Why I regret visiting a Maasai Village in Tanzania

Maasai village regret tanzania

Why I regret visiting a Maasai Village in Tanzania

After spending the morning in Serengeti National Park we headed back to the gates and left the park. On our way to Ngorongoro Crater we stopped and visited a Maasai village. A village so far away from civilisation and the world we are so used to live and interact in.

Masai Village Tanzania

I was very much looking forward to visiting a village like this, experiencing how they live and what is important to them. Getting to know their lifestyle and the people itself.

I didn’t expect this visit to turn out completely different and that it would even lead to regretting my visit. This was quite an interesting and also opinion changing experience.

Prepare to take some cash and get asked for a lot of money. A 10 USD donation was required to visit the village and meet the nomads that live in the national parks.

Everyone got assigned to a member of the tribe and was invited to visit his or her house. They encouraged us to take as many pictures and videos and ask as many questions as possible.

Their houses are very narrow, so we had to almost crawl to get in. I was very impressed with what they are able to build with just wood and other – certainly limited – resources from mother nature. The floors in their houses are the same dusty ground as outside. Small chambers are used for sleeping.

Different customs

The Maasai that I was assigned to explained a bit about their environment and their culture. It was very interesting to hear him share this with us.

I haven’t even heard about most of what he shared with us and that’s why I’d like to share a few of the things I recall:

  • Every woman is entitled to have one man only. On the other hand, men are entitled to have several women.
  • The men stay in many houses whereas the women only stay in one house with the children.
  • Everyone in the community has specific tasks and things to look after.
  • In the morning they drink a mixture of animal blood and milk. (I’ve heard this is different from tribe to tribe.)
  • In the afternoon they eat meat. (also differs from tribe to tribe)
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When I left the small and narrow house I was forced to purchase something at a gift shop. The male and female Maasai stood there and put bracelets on my wrists and didn’t let me take them off.

Every family has one of those shops where they sell mostly bracelets and other jewellery. The shop that I had to visit was the family’s one that I had visited the house of.

Masai Village Gift shop Tanzania

I didn’t know I had to bring any more money besides the entrance fee, so I had left it in the van. I told the man that I would be giving him some more money once I was back at the van. The problem was that I didn’t ask about the price. (Huge mistake!)

On the way to the Maasai school, the Maasai started to ask me about the money again. I told him to come with me to the van after the visit and get the money then. He started with a random and very large number. I thought he was using the local currency, the Tanzanian Schilling as a reference, but I was about to find out more about that very soon.

Maasai school or another rip off?!

Visiting the local school startled me. I couldn’t find out why the school was situated outside the village, outside the fence. The school was just a little hut made of wood and no solid walls. At one end of the classroom was a board with a bunch of numbers and random words written on them. The dirty floor was just plain sand and dust. The children, certainly not older than a few years, sat on some branches and sang the numbers from 1 to 10 in English.

Masai School Tanzania

Masai School Tanzania

In the centre of the room was also a box for donations for the school. I looked in the faces of the young children. They didn’t seem too happy about being used to get money from the tourists that way. Ask yourself – would you?!

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I asked to take a picture with the kids as they were staring at me for quite a bit. So I got down on the floor to be at the same height as they were. Now I was able to look at their faces. Most of them had saliva and snot on their nose and mouth. I would have offered them a tissue, but I didn’t have a single one with me at the moment. I didn’t want to get too close either and maybe catch something so I tried to stay at a somewhat safe distance. (Yes, many diseases are transmitted my body fluids, and no, I’m not a hypochondriac and no I’m not implying that they were all sick, it was just a precaution that I took.)

The teacher who sat in the corner quietly pointed at the donation box and I was trying to get her to understand I didn’t have cash with me. She shrugged her shoulders and looked away.

Money, money and more money

Back at the car I pulled out a 20€ bill and handed it over the Maasai that had shown me around for the last ten minutes. I thought he would be happy about this – what I thought – quite generous donation, but he took the bill and looked at it in disbelieve. I couldn’t read his facial expression. Initially, I thought he didn’t recognise the Euro and so I told him that I didn’t have any more Tanzanian Schilling and just had a few more Euros in my pocket.

What happened next really disappointed me: He wanted more money. He asked for more money in a very rude way. I couldn’t believe it. I had already given them 10 USD to see the village now he asked for 70€ for the bracelets and more donation for the school. Still in shock about his behaviour I handed him another 20€ and closed the door of the van to end this conversation.

READ
Eye in eye with lions at Ngorongoro Crater National Park

I honestly wonder what they do with all the money they get from the tourists. There are no shops out here, the Maasai live with nature and have their own animals to get food and milk from. At least that’s what they claim to do and what they told us during our visit. I can’t really get my head around what I saw there.

Comments and thoughts

Writing this shortly after it happened I still can’t believe the rudeness of the Maasai and how it definitely changed my point of view about them. I had a totally different picture of them in mind and it seems like they have become slaves of the modern world and might think that money is the only way to go.

However, I do know that there are other (Maasai) tribes out there as well that live differently and I would love to meet some of them eventually.

I expected to see a tribe that lives far away from modern civilisation (and is not driven by money).

They may or may not be aware of the value of money, but I found it very saddening to see that modern world has reached them and “poisoned” them with the urge to possess money. I am fully aware that they might need some money to buy certain things to survive or for their comfort, however, I didn’t like how they treated me. Sure I know that they are looking for some way of making some money from tourists but the high amount of money they asked me and travel companions for seems out of reach.

I would have loved nothing more to really get to know them and interact with them. But I lost my interest on that day to ask more questions about them because of the way they asked for money in such way(s). I’m not saying in lost complete interests in them but I was disappointed on that day.

Masai Village Tanzania

Have you had any similar encounters? Please share them with me below!

Keep on travelling,

Viki

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176 Comments

  • What!?!? Sounds like such a weird experience. I’m sad to hear this…and I would have never thought that way… it’s sad that they open up to tourists just become a slave to money. And, the money you gave them will probably not be used to invest into the school of their children which is so sad. Instead, probably the men will buy alcohol or do something else with it. Such a shame. Hope this will change one day…

    • It was so weird. And upsetting and not anything I would have expected it to be. I hope not all villages do the same scamming with the tourists.
      I’d hope that they would invest it in the school or the kids, but I’m not sure if there really is a way to find out….

      • Dear Viki
        It is true that, you have experienced such rude and bad conditions in Maasae land as you wrote but what i can tell you is, it is not a must for you to buy such products and even to give out money to those who were begging for.
        Once you get there, you have to know that you are going to interact with a community that has nothing to offer to you rather than their generousness and some products for them to earn money but since you have a limited budget, you can opt to buy few.
        Before you buy anything, please ask the price and if you are able then go on and not you take it before asking its price.

      • Dear Viki,
        I am from Tanzania and have Maasai blood from Masai Mara. I have not lived in a Maasai village though but can tell you that what you experienced is not the general behaviour of the Maasai.
        Some Maasai uave been corrupted by Tourists who want to buy their jewellery, pay to take pictures, buy their beaded utensils… and tje list goes on… so some few have been corrupted.
        It goes both ways. However always ask for do’s and dont’s from your tour guide and make it very clear what you would like to purchase or if you would like to make a donation to a school, hospital or family. Donations are not compulsory though.

        Pity your experience was one of regret but i do hope you come back again and like many others,have a pleasurable experience worth writing about.

    • I spent a month in Tanzania and did one of these Masai village visits. I agree. It was a sideshow. I felt like I was at a fairgrounds being pimped for money. Immediately they put a 3 dollar piece of fabric over your shoulders and later want to sell it to you for $30. I brought 185 soccer balls to Tanzania to give to people there. We gave them three balls as was our plan from the beginning and bought nothing except the entrance fee to the “show”. This was arranged by our safari driver. He had our back. Choose your company wisely. Exceptional safaris was our company. I felt ill watching the Masai sell their culture with their song and dance routine. I feel the combination of tourism and poverty has created a roadside “Wild West” show. Yuck.

      • Just read your article. So sorry you have had to endure so many harsh criticisms for just sharing your experience and feelings. Do they realize most of them are just doing the exact same thing? You reported negatively on your experience and they have reported negatively on theirs – reading your blog. How difficult it is for us humans to see our own hypocrisy!

        I went to Tanzania last summer for a month with a team of teenagers doing missionary work. We had a small amount of interaction with the Maasai that came to our base, all very friendly. Our best experience with them was visiting a local church where many of the members were Maasai tribal people. As they are known for their jumping, it was no surprise to see it as part of the worship time at church. My teens had a grand time joining in, and the church members had just as much fun laughing at our attempts to do it the same way. It was the kind of experience I imagine you would love! There is a certain expectation of “tourist” interaction at a place like where you went, but rudeness and high pressure tactics to get money is understandably disappointing. I have bartered in many markets around the world, and you do have to be savvy to avoid paying hyper inflated prices, fortunately, most of the time I can keep a good rapport by letting them know I am a missionary not a tourist (true!) and by agreeing with them that a particular product is worthy of a price they are asking, but that it’s just not worth that much to ME on my small budget. Sometimes they come down to a price I find worth it, and sometimes I just bid them a nice day and move on. I did however, have a really bad experience once in Nairobi at a market. The men at the entrance area are actually “brokers” who will walk around with you to “get you a good price” (NOT!). I was friendly with them and politely declined their help, but they were so pushy, I actually couldn’t even shop! It was like taking your child to a petting zoo and having food to give the goats and they are so on top of you, you can’t even move and almost get knocked down. They would keep talking and almost block you from each area. I finally threatened to take my whole team and leave the area and the vendors finally shooed them away. They were still a problem for some of my team. I announced that I would not do business with any men in the market, only the women. I finally got them to stop following me that way and they went to prey on others. It was actually past pushy and rude and bordering on abusive. Every other Kenyan I met was friendly and polite. I also found some of the salesmen in Cairo to be pushy as well, I frequently had to intercede between a salesman and a 14 or 15 year old team member who was ill equipped to handle this type of high pressure sales.

        This type of behavior happens in the west as well, pushy people often get what they want from those who just want to avoid conflict. As a strong willed person, I refuse to reward undesirable behavior, it just causes it to increase!

    • its not true i have been to Tanzania so many time, i am from Tanzania and current live in Australia, i visited Maasai Boma more than 100 in my life time, what you have to under stand is that is their life and their not their for show off, even in America, Europe and Australia their people asking for money do not take it negative when people asking you for money its even good with Masai they do not ask money for drugs like what people do in western society. and just because you visit one Maasai Boma and meet 10 people do not judge and conclude that are all. while there is abour 1m population of Maasai in Tanzania.

      • I agree Kennedy: This must be the most hideous piece of self indulgent meaness and nastiness I have even read. The “poor me I’m being robbed by the poorest people on earth !!!, certainly not worthy of reading any further from this irrationally blinkered and rather disturbed individual there is no excuse whatsoever. This short piece says more about the person writing than it could ever about the wonderful Maasai people. Slaves to money?!!!! what would she know?, they have recently overcome the worst droughts in history, animals have all died there is little food growing and she’s worried about 70$!. What does she think they secretly live in a palace?.
        Is she aware of the colonial history here?, that might been important to understand even a fraction of their plight. The Maasai were marched off their rich fertile lands at gunpoint 100 years ago by European soldiers, to hand over to the wealthy British! who simply stole everything from them, their entire world!!.. then dumped in these dry dusty landscapes so that wealthy europeans can flourish in their lands, and holiday makers can peer at their private homes and worn out schools, be mocked and degraded further!. How much would you charge for your privacy to be invaded?.
        Snot! on their noses you say, oh so yours runs with what?. Catching something nasty illness, unbelievable nonsense, pure fantasy, which can only harm these poor defenseless people, this is pure ignorance speaking, it is offensive and shameful to me too as a British person, reading this I am appalled at your arrogance. So yes you went to school and got an education, look how you use it!! .

        I live and work with Maasai people every day, I have a farm and Maasai family members, never ever have I encountered anything like what this person described. It is insulting and rude to the extreme. Maasai are proud and highly intelligent people who work very hard to get each meal in their bellies,,, stick to your own money worshiping kind in future, if all you are capable of is doing is looking down on others, and feel secure in the feeling that you are better!!.

  • I’m so sorry this was your experience with the Masai. I think this may be the difference between volunteering and voluntouring. I encourage you to commit to a month or 2 in one place, living, eating, sleeping and working with a local community. You will be able to build on your experience and learn more.

    Check out my blog http://www.volunteertherealuganda.wordpress.com and our website http://www.volunteertherealuganda.com. We’ve been sourcing international volunteers for community based organizations since 2005. Perhaps you were looking for a cultural exchange experience. My hope is that we can help you have a deeper experience in future.

    All my best.

    • Dear Leslie,

      thank you for your comment and information you shared. I agree with you that a rather short visit cannot be compared with living with the local communities for an extended amount of time. I will look into your website and who knows maybe I’ll volunteer in Africa next year!
      All best to you too

  • Das deckt sich so ziemlich mit meinen Erfahrungen – obwohl mein letzter Besuch bei den Masai schon Jahre her ist. Der einzige Grund, warum sie ihre Dörfer für Touristen öffnen ist das Geld. Das ist auf der einen Seite völlig verständlich – andere Einnahmequellen finden sich in der Einsamkeit nur schwer und warum sonst sollten sie täglich Busladungen von Touristen in jeden Winkel des Dorfes blicken lassen und jedem zeigen, wie “fernab der Zivilisation” sie leben. Auf der anderen Seite ist die Gier nach Geld unendlich. Es ist auch fast unmöglich für die Masai, den Wert des Geldes für Touristen einzuschätzen. Da gibt ein Einzelner manchmal so viel “Tipp”, wie ein Arbeiter im Monat verdient. Natürlich hat der Tourist es nur gut gemeint, denn er ist von der Armut erschüttert. Auf der anderen Seite denkt der Masai – super, leicht verdientes Geld, und dem Touristen tut es ja nicht weh, wenn er so viel Trinkgeld geben kann. Und so entwickelt sich eine schier unaufhaltsame Spirale. Der Tourist will die Armut sehen, die Masai liefern – gegen Geld. Tatsächlich möchte ich behaupten, dass viele der Touristendörfer zum Teil nicht mehr traditionell bewohnt sind und viele Masai längst in Dörfern mit etwas mehr Infrastruktur leben. So ist es beispielsweise ein normales Bild, die Masai-Hirten in der Savanne mit dem Handy telefonieren zu sehen. Im übrigen verdienen die Stämme meist nicht nur an Dorf-Eintritt und Trinkgeld, sondern auch an den Eintritten für die Tierreservate etc. Ich habe diese organisierten “Dorf-Besuche” in Afrika nie gemocht und versucht, sie weitgehend zu vermeiden. Denn was bleibt ist ein schaler Nachgeschmack…

    • Das Gefühl hatte ich auch, dass die Masai keinen Bezug zu Geld haben und wie viel so ein Scheinchen wert ist.
      Als wir dorthin fuhren dachte ich schon, dass sie mit den Eintrittsgeldern gut leben könnten. Aber dass es dann so eine dreiste Abzocke wird war mir nicht klar. Bei der zweiten Safari in Kenia habe ich mich dann gegen einen Besuch eines Stammes gewehrt – das wäre wieder komplett gleich gewesen.
      Schade eigentlich, denn so bleibt mir der Besuch als mühsam und nicht in besonders guter Erinnerung.

