THE TROOP OF MAASAI MEN in red are clearly impressive as they shout and jump in time to a throaty tune, played on an instrument fashioned from the horn of a kudu, a local variety of antelope. This traditional dance has been performed for generations at weddings or during the passage into manhood.
But today, these ceremonies are mostly for the benefit of safari-bound tourists who part with precious dollars for a peek at Maasai traditions: dances, village tours, bushwalks and handicrafts. And in these days of drought and massive cattle die-offs, the nomadic pastoralists will most certainly take what they can get.
It’s an odd place for the Maasai to be, considering they’re more often at odds with Kenya’s safari industry, which jealously guards its pristine game lands against the incursions of hungry cattle. But as drought ravages the country, herders here say they have no choice but to risk fines, arrest and the occasional beating as they drive their cows to the best remaining grazing area: the protected wildlife reserve.