The Short Story
I came to Kenya on 18 October 2000. For the first time in my life I've reached
the black continent. I heard a lot of bad things about Africa and very few good
ones. During my stay of appx. 4 years I found myself to disapprove most of the
bad things and to find out a lot of good ones. In this story I would like to
concentrate on a specific issue of my journey to which I dedicated most of
First I had travelled around Kenya coast line and then
I went to Tanzania. By recommendation from a friend I visited mixed-tribe
village with Masai people called Mijingo.
I stayed there with a family, visited houses of Masai inside the village and
outside as well. Also visited manyattas(traditional houses) of Manati
tribe. Eating traditional african food and trying Masai food as blood with
This was my first experience of living with local traditional people. I found
no problems. People were friendly and helpful. Therefore after I came back to
Kenya I had decided to visit Samburu tribe.
Samburu Tribe, Kenya
Coming back to Kenya I went to Samburu District and had an exclusive journey
of several months during which I visited all Samburu towns: Maralal, Kisima,
Wamba, Archer's Post. Made 35km trek to Ngilai village. Slept in traditional
Samburu houses made of cow's dung, mud and sticks. Visited Lerata A,
Lerata B, Ledero, Lesosio villages. Made another 35km trek from Archer's Post
to Ndonyo Wasin sub-location. Visited Kibartare and Learata villages. Learata
village is the last one towards mountains and one can find in this two villages
last families of Ndorobo tribe. Another trek and I got the glory of becoming
the First White to visit Lesisai village. Yep, I didn't mistype anything. This
village had been never visited by a white man and I'm talking about 21st
I had briefly visited many other Samburu small towns and villages not to be
mentioned here though.
Samburu Way of living
The big majority of Samburus living in the remote villages are walking in
their traditional, similar to Masai type of clothes. Sixty percent carry with
them weapons, mostly AK-47, sometimes G-3, less M-16. In remote villages
government represented by chiefs, chiefs assistants and 1-2 Kenya Wildlife
Service officers. No any mode of communication with outside world, besides
Radio Call from KWS. No police, no prisons, in many villages no shops. Safety
level is good and adequate. People know how to handle guns. Didn't feel any
danger of violence, thief or malice intentions. People were either very
friendly, friendly or neutral. In some villages one can pick up radio of Kenya
Broadcast on AM waves. Health facilities are unavailable. If one get's sick he
need to be carried, in some cases for 40+km to the nearest town. In Ngilai
village there is a small health center with free drugs by initiative of a
Family and marriage
Samburu are allowed to have several wives. The number of wives will depend
on the amount of cows of the owner. For each wife one would pay around 10 cows
depending on how much the family of the bride is going to ask. If the lady
went to school, especially if she reached secondary level of education the
husband will have to pay also an additional amount of money (as if to cover
parent's expenses for her education).
The girls can be married as soon as they reach puberty. The decision of
whether specific girl had reached puberty decided by her look and her breast
structure. Mostly girls can be married starting from the age of 12.
Practically I never seen such a young wife though. This happens due to the
fact that Samburu tolerate boyfriend/girlfriend relationships prior to
marriage. Thus Moran (circumcised boy-warrior) and circumcised lady can be together
half-hiddenly. They are allowed to be known as boyfriend/girlfriend and the
girl will carry 'BUSI' which will show that she has a boyfriend. They aren't
allowed to be together openly during daytime.
They will meet at night and during traditional dances. They are allowed to
have sex, but the girl must not become pregnant. If this happens, the
Moran will have to pay a fine of two cows to the parents of the
lady or alternatively marry her.
During marriage ceremony the parents of the girl will not be given all the
dowry. A big part of the dowry will go to her uncles and other relatives.
A wife must perform all the duties given her by husband as well as all
household activities, child caring, fetching water and so on. A husband must
provide food for her and the children. In case wife doesn't want to perform
according to her husband words she may be beaten. She will not be beaten
cruelly though. In rare instances wife can be beaten by Wazee old men of
the village. During my few months stay I had never seen a woman being beaten.
Importance of circumcise and age groups.
Boys will be circumcised by the age of 13. Their foreskin will be cut and they
will have to wander in the bush for around a month eating mostly small prey,
birds and wild plants.
Boy is called Lad. Once the boy is circumcised he will be called
Moran. After taking a wife he will become young Mzee. By the age of 40+
he will become Mzee.
A girl will be circumcised by the age of 12. Only circumcised lady is allowed
to be married.
Samburu has a custom that one must interact with his own age group. Another
law is that Moran must not walk or be at any place alone. He should
always be with his friends from his age group. No sexual relationship is
allowed between Moran and uncircumcised lady.
Currently the government of Kenya outlawed FGM (Female Genital Mutilation),
but this law is unapplicable to Samburu tribe (especially in the remote
because of the lack of law enforcement agencies in place and long-time
traditional believes and tabus, some of them outlined above.
Samburu drink a lot of milk tea. They eat ugali with beans, sometimes
meat. They drink a lot of milk. Sometimes they drink cow's blood mixed with
milk (they call it jokingly Samburu Coca-Cola. On rare occasions they
will cook blood of cows.