  • I think your post is very rude. Yes the Masai was also rude and greedy but that doesn’t mean you can talk about them like that.
    You were allowed to visit their village and then were disgusted by their culture. Just because it’s different than yours. That’s so close minded.
    You don’t have to like what they do or what they look or smell like but please express yourself more polite.

    Also you can’t blame them to want money because thats how the world is. Maybe they’re buying food or some animals or they need the money to buy materials
    to build their jewellery etc.

    • I did never say that I didn’t like their culture, I didn’t like they way I was treated and that is very different from not liking a culture.
      And I don’t blame them for asking for money, as already said I didn’t like the way I was asked for it and that I was asked so often.

    • I agree with everything you said Thao!

      Viki, my daughter studied abroad in Uganda for a year of College. While there the university scheduled trips to other countries, the Serengeti, Tanzania, Kilimanjaro, and lived with the Maasai in their compound, the were assigned a Maasai mama. She was to feed them and teach them about life there. My daughter gave them money for this and the lovely jewelry they make, which were great mementos.

      The cost of this was not any different than history museums and art museums, etc. in Europe, Asia, Canada, South America and USA that I have been to. They are charging so much for us to see our world history. The gift shops at these places are priced for a prince of Qatar! You make me ill not valuing their culture as much as these other places.

      Starting with a 1904 treaty, and followed by another in 1911, Maasai lands in Kenya were reduced by 60 percent when the British evicted them to make room for settler ranches, subsequently confining them to present-day Kajiado and Narok districts. Maasai in Tanganyika (now mainland Tanzania) were displaced from the fertile lands between Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro, and most of the fertile highlands near Ngorongoro in the 1940s. More land was taken to create wildlife reserves and national parks: Amboseli National Park, Nairobi National Park, Maasai Mara, Samburu National Reserve, Lake Nakuru National Park and Tsavo in Kenya; and Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tarangire and Serengeti National Park in what is now Tanzania.

      Maasai are pastoralist and have resisted the urging of the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. They have demanded grazing rights to many of the national parks in both countries.

      The Maasai people stood against slavery and lived alongside most wild animals with an aversion to eating game and birds. Maasai land now has East Africa’s finest game areas. Maasai society never condoned traffic of human beings, and outsiders looking for people to enslave avoided the Maasai. They raise cattle and goats for food. Unlike the wild game hunters they only kill lions if they are rogue and attacking their people or cattle.

      Essentially there are twelve geographic sectors of the tribe, each one having its own customs, appearance, leadership and dialects. These subdivisions are known as clans: the Keekonyokie, Damat, Purko, Wuasinkishu, Siria, Laitayiok, Loitai, Kisonko, Matapato, Dalalekutuk, Loodokolani and Kaputiei.

      Viki I think you are rude and lacking in Empathy. They by tin to make some vessels, jewelry. more recently, with their cattle dwindling, the Maasai have grown dependent on food such as sorghum, rice, potatoes and cabbage. Maintaining a traditional pastoral lifestyle has become increasingly difficult due to outside influences of the modern world. Garrett Hardin’s article, outlining the “tragedy of the commons”, as well as Melville Herskovits’ “cattle complex” helped to influence ecologists and policy makers about the harm Maasai pastoralists were causing to savannah rangelands. This concept was later proven false by anthropologists but is still deeply ingrained in the minds of ecologists and Tanzanian officials.

      This influenced British colonial policy makers in 1951 to remove all Maasai from the Serengeti National Park and relegate them to areas in and around the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The plan for the NCA was to put Maasai interests above all else, but this promise was never met.

      Park boundaries and land privatisation has continued to limit grazing area for the Maasai and have forced them to change considerably. What this privatiThis sation is: the government selling previously Maasai grazing lands to rich foreign developers for luxury resorts and luxury safari tours. This makes it difficult for the Maasai to compete.

      • I hear you Laura! Well said. No wonder they declared themselves indigenous at UN trying to protect their way of life.

      • Laura provides important context without which westerners can hardly understand what is taking place when they are made to visit these ‘cultural’ villages. I suggest Dorothy Hodgson’s books on the Maasai for those who are interested to learn more about Maasai culture and how it has changed in the encounter with British colonialism.

        Reading about the colonial history of Tanzania, one will realize that Viki was not simply ‘rude’, but rather had a colonial perspective through which she looked at the Maasai and the kind of expectations she brought to the village. So, the first important step for anyone interested in Maasai and their culture is to decolonize your own views and perspectives about Africa, Maasai, etc.

      • Laura :)… Well done lady 🙂

        Hate to see “civilized” and “educated” westerners preaching about others asking for money while their entire history is about slavery and stealing from other nations all resources so that they can enjoy in their “civilized” world. They are naming them “money driven”. So ironic. All people are money driven, especially the western world. Would love to go to the museum, theater, cinema or Buckingham palace without paying the entrance fee. And in the end, in that same British museum are stolen treasures from Africa and India 🙂 :)… So f***** funny. UK, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal (all civilized world) still so much gold, land, oil, people-slaves, and diamonds from Africa. Even today this is happening in a different way… Africa is so rich in natural resources that can be the richest part of the world but the west is not allowing the same. That’s why wars are created by “civilized”, education is degraded with a purpose to easier control the population and fake religion is in place to give peoples of African book (Bible) and in return taking from them gold, land, freedom… Africa is poor because of white greediness and the “civilized” robbers. They have to fu****g charge you since you have stolen everything from them.

        Kindest regards to the beautiful people of Africa, from Serbia

      • Good reply Laura and Thao :)…

        Very arrogant and rude post regarding Maasai, and Africa in general.
        I hate to see “civilized” and “educated” westerners giving the opinion regarding something/somebody and they are responsible for that bad situation. This post/opinion is absolutely colonial oriented.
        “Civilized” world complain on Maasai to be “money driven”. Isn’t almost the whole world “money driven”? Especially “civilized” western world. Viki, you are not money driven? You don’t work for money? The Maasai guy asking 50 bucks? Let’s hang him. Yeah! Let’s do it in a “civilized” western way what they have been practicing for centuries. Let’s hang them and burn them alive!…
        Let’s identify “civilized”. UK, USA, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, France, Vatican… etc.
        Now… Problem with Maasai situation and Africa, in general, is that Africa is extremely rich with many natural resources. Oil, gold, diamonds, land, copper… and slaves of course. We have learn from “civilized” world about that “beautiful acts”. For centuries “civilized world” was enslaving and controlling African people, and they are doing it today as well. “Civilized” stealing their lands, natural resources, killing animals for fun, degrading education for easier control of the population, making them sick for controlling and reducing the number of African people. The Vatican is giving them fake religion and bible and for that Vatican is taking huge money, land, and gold from Africa. It is a “white” greedy system above Africa and their beautiful people. Steal everything, keep them sick, keep the uneducated, make them fight between themselves…

        You know what is the biggest irony?
        1. When you go to “civilized” museums, many exhibits are stolen from Africa or India and presented in the same museum. “Civilized” are charging money to people to see stolen history from other cultures and making themselves proud of that achievement. Proud of stealing someone’s culture and heritage and charging for that. Amazing marketing!!!
        2. Even today, African countries paying a huge amount of money to a “civilized” world as the racket. That cu** queen of England is possessing and robbing half of the world even today. What about Germany, what about France… Others… Still taking huge money from these poor people.

        You don’t want Maasai/African people to ask you for 50 bucks!? Good. Return all thing stolen from Africa and you in “civilized” world will be living in an f****** caves.
        The economy of the “civilized” world is running thanks to these stolen resources. Even today big corporations are using resources for free and people of Africa as a cheap slave so that your white ass can enjoy in commodity, Prada products, fancy houses, good medical support, education, fancy vacations, while these people are still living in houses made of cows faces and mud! They are happy with their tradition, land, and cows. How can that simple be? They don’t need anything yours, but you need theirs and you steal it.

        Also…
        – Maasai/Africans didn’t invent slavery. “Civilized” did it and they are practicing it even today.
        – Maasai/ Africans didn’t come to the rest of the world and take the land from people. “Civilized” doing it to African people, native American people… etc.
        – Maasai/Africans didn’t start wars all over the world. “Civilized” are doing it.
        – Maasai/Africans didn’t invent fascism and start both WWars and kill millions of people. Your “civilized” Germany did it. Genocide is in your blood. Not in theirs.
        – Maasai/Africans didn’t come to the rest of the world to kill rare animals for fun. “Civilized” are doing it.
        – Maasai/Africans didn’t drop the atomic bomb on Japan. “Civilized” did it.
        – Maasai/Africans didn’t cut hands of 10 million people. “Civilized” Belgium and King Leopold II was doing it…
        I dont want to continue more. There are a plenty and long list of injustice over the African people done by “superior and civilized white”. I am the so-called “white” but I am aware of historical facts.

        So, before you start complaining about how they are pushy and how they are asking for money, remember that you and your history did this to them to put them in this condition.
        Just look at your “beautiful” history and check who was your grandfather and how many children he killed in a gas chamber across Europe.

        Know quote:”Your acts define you”… Well, your history is saying a lot about who you are.

        Kindest regards to beautiful people of Africa
        Nenad

    • I agree with Thao.

      Please do not take this as an insult… but I just recommend you – as someone who lived in Tanzania for many years – that you are a “white blond tourist” (like me to all the new people I encountered before making friends) and Masaai are accustomed to see this kind in national parks and Zanzibar beaches spending incredible amounts of money on ridiculous things, and well, justify their request with the more basic human needs. In general, no it is not racism or not loving you, but a fact of cruel economic inequality in the world, and as a traveler, you should be able to understand and tolerate this, and respond kindly – even if you cannot digest it really.

      On the other hand… well, this article is not only rude, but also formulated in a very politically wrong manner.

    • I totally agree with this. Although I feel how being treated that way because of money feels, please don’t give money when you can’t. They might not understand but stand your ground. With that said, that is not a presentation of all Maasai people so maybe visit one more time and see if you’ll feel the same way about us.

      Much love.

      • Oh and maybe walk around with a citizen. We know when the sellers hike the prices and they know we won’t buy them when they do. I’m from Kenya though.

  • This sounds sadly familiar, we had a quite similar experience with the Maasai. (I’ve also written about it into our blog). Totally commercialised “visit” and it left a bitter taste for us, too. Disappointing.

    • I’m so sorry you had a rather similar experience! I wonder how many villages do the same. The impact of money is just too big. Not only on them or us. Many times money destroys things and/or people…

      • I just came back from Tanzania. We too were taken to a Maasai village. I actually felt sad that they had to put on a show for us. Even though they were asking some outrageous price for the trinkets we were very firm and refused to pay them. I felt bad because they looked poor but I did not ask to be taken to the village. We did not meet the the treatment you got but I can see where it could get aggressive. And yes the school ws a sham. I wish there was a better solution. Even the Maasai market in arusha was too high pressure sales. I can understand this is their living but you should be able to browse without the pressure of having to buy.

  • Interesting. We had a completely different experience visiting with a Maasai tribe. There was no donation to visit and while they did have necklaces, they never tried to sell them to us. There was definitely not a gift shop or any buildings outside of the acacia fence.

    Even when they came to perform at our dinner back at camp, there was not a single request for money.

    I wrote about our experience here: http://luxeadventuretraveler.com/maasai-tribe/

  • While I understand you experience was not what you expected, I feel your point is lost in the shameful display of judgment, negativity, and blatant insensitivity. You did not want to touch the children because you thought you were going to catch something? Really? Their homes were dirty and quite disgusting? Truth be told, heir customs are no stranger than the custom of visiting people in their native lands and complaining about how their way of life doesnt work for you. I am glad you regretted your visit and maybe next time you and your poor attitude will stay home instead of visiting people on their on land, sitting in their homes, photographing their children and then having the audacity to blast them (with photos of them and their children no less) on the internet. I’m sure their experience of you was no more pleasant than your experience of them.

  • Shame you had that experience. Your comment about the children was really lame though. Turns me off from your blog so I would never read another one of your posts.

    • Looking out for myself is nothing I’m ashamed of. I prefer getting such a lame comment from you than getting an infection. Truth to be told. If you don’t want to read anything here, you are free to go and never come back. This blog is about sharing experiences – the good and the bad. If you can’t handle the bad and just leave negativity, I ask you to leave and carry on with your life.

  • Edited: So… Where should I start? First, I have visited a Maasi tribe and had a similar experience, but my perspective was totally different. First off, it’s business to them. You may find it overbearing, but they allowed you into their homes and space as a tourist…not good will. The original donation may have covered one cost, but not others. They allowed you to see how they live life, etc. Also, anything they sale is their livelihood and you aren’t obligated to buy. You could have firmly said no or even bargained or bartered for what you wanted to purchase. It is acceptable. Also, the if they rely on tourism for income, recognize it’s only for a small part of the year. So the push for money during that season could be greater. Secondly, your writing comes off with almost a bigoted perspective. Yes they are a polygamous people, but in your visiting their homes did you dig deeper into their culture? Did you see what the money was for? Did you see that the men must take care of each wife they have? As for their homes, that you found dirty, appalling, and smelly, did you think about their limited resources and how they use those resources in ingenuous ways to even have shelter? Did you ask about the money and school to know they pool resources and send some off to school to come back and help the village? I do not know your nationality, but as an American who had traveled to placed with people of various cultures and socio economic levels, we must be careful of viewing others through a “wrong” lens because they are different. And I won’t even touch your comments towards the children… Not cool and stanly insulting/wrong. Your perspective, which you are entitled to, was so rooted in colonialism and imperialistic style thinking it saddens me. Lastly, I don’t write to criticize you, but I do write to challenge your thinking and perspective.

