The Maasai of The Royal Migration Camp
We know the Maasai are Nilothic. We believe these pastoralists started moving south along the Great Rift Valley sometime in the 17th Century AD but what off the people that lived around the Ol Dupai Gorge in Serengeti on the slopes of the Ngorongoro Highlands and started to drift up along the Rift as far back as 30,000-40,000 years ago? Are they the same people, sharing the same genes, that came back to the same Endless Plains, as new people?
It’s universally believed that the peoples that moved north were stuck on the northern shores of Africa from where they travelled to Europe only to return as magnificently handsome and organized. These peoples known as the Bantu started to move down in a wave, through the Great Rift Valley and the coast to take a firm grip on Africa. The Bantu wave continued into southern Africa around 1200 years ago with their Nguni cattle. From this sprang the Xhosa and the Zulu to name a few. The Bantu till date, from the north to the south, from the east to the west of Africa, stand united by tradition and a common language base. The Maasai are a part of this wave who chose to stay on in Sudan, on the banks of the Nile. They would finally be known as Nilotic People. The Maasai chose to leave the security of the Nile only around the 1700’s.
The amazingly dark, tall and handsome, not to mention blissfully lost in the belief that all cattle in the world belonged to them, Maasai took over the savannah from Mt Kenya down to the Maswa Plains. Their lands would come to be known as ‘Maasai Lands’. They were showered by a complicated pattern of rainfall spread across the year. Their lands included highlands, volcanoes, hills, endless grass plains, riverine forests, permanent and seasonal rivers and all that parcel of land that enveloped the great migrating herds. And they thrived in open grasslands away from the curse of the fly.
Fundamentally the Maasai are conservationists. They do not believe in killing wild animals and feed mainly on cattle produce. They readily take out any predator that threatens livestock. The killing of a cattlelifter lion has been ingrained into their blood to such an extent that lion manes became the sign of manhood, of power and fame. They would be worn by warriors as a sign of their bravery (this custom has eroded away with constantconservation efforts by the NCAA). Their belief that all the cattle were given to them by Lengai ensured that they remained in constant conflict with their neighbours. Soon they started to make their presence felt upon other tribes set all along the long and extended borders of Maasailands. Some tribes fought back whilst others simply capitulated.
From these amazing people sprung forth our own Maasai, Leillah and Sarah.
Leillah Ally Kea & Ally Kea Ally
Leillah Ally Kea
It was the end of the short rains, the Morani had started moving their cattle to Naibartat onwards to the Ndutu marshes. Though their cattle were spread far and wide, as this was traditional Maasai country the people of Siwandeti were intoxicated and relaxed as they swayed to the rhythmic drums that heralded the coming of good news. The clan of Laiza sang and danced and their celebrations were heard far and wide as they summoned all to come and rejoice in the birth of a girl. The chief held her high and said, ‘She will be called Matarimo.’ The medicine man threw his bones and exclaimed in delight, ‘She will bring great wealth to the tribe’. The proud family slaughtered a cow and the feast was on.
Meanwhile Francis the respected elder of the Sway clan of the Chagga people threw his own party in celebration of a beautiful daughter in Kilimanjaro. It was quite apparent that the young girl would have to divide her time between Kilimanjaro and her village. Both the tribes, Chagga and Maasai are an indigenous ethnic group in Africa, who believe that tradition comes before education and both traditions demanded that the young girl go through the many rituals of her society. Luckily the powerful sangoma, the medicine man agreed with them. She started school at Siwandeti and come rain or shine, would walk seven kilometers to school. A few elders shook their head in disapproval every time they saw her scampering to school, joy writ on her face. They said she should grow up as the child of the community and do what other girls did traditionally. The sangoma stood firm, ‘she would grow up and be the critical link between the new and old world. She should go to school.’ And she did.
The Chagga are a bantu speaking people living on the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro. They are one of the most wealthy, respected and organized clans in Tanzania and Chagga lands and cultivation methods support a large population of the country. They practice an intensive irrigated agriculture on terraced fields, keeping the fields under permanent cultivation through the use of animal manure as fertilizer. Their staple crop used to bemillet and plantainsbut since the 1920s coffee has become a major cash crop. Chagga society follows patrilineal rules of descent and inheritance. Males are grouped in age sets similar to those of the Maasai. Traditionally too the Chagga were close to the Maasai supplying them the iron used in making weapons. Matarimo grew up absorbing both traditions and understanding their ways.
It was at school that Matarimo met the man of her life who swept her off her feet. Ally Kea Ally would take her for a date to the nearby Chai store where he had established a line of credit. They were soon happily in love. Ally Kea was a guide and became one of the most reputed ground handlers in the country. Today he runs a multimillion-dollar empire. He often says that it would never have been possible without his wife Leillah alias Matarimo who stood like a rock besides him on their difficult journey to success. Both Ally Kea and Leillah Kea are the founding fathers of the Royal Migration Camp and devote a large part of their time and energy on supporting their community.
Sarah Moses Kaiose
Sarah is a true blue Maasai. She was bought up and raised in the Ngorongoro highlands in and around Endulen. Her growing up years saw her walking the bush with her Maasai escorts as they took their cattle up to the Salei Plains and the Gol Mountains running in the Il Karien Gorge as the vultures roosted nearby. With many years of experience and a solid background in business management and customer service, she was a natural choice to head operations at the Royal Migration Camp. She speaks fluent Maasai, Swahili and English, knows all the chiefs and the officials, is related in some way or the other to the far flung Maasai families of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. She is the proverbial link between the Camp, the NCAA and a thousands of year old community.