens when you visit a Maasai Village?
Firstly you will be met and greeted by the leader of the village. Depending on the education level of the leader, he may or may not speak good English. The leader of Rabatt introduced himself as Maracas and his English was good.
This Maasai Village must be a common one for tourists to visit as a few members also spoke some English. But don’t expect them to speak English. Here are the four parts to our visit, yours may vary, of course:
1. The Welcome Song
The welcome song is an essential part of your visit. On arrival the leader will ask you to watch a traditional song and dance. You will be invited to join in. Everyone wears traditional Maasai clothes. Join in with them, you’re made to feel welcome. The ladies dance with flapping circles round their necks and the guys hold sticks and jump high.
2. The Tour
You will be given a brief tour of the village – they walk you round and show you what it is all about. You’ll see the cattle field in the middle and the huts. You’ll be explained a bit about the Maasai Culture and you can ask questions about them. The guys have lots of wives and it is the job of the first wife to find the man his second wife, and so on. The women build the huts while the men look after the cattle and hunt.
3. Inside a Maasai Hut
Get your insect sprays at the ready – the flies are coming!! These Maasai Huts are built from a mixture of mud and cow shit. They mix it all in together and use sticks in between to keep it up. Then they put the roof on. The interior of these huts is surprisingly big.
You get taken inside and are surprised to find two bedrooms, a kitchen and a hall/lounge. They are big and sheltered. Though flies are everywhere.
For light and cooking, fires are lit inside the huts. The beds on mud have sheets on them and there is even a cabinet built of mud in the “kitchen” area.
For me the visit inside the mud hut was the highlight of my visit to the Maasai Village. Just to see their way of life and the actual place they live their entire lives.
4. The Souvenir Shop!
Yes don’t you worry – these Maasai Tribes are clever cookies and if there’s something in it for them then they’ll happily take it. They have a souvenir shop! It’s basically a piece of rug or carpet on the ground with a lot of handicrafts on them. They are all made by the Maasai and they sell them. You can pay in either US Dollars or Tanzanian Shillings.
Please note that this stuff is ridiculously overpriced. I don’t recommend buying any of it. We already took in a lunchbox of gifts to them and I would have considered buying a gift from them had they not been blatantly trying to rip you off. Seems these guys would rather lose a fiver than a thrutney bit! I’d rather give money to the orphanage we visited – Kibowa Orphanage.
Once the souvenir shop bit arrived, it was pretty much time to go. I enjoyed my visit to the Maasai Village as a Guest of the best safari company in Tanzania! Visiting a Maasai Village in Tanzania is something I’d recommend.
My Videos from Rabatt: Visiting a Maasai Village in Tanzania: