Africa is a varied continent from the wineries of South Africa to the native villages of Kenya. Although, Covid-19 has made travel difficult in recent years, my husband and I got to visit Kenya virtually through Airbnb. Our host Samson met us through Zoom. Sam took us on a cultural tour of several regions. Then he discussed the Umoja Women’s Village. After that, Sam talked about the cultural center, Bomas of Kenya. In the end, we even learned some Swahilli.
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Visit the Maasai of Kenya
The Maasai are the majority ethnic group in Kenya and Tanzania. Traditionally, the Maasai have been a semi-nomadic tribe of hunters and gatherers. However, forced to live on reservations, their grazing land is dwindling. Because of this, they incorporated farming into their lifestyle. In this patriarchal society, wealth is measured by the amount of cattle one owns. During the past, the Maasai wore animal skins. In contrast, today they use commercial cotton cloth. They often dye the clothing red to repel evil spirits. Often, women add elaborate bead work to their clothing.
Historically, the Maasai circumcise adolescent boys as a rite of passage. With that in mind, adolescent girls also undergo genital mutilation. Usually they are forced into arranged marriages at a young age.
Umoja Women Village, Kenya
Founded in 1990, Umoja Women Village houses approximately 50 women. Umoja Vaso means unity in Swahilli. This village provides a safe space for victims of female genital mutilation, rape, forced marriage, and domestic violence. Often women are abandoned by their husbands after they are raped. Considered defiled, the women end up homeless. In addition, the village houses children. Therefore, the village provides education and job skills. Interestingly enough the women own the village. According to Wikipedia, they also sell crafts and rent camping spaces to tourists for money.
Visit BOMAs of Kenya
In 1971 Bomas cultural center opened in Nairobi as a tourist attraction. Here, traditional cultures are preserved to inform tourists of historical ways of life. Highlights include daily shows demonstrating traditional dances and costumes. In addition, there are replicas of cultural homesteads for visitors to walk through. Not only does this teach outsiders about every day life of the indigenous people, but it is fun to watch the traditional dances and ceremonies. When you get hungry you can eat traditional cultural foods at the on site restaurant.
95% of the population of Kenya speak Swahilli. It is a Bantu language influenced by Persian, Arabic, Portuguese, Hindustani, and Malay. Due to each region speaking their own language, communicating is difficult. Hence, Swahilli developed as a universal language. Although people speak their native dialects at home, they speak Swahili with other tribes. In addition, they speak English with foreigners. With that in mind, Sam taught us some Swahilli words:
- Jambo Hello
- Habari. How are you?
- Asank. Thank you
- Kwaheri. Goodbye
- Chakula. Food
So I hope you have enjoyed this brief synopsis of a virtual journey to Kenya. We highly recommend you join Sam for a more detailed journey. Perhaps, you will even join him for a tour in person.