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The Maasai Wedding - Part 1
Munir Virani — in East Africa Project    Share

The Maasai wedding - Part 1

By Munir Virani

Over the years of working on raptors in the Masai Mara National Reserve, I have gradually developed a wide network of friends who have played instrumental roles in ensuring that our research work runs smoothly and efficiently. From the senior warden in the Masai Mara to David, the rastafarian chef at one of the bush camps, I have been incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to interact with the Maasai people and get to know more about their culture.

The weekend of January 28-29 was extra special for my family and I. We had the honor of being invited to a Maasai traditional wedding at Siana Conservancy, near the village of Kishermoruak about 25 km from the Masai Mara gate. Ndaiya, our host is a charismatic young Maasai warrior and the son of the chief of the area. I met Ndaiya about three years ago when I had stopped on the side of the road with a group of students to look at a Dark Chanting Goshawk. Ndaiya carried all the characteristics of a warrioresque persona - tall, dark and handsome with the perfect branded toothpaste smile. Dressed in a radiant illuminating red-checkered cloth, shiny and colorful jewellery, and brandishing a spear, he came up rather briskly to me and said "you are the vulture man". At first, I didn't know what to do as I was rather taken aback. With impeccable English, he introduced himself and informed me about how he had helped with Hornbill research and subsequently went on to explain about the work he had been doing to increase awareness about the plight of vultures. I was in complete awe. We exchanged contacts and kept in touch quite regularly. Since that meeting, Ndaiya regularly invited me to his manyatta (Maasai homestead) every time I drove to the Mara, and I had the special opportunity to bring my colleagues and a host of various students to meet him and learn about Maasai culture.

It was in December last year when Ndaiya phoned to invite me to attend his brother's wedding. I felt very honored especially since the wedding weekend coincided with our 12th wedding anniversary. "Bring your family and the Waters (my friends David and Harsita) as well" said Ndaiya. We were all very excited to go but not knowing what to expect, further heightened our curiosity. So on Saturday afternoon, we left Nairobi at about 2pm and met the Waters at the Kenol gas station at Narok (the gateway to the Mara). This gas station at the heart of Maasailand has to rate as one of the top ten culinary experiences globally. The samosas are to die for. If you don't know what a samosa is, then I suggest that you have to come visit. The remaining 40 miles or so to Kishermoruak is a ride one never forgets. Without exaggerating, this short distance takes about two hours since the roads do not exist and the experience is analogous to driving along a lunar surface sitting on a wheelbarrow. We finally got to Ndaiya's village where we were greeted by a smiling group of young Maasai warriors. Kios, one of Ndaiya's cousins, presented my family with some rather extravagant bracelets. My two boys were over the moon since they were playing soccer with boys their age amidst a field of cattle and goats. David summed it up nicely "the language of sports does not need words".

The evening was spectacular with the sky turning a pastel pink as the sun went over the horizon. Gazelles, zebras and wildebeest went about grazing, wary of prowling predators as the cows with bells on herded the rest of the livestock into the fortified bomas. Periodic "whoooops" of hyeanas reminded us that we were still in a wilderness area. After a sumptuous meal, we went for a short drive in the dark where we saw spring hares and more wild ungulates. Finally we slept in a deep slumbered sleep and woke to the sounds of White-browed robin chats and some distant traditional singing and bells.

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