    • I do understand that money is needed and no doubt to that. I simply didn’t like how I was treated there and asked for money over and over again. Because of that I lost interest on that day asking more questions about the tribe and what the money was needed for. Imagine that for a second being asked for ridiculous amounts of money every few minutes in a demanding and disrespectful way.

      It was surly not my intention to come across in the way you mentioned.
      I do respect their culture and customs and again I just wanted to show what my experience was.

  • “I didn’t want to get too close and maybe catch something so I tried to stay at a somewhat safe distance.” – your crassness is both disrespectful and disappointing.

    Instead of being filled with gratitude for small villagers taking you in and embracing you, you are filled with negative things to say about the Masai.

    It is clear that you have zero respect or appreciation for the culture that you visited. You openly talked about women’s roles in the Masai village as if it was a bad thing. In their culture and village these are their societal norms. What you deem normal and acceptable may not be the same to others around the globe.

    You would think that avid travel would make you more appreciative, but sadly it hasn’t.

    • I’m just gonna repeat what I already wrote in other comments: this was my experience and this is my opinion about this visit. I was disappointed.
      Calling somebody disrespectful because he or she didn’t like a certain thing is certainly not nice either.
      You are not forced to read my posts so if you are filled with negativity then please leave my blog and never come back!

  • It doesn’t seem to bother you that the tribe is showcased like you’re visiting a zoo.
    As someone who bills herself as a chronic wanderluster, I’m surprised to see that you didn’t do research and find reputable tour/safari companies that would take you to better village. A few clicks on Google or Trip Advisor and you would have not been taken for as an inexperienced tourists.
    Basically, you got scammed. It happens and you should just be honest about that. It happens to all of us at least once. Happened to me in Bangkok when I wanted to see the Golden Buddha. It sucked, I vented and then I went on with my travels and allowed the good people of Thailand to leave me with better impressions.
    These villages know what the tourists are coming for. Why should they give it to you for free? You get your typical photo op with the school children, a Masai jumping, and a woman making a necklace. If you want a real village experience, make friends with real local people and perhaps they will offer that to you.

    • I do agree with you that I should have done some research, but I didn’t know that we would be able to visit a village until we were about to go there. The research might have “prepared” me for this experience, but as I went with a group there was either this village or none.
      I also agree with you that I got scammed, and yes it happens to all of us at some point.
      But I’m also not saying they should do it for free, it was the manner they asked and forced me to give them money that I didn’t like. I always give tips to show my gratitude, but I don’t like being asked over and over for just too much money. I do believe you understand that as well.

  • I had virtually the same experience that you did on a recent visit to Tanaznia with perhaps the exact opposite impression (http://joytripproject.com/2015/joy-trip-tanzania-day-1/) I found the Massai to be a gracious and welcoming people with a great deal to offer, albeit in exchange for the cash in my pockets. That’s why they call it tourism. I believe that your disappointment is due to your having mismanaged your expectations. I’m not sure how any tourist visit to a private home might have been different. Whether in Africa, Asia or Europe it is customary to pay tribute through admission fees, tips or the purchase of local goods to show respect for a host’s culture and way of life, which you had apparently came to see for your own education or maybe just your entertainment. When traveling the world to witness poverty first hand it is in very poor taste to express contempt for the presumption that you might be willing to pay for the privilege. It is naive to believe that these tribal visits are “non-commercial”. Why on Earth would anyone endure the insufferable company of foreign strangers without compensation? Should they have been simply honored to be your presense?

    • Dear James, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.
      I do agree with you that some sort of donation or appreciation should be given to the local people for opening their village and letting you visit their houses.
      I also liked the idea of the gift shop, but I didn’t like being forced to buy something. I am always happy to give – and I always give tips to show my gratitude for letting experiences like this.

  • I know you’re probably wading through a lot of very angry, negative responses that are clearly not showing up on your site because of moderation, but here’s a word of advice. Editing your article only makes it looks like you’re trying to erase what were incredibly ethnocentric and offensive comments, even if that’s not your intention. We all make mistakes but on the internet you can’t just go back and try to take back what was said. Google has a cached version of your page and many people have saved screen shots. If you think there was a problem with the original wording of your blog post, say that and apologize. Take your knocks and do better next time. Committing social errors and learning from those mistakes is part of being a traveler. You can’t ignore the fact that you called a bunch of kids potentially diseased and then posed with them in pictures all hugged up on them. No one online will let you and it looks a bit like you’re trying to retroactively cover up some bigotry.

    • I simply wrote about my experience and that it deeply saddened me to see such greed in this village. Of course I know that not all tribes are alike, but I also got messages stating that they’ve had similar experiences.

      I wanted to share that experience and let others know the downsides of travelling and that scams are found everywhere. I would have loved to know about that before I went to the village and my experience might have been different.

      I did change some of the wording and corrected some grammatical errors and it is my right to do so.

      I don’t have to be ashamed of fearing for my own health and it is definitely not racist to do so. Many infections are spread via body fluids and saliva.

  • Classic case of white girl shit. WTF do you mean “I didn’t want to get too close in case I may catch something.” That’s straight up racist. You’re also not a good writer. You’re one of those awful entitled white people trekking through Africa who thinks the world owes you something, and the minute something doesn’t go your way you whine about it. This post is gross. You should be ashamed.

    • Whilst I appreciate your comment I am still entitled to my own opinion.

      I don’t have to be ashamed of fearing for my own health and it is definitely not racist to do so. Many infections are spread via body fluids and saliva.
      Calling me an “entitled” white person doesn’t change that fact.

      I am happy to give, have an open mind and heart but what I experienced in this Maasai village deeply saddened and shocked me. I never thought they could be so greedy.

    • So you call her racist but it is totally OK with you to tell “white girl shit”. Something smells here…
      Viki, I just wanted to say I really appreciate yout attitude to your health. For others, feel free and dont get your vaccination either since you dont want to be rude púresuming you could catch something.

    • Tuberculosis is one serious infection you could contract from a seemingly innocent encounter, and Tanzania has some of the highest infection rates in the world. So, yes, you could “catch something”. I’ve been infected with TB (latent and took medication for it) and it ironically wasn’t even from travel to a developing country – people bring it with them round the world. Still…

      Many Maasai have actually stopped drinking cow blood fresh for their traditional breakfast due to bovine TB as they were getting sick and dying – it’s spread in the cattle and health orgs have been educating locals. It’s zoonotic by different pathways. I even saw a lion on safari in South Africa with TB (hip lumps) who a ranger said was infected from killing prey a while ago. When a predator crushes the wind pipe, they inhale the bacteria and become infected. It can take years, but they eventually die from the TB infection though they predator may not spread it to others.

      Yes, it sounds mean to say you don’t want to be near drippy-nosed kids in a poor village, but it has nothing to do with racism or ethnocentrism (unless basic hygiene and health don’t matter to you) and that’s such a lazy criticism. You wouldn’t want to sit in a group of drippy-nosed kids at an elite school in the US either! It seems like poster comments are looking for an opportunity to shame someone who speaks their truth in a respectful, if unflattering way. Criticism can be respectful.

      People should give Viki credit for owning her discomfort and quit projecting their guilt onto her.

      I myself had two recent village experiences Maasai and Zambian village. I knew it would be awkward and asked what was expected of me ahead of time. I decided I would hand hold as much as the kids wanted but SANITIZE my hands before touching my face. It was still awkward, worrisome and drove my partner crazy as he hates germs and is super clean. There was almost no coughing so I relaxed a little – but did turn around and see a little girl just pulling up her pants from having peed on a pile of dirt out in the open, oh well.

      For some reason, the kids either really wanted to hold our hands or were told to (our camp helped develop water/solar for their town square). I think the kids wanted to (because they fought to and were smiling) as a status in their group since the guides had said people there don’t see many white people or wealthy foreign people where they are in Zambia. Just a guess.

  • While everyone is entitled to there own opinion, it saddens me to see that some peoples comments are just as hurtful or racist. (Elise) Name calling and foul language is not necessary. You can tell that English is not Viki’s first language, so give her some slack. By the looks of the comments, she is not the only one to have this same experience. I know if I ever get the chance to visit, I will take precautions and learn from other’s experiences. Viki, continue writing and travelling. I love reading your experiences.

    • Thank you so much, Janice for all your words and support!
      I will not stop writing because somebody didn’t like something I wrote – it keeps me motivated to write controversial articles and to share my experience – the good and the bad one!
      I love to have you as a friend! <3

  • Come on you guys! Is the name calling and dropping the racist comment every time you disagree with someone really necessary??

    I have never visited a Maasai village myself but I do appreciate Vikis post and her having the guts to address the “not-so-nice” things she saw there. She wrote down her experiences, and since this is her personal blog she is well within her rights to do so.

    • It’s right to post her blog and others right to criticize. I get part of what she is complaining about but it was tough to read as if the people have any obligation to do anything for free. Particularly a people who’s livelihood comes via exploitation of their culture. It really read as if she expected a free human zoo.

      • I didn’t expect the experience to be free. I have visited some indigenous tribes before in other countries and never had this experience. I’m sorry you had that impression – as I mentioned before: I love to give and support them, but I don’t like to be exploited for having money.

  • Viki, though I understand you have a right to voice your experiences as you witnessed them, I think the main problem is your negative tone and the air your post presents. Did you have any positive experiences during this visit? If so, the reader cannot see that. Find something positive to share with your readers. Even if you have to talk about the jewelry and their workmanship, and how they painstakingly design and make it. How they make the jewelry with very little resources, and all for tourists like you. That even though they seemed to “force” you to wear them, you realized that it was a handmade token that may provide food and resources for that family for the next few months. Let us see the good in YOU and then the good in the Maasai people. Instead you felt it was important to note that the smell of their home was “irritating”. I think that is the point where you lost most of your readers. Or maybe it was your disgusting description of the children and their school. Pray tell, what value add do you believe that comment made to your post? Do you think it changed the way we saw the Maasai people? Or do you think it crafted our negative opinion of you?

    For a chronic wanderlust, you have such a narrow view of the people you spent such a short time with. If it were only the “way they asked for money” that perturbed you so, then why was it the main cusp of your post? And I’ve traveled to many countries in the world, and it is quite expected that the poorer countries typically have more instances where they ask for money. It is sometimes their own livelihood.

    Next time, carry money on your body, in smaller amounts. When they ask you for something initially show them all that you have that you are willing to spend. At least they have lowered their expectations. With him following you around waiting for the “gift” you were going to give, he might have felt that you were going to share much more with him. Also, I believe in every country around the world, if you shut the door in someone’s face, it’s considered rude. Imagine the impression you left with the Maasai people.

    I hate that this blog trended enough to show up on a major site. I hate that I clicked on your blog post so that I added to your count of readers. I do know that I will NOT be following your adventures because you have given me a sour taste in my mouth. I would hate to stereotype others who hail from the same country in Europe that you hail from. I would hate to think negatively of a whole group of people from this one negative “experience”.

    P/S – I did say that one must identify something positive from the experience so let me practice what I preach. It is obvious that English is not your first language, but you have a good handle of the language. There were a few mistakes here and there, but better than a lot of people who only know English. Also, kudos to you to finding the time and resources to travel the world. That is a dream of many people that goes unrealized. Lastly, kudos to you for attempting to document those travels as it is now written for posterity and not a distant memory in the back of your mind as you grow older.

    • As already said multiple times here and in other comments: this was my experience and it was a negative one. That was the point of the post. Because of how they treated me from the very beginning I lost interest in asking more questions and get to know them better.
      Many other readers said that they have experienced similar things on their tribe visits, so I’m surely not the only one.
      It was part of a trip and I’m not forced to like everything I see or experience. Call me narrow-minded or whatever you want to, I have my own voice and this time it was “sour”. There are many other very happy and positive posts on this blog, no need to put glitter and sparkle on all of them.
      Lastly – nobody is forced to read what I write. Neither are you.

  • How come you haven’t published my comment that I wrote days ago? I’ve noticed that you have published other’s comments that were submitted after mine.

  • Most people who are commenting here have probably never been in such a situation. Expecting something genuine only to find out that it is a complete rip off and then to be hassled at every turn for more money is enough to piss anyone off. It’s enough to alter any ones perception of a tribe, people or in fact a whole country (I’m looking at you Thailand).

  • You were visiting a tourist village. The Maasai have these so the can keep their privacy and lives separate from the visiting hordes. There is truth in how the village is built, and the people actually live there, but probably not permanently. These tourist villages are a way to earn exposure/money for the tribe. When we went they were not so pushy. The Maasai treasure education and learning of all kinds. Your guide/Maasai tribesman was probably very well educated. When we went, I asked our guide where (not if, I just assumed that) he had been educated and he admitted he had degree from Oxford University, and had chosen to return to Africa for the betterment of the tribe. The unpleasant smell was probably due to the cow dung they use like plaster to strengthen the walls.

  • And in your neighborhood, do you have people from foreign countries come visit you in your homes, take your jewelry and visit your schools, treating you like you are a museum exhibition for any and all to gawk at? I didn’t think so. And is there any place in Europe or the Americas where you can do that? Not that I know of. In the west, if you want to study a people’s culture, you go to their libraries, theaters, cinemas, museums, etc. AND YOU PAY. Why shouldn’t you pay these people for letting you infringe on their privacy? Oh, and by the way, the Masai do have a culture, it’s just different from yours, and they do have a need for money because they have to interact with the rest of the world, pay for medical treatment, pay for their children to go to school, buy tea, buy fabric for their clothes, beads to make their jewelry, etc. Who the hell do you think you are little miss “the world is my oyster and I can do whatever I want cause I’m special.”

    • Please read also the other comments and answers that I’ve already written. In no way I think I’m some sort of Miss you described me. Come meet me in person and I’ll convince you otherwise. I can only repeat: This was my experience and how I felt during the visit.

      • I appreciate your honesty!! Thanks for sharing. I have traveled extensively. Took an around-the-world trip, studied abroad in some countries, volunteered on international medical missions for a few years, and I only just have experienced this pressure of money here. Very strange and very sad!! The fees and the costs and the demands for money, yet the infrastructures and supports are terrible. This continent is blessed with natural resources but people have turned it into a hell hole.

