Maasai are an indigenous group of people in Tanzania and southern Kenya. During my first visit to Tanzania, I was fortunate enough to stay at a camp on Maasai land that employed some Maasai as guides and I got to know a couple of them fairly well. During a twelve kilometer hike from the camp to the Olduvai Gorge museum, I noticed a number of Maasai walking towards the same area – they were heading to a ceremony known as Eunoto, a senior warrior’s initiation. Of course, I was very interested in checking something like this out but Lazarro Lekoyo, a Maasai guide I was hiking with, suggested that my attendance might not be appropriate. A little persistence on my part paid off – while taking a midday break, Lazarro wandered off to the village hosting the ceremony and received permission for me to attend, although my presence wasn’t welcome until a little later in the day. It turned out to be quite an experience. There were at least two hundred Maasai in attendance and I had free run of the place (a typical Maasai village on the plains). Being my first experience at something like this, I have to admit to being a little intimidated – bright and hot sun, dust and flies everywhere, a couple hundred Maasai, one white westerner (me), people singing, people marching, people dancing, and people yelling (in a good way). Looking back, I missed so many great photo opportunities. I look forward to experiencing it again.
Since then I’ve come to know Lazarro fairly well. He lives in a typical Maasai village a couple of miles above the Ngorongoro Crater rim road. I meet him on each trip to Tanzania, whether in Arusha, where he earned his diploma at a private high school (this is very unusual for Maasai), Karatu – not far from his home in the Ngorongoro highlands, or his village about five kilometers above the crater rim road. His family is very gracious in inviting me to their village and home. Many of the Tanzania safari tour operators will usher visitors to a Maasai village along a main thoroughfare that caters to the many tourists that visit the area. I’m grateful and feel privileged to have had such an authentic experience.