Usually they eat 3 meals per day. Sometimes they survive on 2 meals a day and
during bad times on one meal. I found a little bit common following diet: Tea
with milk around 7am, ugali with beans around 1pm and 1 liter of milk
Samburu and Jews
Samburu have a following legend of their tribe creation.
[Canaan - the land of Israel.
Jacob had 12 sons. 1 son named Joseph was a dreamer. The brothers didn't like
him and sold him to be slave.
Musa (Moshe) was told by God to take jews to Israel. Some people were going to
Israel and some jews decided to follow river because they didn't believe that
they and their cattle are going to survive in the desert.
Egyptians followed them and killed many of them. The blood was flowing like a
All their cattle was taken by Egyptians.
The survivors became known as Masai and Samburu as they entered
Sudan-Ethiopia and later on Kenya-Tanzania.]
One can see that the way Samburus look they aren't similar to native african
tribes. Many people presume that jews were dark in the past and looked
exactly as today's Samburu.
After completing my visit of Samburu I went out of Kenya and visited Zambia,
Malawi and Botswana.
Coming back to Kenya I visited other, less known Kenyan tribes:
1. Gabbra - allocated around North Horr. They are known for very strict
community rules and the use of camels instead of cows. One can see a photo of
Gabbra girl in 'The Photos' section thus realizing that the girl has got
semitic features. I would bet she looks the same way Jews used to look like in the
2. Borano - allocated in and around Sololo and Moyale towns and vast area
in-between. The big part of their tribe is living in Ethiopia.
3. El-molo - allocated near Loiyangalai which is a small town near lake
Turkana. They are considered as the smallest tribe of Kenya. They aren't
actually a tribe, but rather a community.
4. Dassanech (Galeb) - This tribe is living in *very* remote allocation called
Illeret. This tribe is divided, 20% living in Kenya while 80% in Ethiopia.
They are famous for their hm.. how could I better say it, - erotic
After Kenya I visited Tanzania. Went up to lake Eyasi in order to live with
Hadzabei tribe. This tribe and Sandawe tribe are the only tribes in Eastern
Africa speaking 'click-language'. Sandawe became mostly civilized whereby
Hadzabei are still hunting and gathering the way their fathers did many
This was my second time in Tanzania and I had also visited mostly unknown
Manati tribe. This tribe is scattered around Tanzania. I had stayed with them
in Mbeya province and again I found them near to lake Eyasi, across Tanzania.
The members of this tribe are mostly very poor and uneducated, just trying to
survive on day-by-day basis.
After Tanzania I visited Uganda. They call it Pearl of Afrika. I had
visited 90% of all Ugandan towns during my 3 month stay there. I had stayed
together with Jie tribe in Nakapelimoru village near Kotido. I had visited
many locations in Karamoja area. There is one big tribe called Karimojong in
Uganda, Turkana in Kenya and Bume in Ethiopia. This tribe considered to be
less civilized and more aggressive then Samburu, Masai for example.
Afterwards I went to Ethiopia. Very unusual country, very different from all
I had visited Addis-Abeba region, Dire Dawa and Harar up to Jijiga (capital of
Somalia region in Ethiopia), Asayta region where one can find Afar tribe,
South Omo Zone where one can visit around 10 oldest traditional tribes on
Earth in relatively compact location.
Here I'm talking about bigger part of Dassanech (Galeb) tribe. They stay near
Omo river at/around Omorate town.
Hamer tribe - with the most original ladies outfits I had ever seen in Africa.
They are mostly nice people to be with and helpful. Allocated in/around Turmi
and Dimeka town-villages.
Surma, Mursi - have the reputation of cruel, dangerous and aggressive people.
Didn't go to their places, but could see them coming to Jinka town during
Erbore - a small tribe allocated in/around Erbore village.
In order to visit these tribes one need to go Addis-Abeba->Wolayta->Arba
Minch->Jinka. Reachable by 1-2 days by private car or 2-3 days by buses.
Jinka is the only town with adequate accommodations and facilities in that area.
This project of education travelling was performed both for my own experience
and as a private pre-research overview tour of traditional tribes and general
life of people in Eastern Africa.
I had completed this project on a very small budget, mainly because I have
maintained no-interruption policy. Once I come to a village I socialize with
people. I would ask them to accept me as a member of their tribe and not to
see in me a tourist. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes not. According to my
no-interruption policy I didn't give them presents nor money, neither I was
carrying my own food. I didn't want to change or affect their livehood in any
way, other then the way they would be affected would their relative visit
My ultimate goal was to become a member of their tribe.
I was eating the same food, drinking the same water, wearing the same clothes
and behaving the same way.
I managed to overcome all the hardships of such travel and miraculously I never
got sick as a reason of drinking local unboiled water.
I'm not a student for Social, Anthropology or Ethnography studies,
but I would like to enroll. I guess I gathered some experience 'the right way'
and I would happy to work with established researchers in these fields. If
anyone would like to sponsor me for a research or to hire me as a guide for
any sort of expedition I would be happy to consider such an option.