        • I have visited a lot of other countries before too and as you said the “pressure of money is found only here”. Sadly I have to agree fully.

      • Hello Viki,
        I came across your blog while researching my upcoming trip to Kenya. Thank you for writing such a candid entry about your visit to a Masai village. You have given me much to think about as I prepare for my visit.
        Andrea

  • I am in Kenya now. Have similar experience. Everywhere is money, money, money!! I am emotionally exhausted. I was going to spend two weeks here, but I am cutting it short to one week, spending three days in the Masaai Mara, then fly home. I am tired of this place. So sad 🙁

  • I am very sorry for what happened to you viki. its really boring when you meet people of such kind.
    I would like to advice you that, the way you are expressing your feelings is not proper. you have just encountered a single experience and then you generalize? that is not fair. Maasai are found almost within four districts in Arusha region in Tanzania and you just met business people. please don’t make assumptions of this kind. if you happen to meet with these guys in their areas you will be amazed. recommending this way while generalizing to the whole tribe/community is what makes me sad with your post. please don’t continue harassing people like this. even the type of food you have mentioned is not the only one they depend on.
    better you express with considerations.

    • I just want to add to other comments I have made. I forgot to mention the drink (blood milk), there is a reason for this. The Maasai have had dwindling numbers of cattle because of disease of all animals in the Serengeti. They actually bleed or blood let live animals to get nutritious supplement to their diet without killing the cow so that they can still have a milk supply.
      I would never actually be able to drink it for fear of disease, but have seen Anthony Bourdain do it more than once.

  • Anyone travelling around Kenya and Tanzania should realise business people are very pushy and this behaviour more often than not causes offence. I feel you should have been more firm with the sellers by returning/refusing the bracelets. Another thing, prices are rarely fixed in East Africa. The seller normally expects you to haggle down to half his asking price. Next time you are told an item is 20, tell them you will only pay half the amount.

  • Just got home today,had a great experience with the village.the chief even gave me his club for free.this was before I even went into the village.we danced a welcome dance as a group.after we looked at the school and visited his house.he told me it cost 170 bucks for a truck of water that would last the tribe about 2weeks. He said that’s why we were charged ten each to visit.i have been charged way more than they to visit Native American owned places here in the states.when we left chief palls house with his first wife I saw the curios for sale.he wanted to show us more but my wife can’t pass up a chance to shop on vacation. Over the next hour we asked question after question. I learned so much in a hour. It was hard to comprehend all that we were seeing. At the end of our visit I donated a couple hundred bucks for the water. He didn’t ask for a dime at all.i did put some shillings in the donation box in the school. As were about to leave chief palo gave me some hand carved lion bone and his personal club. A rhino carving and even offered as a joke my choice of a extra wife. My visit to this part of Africa has changed me to my sole.im 47 and met my wife when I was 15. She has forced me to travel all over the place.we were in tents for a few days and were walked to ours each night my a Maasai warrior each time.even after spotting lions out back of the lodge. I can go on and on but I won’t.sorry you had a bad experience but I can’t wait to get back.

  • I studied abroad to Tanzania for a month in 2007 with a college trip to understand the globalization of the Maasai.

    My experience when visiting the ‘tourist’ bomas was similar to yours. However, we were educated that these people have been forced into this lifestyle due to tourism and national parks taking over their land, water reserves, etc.

    Maasai who live away from tourism areas live a very similar life with similar values, the schools looked exactly the same because that is all they have and know, but the money trap is not there. As with any culture, interactions may be interpreted differently by different people, but I do not believe the Maasai are a ‘rude’ people.

    The bomas set up near national parks are part of tourism. It is sad, but these families depend on it to survive.

    To get a true picture of Maasai life would be nearly impossible for a tourists because those families and bomas are not connected to tourism.

  • My Masaii visit was similar to yours in the physical aspects. I was on an upscale tour and didn’t really want to do this. It felt wrong. Weird. A human zoo. They came out. Did this dance. We went into a home, etc. But there was no overt money grab at all. My visit was in 2012. Maybe things have gotten more desperate? When I expressed my discomfort to our organizer, she explained that this community did the tourism thing to bring water to many other Masaii communities in the area. Water is in short supply there. That I can understand. BTW, I bought a magic bag that was not really for sale. It smells odd. Love it.

  • I am sorry about your experienced, my son and I visited one of the Maasi village on our way to Ngorongoro Crater and I was told by our driver /guide that we only need to pay $50USD for the tour and nothing else. If you want to give a tip to your Maasi guide, it’s voluntary since the $50 should covered for the tour. You are not forced to buy any of the stuffs they sell. Now, I did purchased one item because it was unique and was quite interesting, other than that we were not obligated to buy anything. As for the kids in school,they were learning English and sang the Alphabet Songs for us, but I did not see any donation box or I would seriously have donated some money so the kids can have a better chair/bench to sit on. We have a wonderful experienced, my son got to do the Maasi warrior jump and had a great time. My only disappointment, they don’t allowed woman to do the warrior jump, not even for a tourist like me.

  • We visited the same village last month 07/2016 I have some of the same people in my photographs, and had the same exact experience. It got so bad with the hounding that the person who was ” assigned ” to me and another companion was the Chief’s Son, and at one point I had to forcefully tell him to get away from me.

    I met a very elderly gentleman in the village, the only one I saw after he allowed me to take a few photos of him I went to give him a few shillings and the Chief’s son tried to snap them out of my hand and said no they are given to me, at that point i told him to get away and leave me alone again and simply walked away,

    We were a group of 15 photographers and all commented later on how Commercial and Staged the entire thing seemed.

    • As already stated a couple of times, this was my personal experience and if you’d go through the comments, you’ll see that not only I had this experience, but many others as well.

  • I had a totally different experience with the Maasai in Kenya. We stayed in several different
    Conservancy permanently tented camps that adjoin the Masai Mara Nature Reserve. These camps are on Masai land and are rented from the local Masai. In return for the rent that comes out of our payments for our stay there, the local Masai tribes have agreed to keep their grazing animals off the land to allow for the wild animals to live there. Also each camp is limited in the number of tourists and tents allowed. Masai warriors were our guides, our drivers, our cooks and servers, our protectors, and even the housekeepers of our tents. I found them very friendly, eager to learn about we Americans, and they took exceptional care of us. Each told us their Masai name and then provided us with an English name so that we could be more easily friendly. In Amboselli Conservancy near Mount Kilaminjaro, we also visited a Masai village. This was part of our stay at our tented camp in Amboselli. We were not asked for any money to make this visit. The people were very friendly, dressed in their finest to greet us, explained how they lived, about how they fixed their various milk dishes, showed us how they started a fire, how they used the milk gourds, and how the women built their houses. Yes in spite of the satin dresses for the little girls, flies were at their eyes and there were dried secretions around their eyes and nose. This is not illness. This is due to the dryness, the dust, and the flies. It is a function of living in these arid conditions. The children absolutely loved that I got down on my knees next to them in the dust and played a hand clapping game with them. Back at the Amboselli camp, the guide explained that there was a gift shop behind the tents where a Masai warrior opened the shop for certain hours. He explained that the bead work and other trinkets there were made by the Masai women and selling them there allowed them to help support the tribe. I found the beautiful necklaces, some clearly like what the Masai wear and others made so that they would be appreciated even in Western culture. They were beautifully beaded. I purchased a lovely orange multistranded beaded necklace for a very reasonable price. I bought several things. In summary, my experience with our Kenyan Masai guides and caretakers was totally different. In many cases Masai drivers took us from camp to camp and we had long discussions with them. They obviously had been exposed in their work as drivers and guides to many different Western tourists and were curious to learn all about the West. The guides in Kenya take a 3 to 4 year course to learn about all the wild animals, plants, geography, and nature and the English to be able to serve as very knowledgeable guides. Those who are in their first year serve as the drivers; those that are further along begin to take the camp residents on the safaris. The 4th year guides conduct safaris and also give lectures in the camp, and may advance to actually manage the whole camp. Those Masai warriors who didn’t know English served as our protectors, and as the housekeepers.
    The various separations of women and men, the multiple wives, and even the coming of age operations that both boys and girls undergo do still occur. This remains part of their culture. But our guide told me, a doctor, that in some cases, the village midwife who performs the operation on the 11 or 12 year old girls now in many cases is performing a sham clitoridectomy, as just a small cut to draw blood. This will satisfy the village elder who now regards the young girl as ready to enter womanhood. In the village I asked to be introduced to the village midwife, and I went over to her and shook her hand. I don’t think any understood what I said, but I hope that my gesture made some good impression of some sort. These people’s lives are very hard, but they are among the last tribes in Kenya and Tanzania who struggle to maintain their traditions. They have a cosmology and creation story which they pass on. Some Masai men go to work in Nairobi and speak perfect English, wear Western white shirts and dark pants, and then return home to the Masai village on weekends, and immediately shed their Western clothes for the Masai red shuka. Even they maintain their customs when they return home. Also read about the lion guardian program which has taught some of the warriors to adopt a lion, name it, monitor its radio collar, and act as its protector, acting quickly to run to where there are confrontations between the Masai goat and cattle herders and a lion. This Lion Guardian then has been trained to defuse the situation in order to save the lion’s life and allow it to get away. The herders are encouraged to move their herds away from this lion rather than kill it. It is an amazing program and it is working very well in small areas.
    In summary, I found the Masai we encountered to be bright, curious, polite, happy, eager to maintain their traditions, but also ready to learn to blend their culture with changes that they had learned would benefit them in the end.

  • Well Viki, you have prompted quite a reaction with your blog and I have found all of it very interesting.

    I visited Jamaica as a delegate with a conference many years ago, and was shocked and disappointed at the aggressive style of pressure selling outside our hotel. However in the countryside I found the people to be genuinely friendly and the sellers were not so hostile in their attitudes.

    I have worked with kids for over 35 years, and I wouldn’t like to see a snotty nosed kid whether they lived in Cardiff (where I live) or if the child were in a Masai village, even though I fully appreciate that they live in an arid place and that we may not share some cultural norms. But we have more in common than what separates us and I love to hear kids sing, smile, laugh and learn. I’m just more likely to look at the cute kids than the snotty ones and I know I am being silly, but there you go.

    It took me some time and some long conversations with my husband into the wee small hours to put into perspective my visit to Jamaica. My own prejudices and expectations as a Black woman visiting a Black Country were misplaced in several ways, as I learned that being born and raised a middle class Brit bring its own issues. You too need to own your European prejudices and see them for what they are. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to apologise for your views and attitudes but you need to express yourself in a manner that is respectful of other people’s differences.

    Unfortunately there are parts of your blog which are rude and snotty, although not the kind of snot that you feared. It seems that some of the Masai people you met came across as mercenary and greedy, but you came across as exploitative and naive.

    Both sets of attitudes are ugly.

    • Thanks Ros for your view on this topic. It happened as it happened.
      How would you react if you expected to broaden your mind and got asked for money over and over again. I sure didn’t know what to expect, still I tried to put to paper/screen so others wouldn’t be surprised how this experience can turn out. Have a great day!

  • Thanks for the writeup, Viki. It’s telling that Fernt visited the same village and had the same experience. I have always wanted to go to a Maasai village, but thanks to your blog, I now know what to look for before choosing a village to visit.

    I think that a lot of the comments are beyond rude. These people are attacking your integrity and that’s just wrong. Read their comments, but don’t take them to heart.

  • Viki, my wife and I are surprised that you, a world traveler, were so upset by the Maasi visit. We just returned from doing just that. One needs to look at this situation with a very open mind. They didn’t start asking for money on their own, it’s what the traveler has made them. They live simply and very differently from us. Yes the houses are small and uncomfortable but we didn’t expect a two story town house. We’ve traveled quite a bit too, living in such places as New Delhi, India, the mountains of the Philippines and Japan to name a few. We lived in these places and became involved in their way of life. I would encourage anyone who can to visit a Maasi Village and try to look at life through their eyes, not ours. It’s a different world.

    • I’m fully aware that there are many other villages out there and I might just have had bad luck or however you wish to call it. I do agree with you that the Western world has turned their lives upside down and had this huge impact on them.
      And believe me, I do have an open mind 😉

  • I had a totally different experience, I volunteered in Tanzania for 3 weeks in a primary school and also teaching some members of the Maasai Tribe English, as a thank you they took us to their village. They weren’t obsessed with money, they were humble and happy to have us there. They gifted us with bracelets and even goat as they gave us everything that they had.
    I have never met more pure people in this world than them, they were happy with nothing.
    I respect your point but I do think it’s us that’s poisoning their culture and making them think they need money like we do.
    You should not regret, you should feel pity to what we have done to them.

    • Thanks Keeley! I think you made an excellent point and I completely agree with you. I’m fully aware that there are other villages as well and that not all of them have this culture towards money. It was sure us who spoilt them and showed them how obsesses we are with money so they are copying it…

  • I just wanted to add my experience for your reference when reading this post.

    I really enjoyed visiting a Maasai village (Tanzania)…. yes it is set up for tourists, but it is still an interesting visit if you have the time.

    The tribe I visited were also selling gifts and they did pressure sell. However if you do not want to buy, just be stern and say no.

    I actually really wanted a set of six hand beaded coasters as a souvenir and I liked a bowl made of beads on wire and managed to haggle them down to $20 for both (originally they asked for over $100). This was also much cheaper than I had managed to negotiate elsewhere!

    Just keep in mind how much you would be prepared to buy the same items for at home and weigh it up against how much you want them!!! 🙂

    Hope this helps!

  • Having spent some time with the Maasai and returning in Jan for another 3 months, maybe you need to realise how poor they really are. Just cos u didnt see any shops nearby doesnt mean there isnt a village where they go to buy food, credit for their phones, etc. They have no other way of making money except from tourists and if you are too mean to donate then you have a problem lady! Why would you go to visit them and not take money? They get to eat only once a day and that is Ugali made from maize flour. On special occasions they may kill a goat or cow. You have no idea. Obviously you are rich enough to spend a few thousand dollars on a safari but begrudge helping people in the third world. Next time stay at home because you really have the wrong attitude!

    • I was on a budget safari that was a lot less than “a few thousand dollars”. Since I was asked to pay 10USD as an “entrance fee” or however you’d like to call it, I didn’t take any additional money with me….
      I guess someone is just having a bad day here^^

  • As someone who has gotten multiple colds and flus from the children I babysit, I understand why you didn’t sit close to the Masai children. Especially as I have found that even older children and teens sometimes still need to be reminded to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing. If someone looks ill, I find it hard to believe that many of these people leaving comments would sit next to that person. You see it every day on the bus when people lean away from someone who is coughing.

    I also understand how you felt forced to wear the bracelets. I have travelled to many countries where I will be facing one individual and taking off an item that they had adorned me with against my desire (scarf, bracelets, headdress) and trying to do this while another individual is trying to put more items on me. This makes me wonder if the people that are commenting have ever been in that situation. If you haven’t, then it is very hard to understand how one can feel forced to try on bracelets, but it does happen, especially as we often try not to offend others. I think that if we weren’t there at the same time as you, then we don’t really have a right to judge because we don’t know what the circumstances were like.

    I am about to go to Tanzania tomorrow with two children and I appreciate the bluntness of this post. Knowing that you felt the house smelled irritating might seem disrespectful to some, but to a parent, this is excellent information so that I can decide if this place would be good for my children and if so, so I can prep them so they don’t react inappropriately or make disrespectful comments as children often do not censor their thoughts. Thank you for your honesty in a world where so much of what we read and see in social media is censored.

  • Hi there,

    I had a similar experience at what looks like the same place you went to. It was very odd. The reason the Maasai people are so pushy, is because they often have to pay most of the money they make from the visit to (some) of the drivers who take you there. So they only really make any money from the visit – the drivers often rip you and the Maasai people off. Corruption is rife in the industry unfortunately!

    There are however other villages in Tanzania and Kenya you can visit, where the exchange is ethical. I recommend staying at Mara Explorers camp in Masai Mara who can arrange visits to Ole Keene village – where I know all money goes to the Maasai. Or staying at the village itself and booking direct – they have a website I think. The Maasai run the business themselves! It’s a great place!

    • Hi Helen!
      I didn’t know that! Thanks for the information. Corruption seems to be just too common in so many places 🙁
      I’ll take your advice for my next trip there – again thank you so much!

  • Glad that you didn’t touch those naturally snorty kids! As you may have had given them something from your filth! It is disheartening that you misunderstood the very essence of your visit! You visited Tanzania for its beauty and people, but rather smelly people disappointed you! You left the Animals with glee at the crater and went to see a village (Zoo) with everything there, that says its a Commerce center and YET THRIFTY you, failed to see that a Human has come to watch other humans and expect them to be like the humans she is accustomed to! After you drove miles away from any city! Yet instead of humans you wrote about the Business!

    Oh yea! There is also another lady who comes to our homes and shoots our animals hhhttps://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/jun/30/the-women-who-kill-lions-review-agut-wrencing-look-at-the-senselessness-of-bloodsports

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  • All I can say is: welcome to Africa. I was born and raised in Africa. There exists a certain subculture that says: If you’re white you automatically have lots of money, which you probably made unfairly off African slave labor’s back anyway, and you owe the Africans that money. All of it. I’ve even been accosted by a Nigerian woman at Atlanta airport and asked for money. I emphasize: That’s NOT all Africans, just a nasty little subculture.

    Most Africans are absolutely great people. I have dear African friends who are not like that. Many. But unfortunately, there exists this culture of entitlement. The value of the nick-knacks is not even relevant.

    BTW I suspect you’re going to find similar subcultures just about everywhere in the world. Even in Europe.

    Countries are like people: everyone has at least one asshole.

  • Hi Viki, I wont criticize you like others have though I am from Tanzania myself. It is true the village you visited is a very commercialized village, I talk from experience and I know it. Next time you come to Tanzania please set aside about 3 days to visit real Masai villages in Longido for example or Monduli juu, or set aside a little more time to go on the Ngorongoro Trekking tour that takes you through Masai Villages from Empakai all through to Lake Natron. It will take the least 4 days and it is a real Masai experience because you literary walk through the villages on your way and interact with them. It is a little strenuous though and you need to be fit but also carry nice hiking boots :).

    • Hi! THANK YOU so much for your comment!
      What you describe sounds lovely! When I’ll plan another trip to Tanzania I’ll get in touch with you and I’m super excited for this experience!
      Thank you again for your words!
      Have a wonderful day!

  • My daughter is living in a Maasai village right now in Tanzania and has been there for a few weeks now. Her experience is very different from the one you experienced. She finds the villagers quite open and friendly and do not ask money from her. She is volunteering however, helping to build a school, farming and improving their water supply. she hasn’t spent any money since she left the airport. It has definitely been a trip of a lifetime for her.

  • I hiked Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania and had hired the Masai as guides to carry my supplies. We agreed on one set price. While at the basecamp I met some Masai women selling jewelry. They had one table set-up that they just stood behind. One woman was bottle feeding a child (bottle made from a gourd decorated with beading)and when she finished she gave me the bottle as a gift. The women were wonderful, we just chatted and enjoyed each others company. The difference was, I was not in a commercialized tourist attraction location. It also helps that I was traveling with a friend who is fluent in Swahili. I wonder if the village you visited is just a tourist attraction and not actually where they live but a replica and so it’s their place of work. Just a thought!

    While in Nairobi, we were constantly approached by Kenyans asking us to buy stuff. I learned how to say: “I have no money.” in Swahili very quickly. It is not just the Masai, it is a way of life for many in third world countries.

  • You’re actually right. Those offended in.the comments are either Tanzanians, perhaps from the company you went with, or don’t know what they’re talking about. There was nothing offensive about your post. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Tanzania, and have seen how obsessed the locals are with money, taking advantage of foreigners by whatever means possible. And the Maasai are using their culture in this same way, and I can assure you that that money WILL NOT be invested in bettering their lives. You proved that nothing is being spent on the schools. The same thing happens with orphanages getting funding from foreigners and volunteers. This also happens in Kenya, probably all of East Africa, even southern. Tourists need to be careful. DON’T give ANY money; you are not obliged to and they can’t force you. You’d just fuel this problem, and trust me, this is not going to change. Their cultures are irreversibly fragmented by modernisation. That’s the dark secret of development, the real truth.

  • I’ve been to Tanzania four times and to Kenya twice, and initially I made the same mistakes, giving money, thinking I was helping, and getting involved in volunteerism (same thing as volunteering!). But I learnt the hard way, and unfortunately most of us can only learn what’s really going on there by making mistakes and unknowingly fuelling this desire for money. Locals will try to charm you but it’s just an act to access your assets. A lot of women fall pregnant to Tanzanians (particularly in Arusha) because local guys have pretended to love them and at they want a future with them, but the men are just after money. Foreigners are nothing more ARMs on legs.

    A lot of tour companies are not registered. Make sure they’re registered with TATO. Even if there’s a white person involved it doesn’t mean it’s legitimate.

    Tanzanians have no sense of morality. It’s every man for himself. And they’re compulsive liars. Even the Maasai go to town to drink, sleep with foreigners and get involved in business deals. DON’T be fooled by appearances.

  • Leanne Stock, please realise that locals are far better skilled to build schools etc than a Western woman/school-leaver with no related qualifications.

    Check out Barbie Saviour on Facebook.

    And CHECK out these articles:

    https://matadornetwork.com/life/dear-volunteers-africa-please-dont-come-help-youve-asked-four-questions/

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/apr/23/western-do-gooders-need-to-resist-the-allure-of-exotic-problems

    About orphanages generally:
    https://mobile.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=987703937965588&id=206832076052782&ref=bookmarks

    • So true Cynthia, thanks so much for the links, after reading the above mentioned story in the Guardian I remembered bringing donation goods to the Fukushima area in Japan after the big Earthquake and Nuclear disaster where the refugees lived together in large sports gyms halls of schools and other institutions and noticing that they were so bored with yet another donation of goods, and yet another famous person visiting them. They were literally picky about what they were delivered (in the donated goods) and there too, to some extent there was that “entitlement” attitude, that is so not nice, to put it mildly.

  • Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Viki. I read all of the replies and was taken aback by so many of the scathingly harsh, insolently rude responses that your blog post elicited. Just like Billy Joel sang, honesty really is a lonely word. And as Jack Nicholson said in “A Few Good Men,” people can’t handle the truth.

    I have friends in Nairobi and am one of only two outside income sources for a small school that is locally operated in one of Nairobi’s slums. The headmaster is an outstanding man of integrity, vouched for by a western missionary and again by a friend of mine who personally visited there for a week.

    Corruption is rampant in Kenya, and it is very difficult even for locals to do business there. I encouraged the school’s headmaster to open a particular bank account so that I could transfer funds directly to him so that I could avoid the fees associated with Western Union and my credit card, but he informed me that the, uh, “3rd party handling fees” made it not-so-cost-effective.

    I bluntly replied to him that the business practices he described were, for all intents and purposes, criminal. He replied discreetly that I understood very well his circumstances. As poverty stricken as this man is, and despite the fact that he explained the purposes for his inquiry about opening this account, every financial institution that he approached was completely unwilling to act benevolently toward him and the school that he presides over.

    I won’t go into what his local religious minister did to him and the school, but it was also criminal. The headmaster essentially needed to leave the church and restart the school all over again in a different place, paying higher rent for a ramshackle tin structure after being extorted by this pastor. So from what I have observed remotely and from dialogue with my friends in Nairobi (I’d love to be proven wrong here) Kenyans can be as opportunistic toward each other as they can sometimes be toward outsiders.

    I’m sorry your experience during this tour was such a poor one, and I hope future adventures to Kenya are more positive. You’re certainly wiser for the experience.

    I do agree with some of the feedback offered, despite the negative tone of much of it, that a bit more objectivity and tact would have been beneficial to both you and your audience… you were exploring a 3rd World nation after all where desperate poverty is the rule rather than the exception, and there are zero government social programs to help the poor from what I’ve seen so far. But wow… some of these responses were so over-the-top rude and obnoxious that I was far more offended by their comments than anything written in the original blog post.

    Your diplomatic responses to those detractors won my admiration, though, for what it’s worth. Keep sharing your truth, as unpopular as it might sometimes be. A handful of your readers appreciated your candor.

  • I have not been to the Maasai Village but I can totally relate to your post when I was visiting Thailand. I have kind of tolerated it though and accepted it. One because I was in a foreign country and I understood that not everything is the same as where I came from and two because I was in a very POOR foreign country where yes they go about asking for money maybe in a more aggressive manner. You come as a tourist though. What do you expect? I see the same kind of aggressiveness with ppl next to the Eiffel Tower trying to sell you 20 dollar lasers and fidget spinners. Though I don’t really agree with the tone of the post, I appreciate your willingness to give us your opinion and feedback about the village.

  • Hi all,

    We just came home from volunteering in Kenya, and I sympathize with Viki. Those people who felt the need to shred her for having some negative reactions to what she experienced should take the logs out of their own eyes before attempting to remove specks from other’s eyes. I’m guessing that no one who made nasty comments about her concern about getting sick has ever set foot in a developing country, much less been close to impoverished children who have AIDs (and open cuts), scabies (a highly contagious skin disease), TB (a contageous infectious disease), and other medical problems, who are living in an area without clean drinking water, sanitation facilities, or access to medical care. It’s no more bigoted to not want to get sick than it’s prejudiced to want to sleep under a mosquito net in malaria country. Nor have they ever had someone demand more than $70 in payment for a $1 bracelet. After you’ve been in the situation Viki described, THEN you can discuss what it was like, and how you felt and how she felt. I think she felt taken-aback and disappointed, even taken-advantage of. Those are normal feelings, and anyone can have them.

  • So sorry to read about your bad experience in Masai village. During our trip to Kenya and Tanzania few weeks back we visited one of the Masai villages in Kenya located very close to the West entrance near Rhino Tourist Lodge. Yes at the beginning the leader from the village, who was well conversant with English, bargained on entry fee. He asked $100 for 3 of us and finally after some bargain we settled for $60.
    We enjoyed their celebration dance and song, in fact the leader requested my daughter to join their dance. We also learnt about their lifestyle, food, treatment, education, they demonstrated us how they lit fire using woods. We visited one of their hut in that village and came to know how they live and cook.
    At the end of the tour some of the elderly ladies from the village approached us with some gift items in their hands and started selling, but didn’t force much. I knew it will help them so I bought a token item from them spending $10.
    Overall our experience was really good and educational and I will definitely recommend others to visit Masai village @Kenya.

  • An earlier post suggested volunteering instead of touring to truly experience a country and a culture. The Maasai are a proud, resourceful people who have been exploited in much of East Africa. They are valued as security guards all over Tanzania due to their strength and integrity. The village you visited is a commercial operation and the people have come to resent the tourists who come through and judge them. Wouldn’t you in their place? All over Tanzania, the Maasai are losing their land to development and greed. I was privileged to spend 7 weeks with a wonderful young Maasai man who was employed at my Dar Es Salaam residence when I returned to Tanzania to volunteer for a second time. Each night when I came home he kept an eye out for me as I approached the darkened house. We practiced our newly learned phrases (he in English – me in Kiswahili). At night, we said “usiku mwema” – good night. I gave him some money to take to his village where his relatives made jewelry. He returned with much more than I needed. PLEASE volunteer in a third world country for your sake as well as that of the people you will help. Choose carefully: the more expensive the less likely your money will be put to good use. Do not work in an orphanage. Help people to help themselves. Challenge yourself and go way past your comfort level. Good luck.

  • Dear Viki,

    I am really surprised by the ignorance of your story here. As a travel blogger, you should know that you have to educate yourself about a place before you visit, especially such a remote and unique one. This doesn’t mean that I think the same about all Vikis, all Austrians or all travel bloggers the same way you have made up your mind about all the Maasai based on your experience, nevertheless I am really sorry you had a bad experience with these particular Maasai.

    Having visited a few Maasai communities myself on several occasions let me clarify a few things.

    They don’t drink milk mixed with blood every morning and eat meat in the afternoon. Yes, sometimes they mix the blood with the milk (great source of iron), or drink it directly from the slaughtered animal, but their livestock is too precious for them to eat meat all the time. In fact they only slaughter mainly goats and sheep for ceremonies or if someone is sick or pregnant. To slaughter a cow that has to be a very special occasion. They mainly eat rice or ugaly (made of corn flour) with vegetables and drink chai (tea with milk and sugar).

    Yes the children run around with snotty noses, just like anywhere in the world, the difference is that no adult is chasing after them with a tissues all the time. This doesn’t mean that you cannot get close to them, I always had 3 or 4 hanging around my neck, just use common sense, don’t lick their snotty faces for example.

    But lets get serious for a minute. In Tanzania, the Maasai are used to promote the country’s tourism. You can see them in almost every advertisement. At the same time they are treated as second rate citizens most of the time. Their grazing lands and water sources are getting smaller and smaller. They either have to fight non-Maasai for their ancestral lands, for example when they leave a territory to rest from the grazing for a while and the non-Maasai start to farm on that land with or without permission from the authorities.

    It also happens that the park rangers or the government agents set their bomas on fire to drive them away from their ancestral lands, claiming that the Maasai are not good for wild life conservation. In reality the government wants to sell the Maasai lands to rich Arabs from Dubai, who want to build hunting lodges there. Maasai warriors from both Kenya and Tanzania, together with former poachers have formed a conservation group for the lions. They patrol their territories and warn people about the presence of lions in certain parts to avoid cattle loss and retaliation on the lions.

    In Kenya huge ranches are owned by white settlers, like Kuki Gallman in Laikipia (I dreamed of Africa) who in the name of conservation have fenced off their ranch thus cutting the pastoralist Massai off from their grazing lands and water sources.

    So why do you expect the Maasai not to be influenced by money? If they only can take their cattle to graze to someone else’s farm after harvest, they have to pay for it. To reach and use certain water sources, they have to pay for it. If they want to hire somebody to take care of the goats, which is traditionally the children’s job, so they can go to school, they need money. Did you know that they have to buy their own desk, uniform at school? Or if it is a boarding school, their own bed? They need to give certain kg of maize and beans per children to the school, so they need money. If they want to go to the doctor, they need money. If they have a land dispute with a non-Maasai, the first thing the police asks is money. If something is stolen from them and they want to go to the police, they have to pay money to be heard.

    So yes for all of the above they need money. So how can they get money? Any way they can. They can sell cattle, but what if it is dry season and the cows are so skinny that it is not worth selling them or nobody can afford to buy them? If they are lucky (?) to live in a touristic area, they will sell things to the visitors.

    They are trying their best to preserve their traditions the best they can in this expanding modern and corrupt world, but let’s not expect from them to run around in loincloths just for our amusement.

    Just please don’t judge a whole group of people based on a few. They are just like us. Kind, gentle, honest, friendly or liars, thieves, conman. Just like us.

  • What needs to be understood here to all who criticize the original poster:

    1.In Kenya, the amounts of money asked are not just big, they are extraordinary. If comparing income-per-person with the USA, 70 EUR in a Kenyan village would be the same as 700 USD in the USA, for example.

    2.Such pushing for money is not a key part of Maasai culture any more than, for example, scamming is part of the American culture just because there are scammers there. Rather, it is a new phenomenon that was created by mass-market tourists who are unable to understand the point 1 and readily give these extraordinary amounts of money after a relatively small effort. Imagine if in the USA it would be equally easy to lure 100 USD or 700 USD out of tourists as it is easy to lure 10 EUR or 70 EUR for these Maasais. I think the numbers of people engaging in such behavior would definitely rise even in America; it would basically be a possibility to earn a median monthly salary from just a few casual visitors.

    3.Much of Africa may be very poor, but anybody who receives such money regularly from the tourists clearly is not poor. Rather, he/she is among the richer people in the country, high above, in terms of money, those who have no access to tourists. Giving money to those who have learned to get money from tourists through pushy behavior to means giving money to those who most likely already have an excess of it. True, their locality may seem poor, because that is their selling point, or, to a some extent, because there are indeed some cultural differences (some of the first things an American would get after getting rich aren’t the same things a Maasai would do, for example).

  • Thank you sooooo much Viki for this post! I am just planning a trip to Tanzania and visiting the Maasai was for me the HIGHLIGHT…however, I now even wonder if I should go at all…

    The trip preparations are going pretty bad, all prices offered to me by tour organizers are a ripoff and absolutely unjustified, given the fact that a local in a good job only earns some $130 a month, meanwhile I am asked to pay $4600 – $5600 for 10 days one person! I also traveled the world a lot and had experience being ripped off before. Tanzania costs twice as much as would be for same trip done in Namibia, it shows indeed that (I am sure even Japanese get ripped off as much as say, Germans who, historically speaking are the true profiteers of Tanzania/Namibia resources) they over there will try to squeeze as much out of all tourists cashcows as possible, in rude way and without any remorse. Yes I remember how we had to pay the Himba in Namibia for a photo and they wouldn’t even bother to look in the camera, not to mention smile, because, they are ENTITLED to it from tourists and we are not worth it to be treated nice and get a smile because we will pay anyway.

    I am sorry for all the negative comments you got here, so dirty and rude, and as someone pointed out, those comments are for sure from locals or tours organizers. I hope you don’t take it to the heart.. there will always be haters. Meanwhile there will be people like me who are truly thankful for the help to inform us and prevent us.

    And yes, as someone mentioned here, AIDS/HIV are very spread out in the country and that is a very legit reason to avoid contact with body fluids.

    And not that you or me would not want to give them money, but it is disgusting the fact that they feel ENTITLED to it and become pushy! As if we poo money, and not actually work for it in our countries, maybe more hours a day than they work over there in the wilderniss!

    If there is no mutual respect and appreciation, then they deserve no charity, however poor they might be.

    Really glad I read your blog today and all the comments.

    Have many nice future trips and STAY SAFE!!

    • Dear Mia!

      Thank you for your lovely comment! You will enjoy Kenya and Tanzania a lot! If you’d like to see one of their villages, go ahead and hopefully you’ll have more luck than I had 😉

      Have a wonderful trip!

  • Dear vik.
    sorry for treated like that i am real maasai man from ngorongoro and i know well that place u was visited is called kanchiro bomas(culture bomas) it is not the real place for maasai to live but temporarly for them to sale their are jewerly like shanga,muna,isaeni ,
    in order for u and anyone else to enjoy very much find local people and they will to direct u in a way that u will enjoy.
    i have got idea to establish tourist guide centre in order to avoid bad thing like that happed to u.
    WE ARE SO SORRY, WE APOLOGIES ON BEHALF OF MAASAI WE ARE NOT LIKE THAT.

  • I don’t want to get close to my own kids when they have boogers, and snot all over their faces… I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to get too close to snooty kids. It’s not a race thing it’s a “kids spread germs” thing. Maybe, they would realized that if the kids had been Amish… lol.

  • I am Maasai.

    Hi Viki,
    Sorry for the bad experience. However, I wonder why people would want to go to a land of a people who have been oppressed by regimes, take as beautiful pictures as they can, for self gratification and financial rewards, and leave nothing for them.

    As a travel blogger, try reading about indigenous cultures especially, then you realize that it is never about the culture, but the exploitation that has occurred over decades of tourism.

    Ole Sere!

    • asante Jeremiah…asante sana
      I invite you to read my response to this article, i think we are on the same page when it comes to this topic. It makes me sick that so many people can miss the bigger picture.

  • Learn to appreciate other people’s culture and there way of life. Am a Maasai I do visit the Bomas too in parts of Maasai Mara and nothing is special to me or any other local.. We pay the entrance fee, we purchase what we find good and attractive, to promote them and improve their living standard…no one is forced to purchase anything you do it willing ….It is soo bad to describe the Maasai people in such a way. Maasai people are well known all over the world as good and welcoming people, they love everyone… Next time don’t be ignorant..

  • We went to Africa this summer and had the pleasure of visiting three tribes: Datoga, Hazabe, and Maasai. Massai was by far the most commercialized, a tourist trap for sure. Begging for money at every turn…our safari driver warned us before we got there that the “Maasai are shrewd businessmen”, and to be sure to negotiate the prices if we wished to buy something. We did buy several things from them, and probably paid too much but that was okay with us. As soon as we got back on the highway, there were some of the younger ones dressed in black with painted white faces on the side of the road. I snapped a picture out the window of them. I just snapped it as our vehicle was going full speed on the highway, and when I looked at the picture closer, I noticed they were flipping me off with their middle fingers. Obviously they wanted money for the picture. Our driver, and us, could not believe it. I highly recommend the Datoga and Hazabe. The Hazabe took us on a hunt with them, and it was incredible.

  • Glad to hear you are trying to take care of your health on your visits. I agree (as would any sensible person), that avoiding body fluids is essential if you wish to stay healthy.
    It is sad that so much of the world has been corrupted by money. I have been very disillusioned on my travels to meet with similar experiences to yours. Please continue to take good care of yourself and hoping your future travels are more rewarding.

  • Congratulations, you visited the most affluent Maasai ‘village’ in all of Tanzania. I spent two weeks in Tanzania teaching at a Maasai school, and in case you were wondering, yes, I got sick. you know that you need a hand full of vaccines, shots, and meds just to get into Tanzania, so you should know that your concern for YOUR health is plain ignorance. That’s besides the point tho, in Tanzania the education system is broken, and so is their entire countries economic infrastructure due to the fact that they are reliant on their #1 industry, tourism. I did visit Ngorongoro, so I saw that village. Guess what, so did every singe tourist who ever came out of the crater. Thankfully, my group did not stop at that village. If you, a tourist, are traveling to appropriate a culture, dont go to the tourist destinations. Dont pretend like you actually visited and experienced a Maasai village. Dont talk about their actions and need for solution as a burden or take-away from YOUR travels. My suggestion to anyone who feels the same way is go deep into the bush and find a real village, see real struggles, and find real solutions. Teach them, be with them, dont just stop by to get a quick tour of their house, BUY their craft (jewelry, art, sculptures, etc) because that is how they feed themselves and their families. It sickens me that you say that you felt forced to wear this bracelet, its a piece of art, its someones lives work. You know how you could make their day, pay the rate to get into the village and dont go in. Let them give the next person a tour and you, just go home… you arent their to help, you are their observing a way of life yet you are unable to see the truth and hardship behind it. Teach them, feed them, be with them, then you can take as many pictures as you want. Hell, the pictures might actually show a genuine emotion, not the face they are forced to put on for the tourists who cycle through their homes.

  • Hi Viki,

    Some companies do indeed know how to arrange a cultural experience without making either side unhappy. Though I am mostly an independent traveler, I went on safari to Tanzania with Overseas Adventure Travel out of Boston. We visited a Maasai boma and had none of your uncomfortable experiences. In fact, we had a really wonderful time and learned a ton, and by reading about your experience, I can see just how badly it can go! What we were told was that OAT made business deals with a number of such villages in the area. They have enough villages to visit so that villages are not visited too often. If the villagers treated OAT’s travelers as you were treated, which OAT knows people don’t like, they would be off that list.

    That said, at the very beginning of the trip, our lead guide told us that we would see a lot of jewelry on our trip, but that we would have an opportunity to purchase some good quality beaded necklaces and bracelets from the women in the village where we would be spending a day. He suggested we might want to save some of our “purchasing power” for their little market. And we did. Tho I also bought other kinds of jewelry everywhere, I bought some beaded goods from “our” village women that I wear a lot even 5 years later. The market was confined to the very end of our day with the villagers and the lady artists were not pushy at all. They didn’t have to be; we loved their work and they were rightly proud of it.

    During the whole trip, OAT made a point to encourage us to buy things that Africans were working to sell and to discourage us from simply handing out money. The OAT guides said that handouts lead to the kind of pressure you experienced.

    Last year I went on another trip with OAT, this time to India. We spent a day in a rural village there also. In the morning we went to the village’s school. We had been told before we left the US that if we wanted to bring something for the school, bring a deflated soccer ball (or several other choices; we brought a ball). OAT donates generously to that school; we saw desks that had been delivered with “Overseas Adventure Travel” stamped on the side! We then went to a lady’s house where she made us chai in her outdoor stove, showed us the small house where she and her husband raised their four children, and told us about her life in the countryside. We asked a lot of questions. Then we went to the Women’s Cooperative where this woman had been working since it opened a few years ago. The coop, where the women make and sell fabric, clothes, toys, jewelry, all kinds of great stuff, has made a great difference in the quality of life in the village. (At first the village’s men disapproved of their ladies working but changed their minds once they saw some cash rolling in.) We had been told early on in the trip that we would probably really like the goods there and save a little cash for these villagers. The products, which we could watch the women sewing or stamping or whatever, were terrific.

    If a company takes pains to make such experiences good, they will be. I’m glad you wrote about your experience. It was enlightening.

  • The history of the Maasai is so amazing it is so hard to acknowledge, that they are just another object for entertainment.
    You should read this article:
    “Development, demarcation and ecological outcomes in Maasailand” by Katherine Homewood

    and understand why they have been in that position.

    Regards!

  • Great article Viki. I have travelled the globe and I agree with your comments 100%. You are astute and accurate–keep on writing….jim

  • I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but I’ve had the opportunity to visit Maasai villages in Tanzania and Kenya while on safari in 2011, 2014 and again in 2017 and had marvelous experiences. Unfortunately for you, it sounds like you were not informed as to what to expect prior to your visit. On my visits, I knew that in order to go, there was a small fee. This fee goes to the village and helps them support themselves. Bartering isn’t as common as it once was, so they need to earn money in order to buy certain things they can’t make themselves or find in nature (i.e. the cloth they wear known as a Shuka) and for other needs, including in some cases paying for their children’s schooling and school uniforms. Obviously the villages I visited must not have been as remote and they had actual schools to attend, but the schools were very small buildings with less than adequate supplies; they did however have walls.

    The Maasai, like other tribes who choose to remain more traditional have limited means of earning money. They can sell off an animal, or the jewelry and other items they make. And, they can host our village visits, entertaining and enlightening us with song and dance, and stories of their culture.

    I don’t begrudge them the fee for allowing me to intrude on their daily lives, or the money they make from the sale of their jewelry and other items. And to be honest, most of the people I’ve witnessed visiting these villages were aware of what to expect, and were prepared to haggle on price for everything. It was expected by the Maasai I’ve visited, which is why they start out with prices higher than you might expect. You ask about a bracelet and they say it’s $10.00. You put a look of amazement on your face like “oh my god you must be kidding” and offer them $1.00″. The trick is to get to the price your willing to pay and that they are willing to accept, so both parties are happy when you walk away. I myself enjoy the opportunity to haggle and there are very few opportunities to do so in the U.S.

    I hope you have the chance to visit another Maasai village in the future. I’m sure you will have a much better experience now that you are more familiar with their culture and what to expect.

    Wishing you many more adventures,
    A Fellow Traveler

  • Viki, I feel your pain. I just came back from visiting the Maasai at Maasai Mara, the whole time I felt like I was getting scammed. As soon as I reached my hotel, i went online to see if anyone else shared the same feeling and experience as me, then I came upon your blog. After visiting the Maasai, my whole perspective of them have changed 180 degree. I used to think they were sincere, grateful and friendly people, boy, was I wrong! First of all, I feel like these Massai people charge the entrance fees differently depending on the visitors. I was charged 85 USD for entrance fee, which to me is outrages, however, I did not think much of it and was happy to pay because I want to learn about their culture. Little did I know, 85 USD was only the beginning. During the presentation, the Maasai who took me on the tour bluntly asked me for tips, which I thought was really rude. And then one of the warriors showed me how to light fire using only sticks, after his little show, he asked me about five times to buy the sticks for 10USD, to which I politely declined 5 times before he gave me a pissed off expression and walked off. Towards the end of my visit, I was taken to the booths to buy some jewelry, there were about 25 booths all lined up, these people were all standing behind me looking at me the whole time while I shopped which made me felt extremely uncomfortable. One of them kept showing me the pieces from every single booth and kept asking if I wanted to buy, at that point I had already picked out 3 bracelets that I wanted to purchase, but as greedy as these people were, they kept pushing for more. Even when I kindly rejected, he kept asking for the 300th times. you would think he got the hint, but nope, these people are too thick skinned. Anyways, I was charged $70 USD for the 3 bracelets that I bought. As I turned around to get ready to leave the tour, I said bye to the Maasai people who were surrounding me, watching and judging me while I shopped, guess what? They didn’t even bother to say ‘bye’ back. a ‘Thank you for your purchase’ would have been too much to ask at this point. I have never met a group of more ungrateful people in my life. Another story I wanted to share with you is that I went to visit the children’s home at the Kibera slum in Nairobi, I bought about $70 worth of grocery for the children. I had no idea that there were going to be around 200 kids at that place because my tour guide told me there were only going to be around 60. Needless to say, my grocery wasn’t enough for all the children to share. However, all the teachers, children and staff members were so happy and grateful for the little contribution that I had made, the founder of the school even told the children that if they don’t get their share today, they will get it the next day and to be thankful for whatever they have. Sincerity and gratefulness is what these Maasai peope need to learn. I don’t know about the Maasai from other areas, but my experience with them at the Maasai Mara was terrible and frankly, I will warn everyone I know to be very careful if they ever visit the village. I have visited other tribes before, I never had a bad experience, They didn’t care about money, they were just happy to have visitors who were interested to learn about their culture, and were happy to teach and share their culture with the world. The Maasai tribe at Maasai Mara are all about money, using their culture to make a profit.

  • I come from the Maasai. People have turned our culture into a source of income. Those outside the tribe also pretend to be Maasai just to get hand outs. It’s very unfortunate that my kin in Tanzania did that as we are very hospitable. This is a result of cultural erosion. I’m glad you posted this as I hope to restore our identity and set up a tour guide society.

  • School for their children is expensive, and that is how much of their money is spent. Otherwise the girls especially don’t go to school. As well as for getting water when the wells dry up, which generally happens seasonally.

  • Sounds liike most of Tanzania to me. I have several homes, one in a village two hours out of Bukoba, the other in Zanzibar.
    Maasai are all over the place in TZ, and most are faking it, not at all Maasai, and they all do the same thing, they ask for money. In every village I’ve ever been in it’s exactly the same. Even visiting extended family in Dar is a money grab. I am mzungu and my wife is Tanzanian so we are seen as very wealthy of course. When they get that in their minds, they have no shame in begging.

  • I came across your blog recently and my first thought was she must not be going where my Pastor’s goes. He and his wife have never returned with that impression of the people. I forwarded it to my friend, the reply was: How sad Not our experience. Perhaps that may be because we are a mission-minded church. I was told some do have wares to sell, but it is up front and not required

    I am sorry you had such a bad experience. I understand this is a blog and how you perceive things.

  • Viki,
    I realize you wrote this blogpost several years ago and are probably over all of the comments, but I wanted to share that my husband and I visited a Maasai village in 1999 — and while it was very similar to what you described, it wasn’t quite as bad as your story.
    But everywhere we went in Kenya (and in neighboring Tanzania) — if we were out of the transport van and not in a safari hotel –we were surrounded by locals forcably pushing necklaces, bracelets and carved figurines at us and demanding money (and ink pens!). We said “Hapana” more times than I care to remember (hapana means “no”) but rarely did “hapana” or “no thank you” ever do us any good. At times I felt very threatened by the pushiness of the people we encountered.

    Our Maasai village trip was similar to yours, we had to make a “donation” to visit (didn’t mind it at all) and were STRONGLY encouraged to buy something at their display tables. Our driver may have been in league with them, because though we asked to leave after a reasonable amount of time and making our purchases, the driver didn’t seem to want to take us until we’d spent a considerable amount of money. As an aside, we have also traveled to China several times and had a very similar experience at some of the pearl/silk markets and government stores — and similar experience when we visited Venice, Italy with the men offering the red roses! I guess this type of pushiness can be problematic in foreign travel these days.

    Travel is an amazing way to get out of our comfort zones and see how different cultures of people live. Perhaps we are wrong to insinuate ourselves into others’ cultures to begin with, Sometimes we see the less desirable side of how people act, especially when money figures into the equation. Anytime a visitor is perceived as “rich” compared to the standard of living in a third world country you had certainly better be prepared to have such an encounter — and be relieved if you don’t.

    Keep traveling!

  • We are about to spend a number of weeks in Uganda, and we hope to learn about the Maasai in kenya or Tanzania while we are there. To visit an indigenous peoples, or a 3rd world nation/situation is always very difficult. We forget that by showing our money and everything we represent, is wealth. People do not know that they are poor until we tell them. We are trying to take them into modern society, yet we do not honor them for it. And we do not understand their rights to the life they wish to keep, or to abandon. Tourism is, for many globally, the only way to make a living in a modern world, although entering it is made extremely difficult. I have visited over 45 countries, spending much time in many of these. I have found the pushy, terribly annoying situation identical in Haiti, a country I adore and have visited more than 20 times. As I step off the plane. I cannot hold onto my suitcase and am threatened if I don’t ‘pay up’, even to people who never lend a hand. You get used to it. One guy said, looking at a generous $5 (More than I’d pay at home) “hey – this is nothing!” So I took it back and said “I’m sorry I gave you nothing!” He was furious, but all the others laughed. (But do take care!!!) Be firm, don’t argue, expect that they want to earn money but always ask ‘how much’. If they say ‘later’…ignore them and or tell them to find another customer. Bartering is a ‘must’ almost everywhere outside N America and Europe. But remember: you don’t owe anyone anything, regardless of which spot on earth, that you don’t want to give them. Just don’t flaunt it, and NEVER insult anyone. We have made tourism what it is. We have made beggars out of honorable people, yet forget a penny for those who really ARE beggars out of true povery. You can tell the difference easily. You are expected to give and certainly to pay tips.. It is part of the game, whether you are in Nepal or Guatamala or Myanmar. But do not expect to pay 50 cents for a bracelet you’d have to pay $30 for in New York or London. That is an insult! Give people fair wages so they can get out of their poverty. Look for nd acknowledge quality.Ask if they have something ‘better’ to show you. Often they will. If you go to a Broadway show you will have to pay $100 for a seat. Why frown at paying $30 for something that is still real? If you go to Asia, South America, Africa etc to be ‘cheap’, go to a dime store and stay home. Logic, respect and acknowledging that the world is a better place if you learn and play fair. Give first, then perhaps take. Enjoy your future travels while enjoying your riches. And do not judge people by YOUR standards. Spend a month inside. Learn something instead of a 30 minute dash.

  • Hi Viki,
    My name is Sam writing from the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland in Southern Africa. I happen to be both a professional hotelier and a Maasai from a small village town just outside the famous Maasai Mara in Southern Kenya. I therefore attache such importance to my guests while at same time happen to understand my culture quite well.

    Kindly accept my apologies for the rare experience you had in the hands of what appears to be my people in Tanzania. Without giving any excuses and/or condoning the unacceptable experience you had, please appreciate that the Maasai are one of the most humane and hospitalbe people on the globe. Historically, the warlike Maasai were the only ones known never to have harmed even children, women and the elderly of their enemies. Upon conquering them, Such groups of the population of the enemy would be protected and converted to be members of the Maasai community through a certain traditional process and treated without any discrimination.

    The Maasai have always welcomed strangers and treated them well as long as they were not suspected to be evil minded. This is the only explanation why the first white man to cross Maasai land did not meet the brutal fate of the Arab slave traders who attempted to venture near Maasai land. It is this kindness and hospitality that the colonialists took advantage of when they deceptively took the most fertile lands of the Maasai and introduced deceptive ways of undermining the independence and power of the Maasai people. This resulted in untold suffering which still goes on as we speak.

    During childhood, Maasai children are taught to acknowledge that their existence depended on the existence of their neighbour. ‘I am becasue you are; You are because I am” is taught in everyday life of the Maasai. This does not hold true in our approach to life in these ‘modern’ days. The Maasai is therefore a community out of place in our world today where greed rules. That is why they are trying to embrace money, etc.

    Like any other community, the Maasai have their share of elements who engage in criminal activity and deviate from the expected behaviour of the community. This may be combined with the additional flow of the members of other tribes who dress like the Maasai (but without the Maasai upbringing} in order to taken advantage of the tourism business which seems to surround the Maasai culture. This is clearly visible along the white beaches of the neighbouring Kenya, among other places in East Africa.

    With this little introductory and humble piece of contribution, please accept my apologies on behalf of whoever contributed to your bad experience be it a Maasai or one who dressed like one.

    Sam Nabaala.

  • Wow. So many reactions to your post. Visiting a Maasai village is an educational experience to be sure. In my case, I was very excited to go, but once there, I found it fascinating yet awkward. What were the Maasai thinking? How did they feel about our being there? Did they enjoy “entertaining us?” Or was it something that they were forced into to survive or take care of their families? Did the feelings/opinions vary from individual to individual? It was impossible to know because many did not speak English, and of course, it’s intrusive to ask.

    We were charged more than the $10 USD that you paid. $30 I believe, and we were happy to do so. In the grand scheme of things, $30 doesn’t mean that much to a traveling American, but for them? It meant they could buy water. Also, we were told by our guides that arrangements would be made with other villages that are farther from the road to trade places so others would have a chance to earn some income as well.

    My thought regarding your experience with the pushy salesman is to forget about it. You don’t know what his day was like, or how desperate he might be. The traditional way of life for the Maasai has been disrupted by colonialization, modern technology, the government and even tourism. I can’t imagine what that would be like.

    We are lucky to be able to travel and it is really important to keep an open and generous mind.

  • This is disgusting! I just finished a three-day stay at a Maasai camp in Tanzania…not at one that is on the way to the Serengeti…but with a village of 400 beautiful and wonderful Maasai. I have so much admiration and respect for them. Your blog made me upset. I usually don’t comment on things like this, but I can’t hold back. Your blog is all about you…your experience… the way you were treated… how you felt… what you thought… you, you, you, and more you. First, you got scammed. So your long testimonial sob story is irrelevant. Second, you’re a travel blogger, right? Why not write about the extortion and unfair treatment the Maasai have experienced for decades and how that has created unfavorable tourism and try to do something about it? This blog is very self absorbing, and I find it immediately insulting with your harsh criticism and irrational blame. Please remember that people believe stupid shit in blogs, and your “experience” and words might saturate with others, which further deepens the negative tone you portray. I feel sorry for people that come home from trips and make it all about them…. wanderlust traveler? You sound more like a grumpy tourist to me. Poor you…. I hope you were able to recover from such a tragic episode.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • No worries, I also got lots of comments and emails from people who had the very same experience as I had. I share the good and bad on my blog here, my experience in Tanzania was a shitty one. So of course I want to prevent other travellers to spend their money on it and have a shitty experience themselves.

  • Having recently returned from a Maasai village in Kenya, and experienced an unexpected moment of commercialism, I find your assessment and specifically your title to lack a bit of context and depth. These influences have encroached on their existence, they never asked for it, and even a basic understanding of the economics of tourism and expansion would suggest they are adapting to survive. A deeper look into of the relationships that exist between tourism and these people trying to maintain pastoral existence is complex and somewhat undermined by a rather shallow assessment that lacks any discussion of the larger picture. Yea I bought some stuff…but I walked away honored and grateful for what I have and a tremendous respect their ability to exist and thrive in the conditions they are born into.

  • Dear Viki,

    this is Sokoine Paulo and I am a really Masai. please lets me speak on behalf them. Actually we are a local tribe live out of civilizations by depending milks and meats previously. According to globalization “Utandawazi” in swahili. we came to change and take normal foods like others tribes. we are so sorry for what we did to you and made you unhappy and disappointing to us. I can say its was a misunderstanding with that man explain to you, also I can say may be he/she was not a real Masai. was just a tour guide given from that your partner company or village leaders force them to make that. and thus why he tried to find a little commission or was just a deal made by them with a company to earn your money. Honestly, I would like to get apologize from you to my tribe problems facing you at that time. Also, we are differ in groups with conditions about behavior… we are just 12 clans with different habits in Masai tribe. Please you suppose to back happy with us. We are so sorry and am so sorry for that happen. Reality I had my clients got this challenge with Village leaderships to claim more money to visit Masai Bomas. Rely I was disappointed and decide to left my job because of this. I swear on you that I shall deal with this behavior till finished and lost. my tribe going previously.

    I am looking forward to hearing your reply

    with kindest regard
    Sokoine Paulo

  • Your generalizations are tacky and speak from the inexperienced rather than what the word ‘wanderlust’ would infer. I’m from the US, traveled to TZ last year, and experienced the culture by immersion rather than as a tourist. Do this before you judging the Maasai and ‘regretting’ your visit to a Maasai village. I’m saddened to see your website listed on the first page of a Google search…..

  • Viki, How upsetting to read your post. Yourself and the like continue to misrepresent us. Your experience was limited to one village and perhaps no more than 2-4 individuals. Now you have painted an entire group of people in a bad light. I bet yourself was thrilled to go see our people and now not only your benefiting from your experience but have succeeded to spread what i believe is exaggerated lies. If yourself was blameless why take part?

  • I recently visited a Maasai village and was informed that the entrance fee was so that they can purchase water from the government (was shown the water holding tanks). The tourist season in Tanzania is only a few months so what ever they get is probably all they get for a year. They did push to sell things, however, after being in their homes i did not see anything that would indicate that the money they received was used for anything but needed supplies (I have been to numerous businesses and dealt with telemarketers who are far worse than my experience there). Maybe some where out there they have fancy houses and cars hidden that they use all the money they collect from tourist on BUT i don’t think so.

  • Ngorongoro is very tourism, that’s why people and animals have been trained behaved differently.

    I have visited in Tatangire, where more remote and less tourist. One Massai family we visited, they didn’t have behave what you encountered.

    Sometime, we have to wise of helping them, giving money or too much money direct to them might have a negative impact.

  • Thanks for posting this. A lot of people here are misinterpreting your post but I’ve found it extremely helpful. Also you should never apologize for looking out for your own health and safety, it is unfortunate that people are trying to mischaracterize this as being entitled or racist.

    Anyway I’ll be going to Tanzania in a few months and will likely cross off a visit to a Maasai villiage as a result of your post. I likely have a similar idyllic picture of what a visit would be and most likely that wouldn’t be the case so thanks for this insight.

  • WOW!!! So sad you must have been taken to the wrong village! I fell in love with the Masai people when I was in Tanzania and had the most wonderful memories of my time there. I had been told while stateside that the women loved to barter in beads so I had brought some with me. We were shown the dances and the warriors and told about life in their village – I have some amazing pictures from that village and time there.

    We were told that the chief of the village was going to the big city the next day to look for wife #4 – so when I was in the village gift shop (like in your picture) and trying to trade some beads and cash for my beaded items, the women wanted more cash than beads. The Chief who was only 5′ tall if that, came over and asked what was wrong. He spoke English very well. I told him about my bartering problem and he then chastised the women and they reluctantly gave me the items I wanted for the cash/bead trade I had asked for. As I walked back to our vehicles with the chief, he asked me “so do you like Tanzania?” of which I said “OH YES very much!” and then he asked “OH maybe you like to stay here and be wife #4?” – now with my humor I wanted to put my arm around him and say “wow! I am so honored I’d love to be your #4!!!” but my rational self knew this may be a total insult and I’d be sitting there with him as the vehicles drove off with their gift of cows he’d give for my hand! LOL!!!!

    I also had some candy and little toys for the children – One was a little finger puppet of a butterfly! I gave it to one of the young warrior men, and tried to show him how to use it. Later after the chief’s proposal, I got back into our vehicle and as I looked out to say “Good-bye” here was the Masai Warrior with a group of them with the butterfly puppet on his finger making it fly around and make them laugh! — So you see – my memories are glorious and so sad you didn’t have the same!

  • Oh what a shame! In 1997 I was lucky enough to visit Tanzania and a Massai tribe with a group of 17/18 year old college students. Our experience was the very opposite of yours. No money exchanged hands, although the international school we stayed with may have had some kind of agreement. Our payment was ‘work’ on a bridge they were building which went over the river near their village. It was hilarious as the men (women weren’t allowed to join in the ‘work’) had little idea how to wield he hammers for the nails and when one cut his finger he was fascinated by the plaster our school nurse used. He couldn’t understand why it wouldn’t re-stick once he removed it. After putting some nails in the bridge to steady it we walked to the village. My husband and I were able to go into one of the huts where a young girl was nursing her baby; it was very dark and I so nearly stood on the embers of a fire burning on the ground.
    Back outside the hut a girl, roughly the same age as our students offered me a bead necklace. Desperate to find something to give to her I found a small cosmetic purse I had been using and some hair bands which she took with a big smile on her face.
    It’s true that people who took photos gave a pound to those who posed for them, but this is still very different to your experience.
    Add to this the fact that the village elder who arranged the visit came to the international school to talk to the students telling them (and the adults of course) about Massai life. A phrase which comes back so often is his reply to one of the questions which was, very casually, ‘There are two ways to kill a lion.’
    This was July 1997, so maybe things have changed, but out visit was totally positive and wonderful.

  • We were also taken to the same village at the Ngorongoro crater and had the same experience. Clearly, this is all for show, but the bottom line is, if you can help them with a few dollars, just do it. I don’t know for a fact, and maybe someone else here does, but I suspect the money you donate is pooled to help buy resources for tribes in that area. At least that is what I prefer to think. Buying their little trinkets is a way to donate to them. Play along as best you can and enjoy the show. You have your job. This is theirs.

  • We were also herded off to the same “village”. Clearly it is all for show, but the bottom line is, if you can help them out with a few dollars, just do it. I don’t know for sure, and maybe someone else here does, but I suspect the money is pooled to buy resources and services for members of the tribe all over the area. At least that is what I prefer to think. Have a set amount of money in mind to give them and then stick to it. The trinkets are just an added bonus. We were informed before we visited the village that they would be trying to sell us items and to barter with them. Pay what you can ( or not) and then stick to your plan. Don’t be offended by their acting. You have your job, this is theirs.

  • Hi Viki,

    I couldn’t finish reading all comments because my heart bleeds and just wanted to say thank you for your blog. I will know it’s important to do research before visiting and also bring more money. I didn’t feel like you were rude at all to anyone and blaming ourselves as tourist instead of the villagers. You were just honest about some experience. Thanks so much 🙂

    • It wasn’t part of the tour, but a stop that our tour guide suggested. He said that the fee for visiting would be around 10€ (if I remember correctly).

  • Had almost similar experience, but not so bad, as Viki. I told from beginning, that I spent already all money in previous gift shops. I don’t have any money left, but can accept, if they decide to donate me anything. I was wise enough to put wallet in breast pocket, and showed inside out my empty paints pockets.

  • Did you ask to speak to the Maasai’s manager, Becky?

    Your commentary is precisely why experiences should not be given to the affluent and privileged. You have no appreciation for what you experience, and it makes it cheap. Shame on you.

  • I feel your pain. I went to a Masai village in Kenya last year and had a similar experience. After the tour we were taken (just two of us) to their souvenir market. They claimed that we were their only visitors that day but yet there were at least a dozen vendors selling jewelry, carved animals, etc. My companion actually wanted to buy a few things so they left me alone for the most part. Still I ended up buying a necklace for about $15 (bargained down from $30) that I saw elsewhere for $5. I did like it though..a well made piece with a (likely fake) lion’s tooth. Even though we were their “only visitors” we met numerous people at our lodge who had been there earlier in the day.

    The most ridiculous aspect of the tour was how our guide constantly spoke of how they were so poor that they didn’t even have cell phones and other conveniences. They had to travel quite far, we were told, just to make calls on phones they had to pay to use. Yet as I initially approached the village my own cell went wild w/notifications because all of a sudden I had the strongest signal available since I had left Nairobi. I doubt that half the people I saw there even lived in the village. It seemed like a rebuilt colonial tourist town that you’d find in America staffed w/regular folks dressed up in old times clothes.

  • You are the worst type of tourist, and from your blog, you’re clearly a self-obsessed narcissist.

    No-one wants you anywhere, you greedy, entitled bitch. Too cheap to spend a few bucks. Typical German. I bet you don’t work for free.

  • Hi Viki,
    Sorry to hear about your experience. Similar to how you have been ripped off in the village, we need to inform and warn peope about something else thats has been going on for a long time.

    The amazing love story projected in Corinne Hofmann’s book (“The White Masai” which was later made into a movie) on how she found love with a proud Masai man whilst on holiday in Kenya (I am sure others too and i don’t want to distract from this amazing love story) has unfortunately created a dangerous death trap of Russian roulette for thousands of women flocking to Zanzibar in the hope of finding the same (pretty similar scenario on the beaches of Mombasa which is in Masai territory, but I will only comment on Zanzibar which is NOT in Masai territory).

    In fact on ZANZIBAR you will see all these so-called “Masai warriors” on the beaches (as well as some in Stone Town) but almost all are FAKE Masai and actually nothing but PROSTITUTES. The poor women from Europe think they are being honored to be with one of those so-called Masai Warriors, but the locals and people who know whats going on, just shake their heads and sees yet another women with a prostitute, cringing at the thought of the HIV rate amongst them…in silence..but who are we to spoil the party?
    Some recent surveys put HIV infection between them as high as 2 thirds (66 percent) !!!!
    For the sex tourists please go and check for more info on WIKISEXGUIDE.COM and you will be advised about this: http://www.wikisexguide.com/wiki/Zanzibar#Prostitutes_and_Sex_Workers (look under “SEXUAL SERVICES FOR WOMEN”). This website is normally a tool to advise sex tourists around the world, so if you are one, be clever and take note!

    With fake burn marks on the their cheeks and wearing traditional clothes or ankle guards for stick fighting, they will try and tell you that they are Masai warriors, but once you confront them, they will admit that its not true and that most of them are fake. At first they wont. Maybe they do admit to me because i am African and they know they cant BS me. Obviously they will never admit that to women that they chat up on the beaches….they will rather tell you the BS stories of how they fought a lion to prove their manhood 🙂 …gosh and the women believe them. Again wake up and smell the coffee, these guys on Zanzibar beaches ain’t Masai Warriors, they are prostitutes!

    If i wear traditional MENTAWAI tatoos, it does not make me one. The Mentawai tribe is on the Mentawai islands (Siberut, Sipura, North Pagai and South Pagai) about 150 kilometers off the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. So don’t be fooled by bodily modifications.

    Its a joke. The average Masai is about 6ft 3 inches tall but when you look at most of these “Masai” on the beaches they are not even close to 6 foot tall.

    This is an embarrassment for us Africans and especially for the true Masai. They are a proud and fearsome tribe with age-old traditions. The government is turning a blind eye on this prostitution network as thousands of sex tourists (especially women) flocking to Zanzibar every month, bringing in millions and millions of revenue.
    It is one of the silent-non-spoken-about embarrassing secrets which other locals will shyly admit to when prompted.

    The Masai has never and will never be the bitch of the white women or any one else. The Masai is not a prostitute and the Masai is not a beggar.

    Clean up the beaches and give back respect to the real Masai.

  • Viki,

    Don’t listen to these haters. There is not much good about Maasai. For a girl to be born into this tribe she is doomed for an awful life of borderline slavery and no education. More people need to educate themselves about what these tribes really are.

  • Wow, like I was reading my experience! Was this the village near Ngorongoro, a short ride from crater viewpoint? I also regret, but was my first ever safari and I trusted the safari driver that the village is not commercial, but it turned out completely different. We (me and bf) had to pay 50 USD for contribution for visit, but i didn’t buy anything as I already shopped in other places and those jewellery prices were really too steep and greedy. I do respect handcrafts, I also make bead jewellery, and I know its tedious work, but still…. Then years later I visited another off the grid Maasai village, totally different experience and I had a local to arrange permission from village chief to visit. I guess every safari goer once falls into tourist trap.

    • Hi Nina! Yes I believe it was rather close to Ngorongoro, we might have visited the same village. I’m sad to hear that even years after my visit things haven’t changed there.
      In the retrospective, it taught me well, but when I was there I sure didn’t like it at all. Hope your next travels go smoother!

  • Hello, I just found your blog and wanted to give you a quick update … I literally just had the exact same experience at the same village as you described 2-weeks ago. I also really wanted to learn more about the Maasi people and thought it was really cool there was a village that welcome villagers, but what I experienced seems more like a “tourist trap” then an authentic experience.

    I thought maybe it was just how I felt, but your experience was exactly the same as mine. I mean I could literally copy and paste your words onto my blog post and it would be 100% accurate. You are not off-base in your description of the “visit.” It was very staged and geared to getting money as much money from a guest as possible. Sad really.

    • Hi Kathy!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this comment! It’s so important that other travellers hear about this experience and the visits of the villages. Not just from me, but also from other travellers that unfortunately have been in this very same position!
      I hope you did enjoy the rest of Tanzania though, I sure did!

  • I am in the works of planning a trip to Tanzania/Kenya and going to visit a Maasi village is definitely on my list. In doing my preliminary research I came across your article. I have to be honest, it disturbs me to hear of your experience as well as to see so many people remarking “poor you, how could they do this to you.” Getting hustled for money is a part of being a tourist. I’ve been scammed in France and even in Vegas. It would seem that you had a premeditated idea that the Maasai don’t need money and therefore should not behave the same way towards tourist that tourist trappers in Europe or America do. You are essentially walking through a person’s life and treating it as a museum and ogling their culture, and you expect not to pay for it? What is your culture worth to you? Can you put a price on it? I don’t think it fair of you to go into a person’s home, enjoy their culture and then decide what it’s worth. Their mistaken perception may be that you are abundantly wealth just as yours is that they don’t need “that much money”. Who knows? Be mindful that when you travel, you are a guest and as such, you may not always get to make the rules. Sometimes inconvenience or discomfort may be the price of adventure.

  • This is an older post about your experience in a village. I am getting ready to leave for Tanzania. Thanks for the “heads up” so to speak. I will go with a positive outlook and plan for a great experience but I will keep in mind your experience. I understood what you were saying and why you shared. Thanks

  • This happens anywhere there are dumb tourists looking to creep on local people for a photo op. Someone mentioned it earlier, but if you genuinely want to get to know a culture, actually invest some time. This experience from the beginning was transactional, so what are you mad about? You Europeans get so out of sorts when you go somewhere with black and brown people and everyone doesn’t kiss your white ass. You’re a voyeur and these people owe you no more then treating you as such. Also, this literally happens in every community in the world that white people with resources view as different as their own and venture too with a pocket full of cash and a camera to show their friends how “cultured” they are. Good for them for getting a solid $30 dollars out of you.

  • Awwww mahnnnn….was just looking forward to visiting them one day but double minded now…Really sorry about your experience. But big fan of their accessories and how it is made. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Hey Viki I’m so sorry you had a bad experience with the Maasai village. I went to a village while I was there over Christmas and it was a lovely experience. In all the villages I’ve been to they did almost force me to try on their jewelry, but the price was very fair. I hope this experience doesn’t discourage you from similar interactions on later travels.

  • Crazy that we have so many years difference yet the exact same experience. You put perfectly into words the disappointment I felt about something I was so looking forward to in it sounds the exact same village just yesterday. I hope you’re travelling well 🙂

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