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Northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya are known for being the space inhabited by the Maasai. On my study abroad trip I had the opportunity to meet with and learn about many Maasai individuals, which was an incredible experience. Many Maasai have left their villages and live in Arusha, the city in which I lived while I was in Tanzania, so I met many while I was dancing at our favorite bar on Thursday nights, perusing tiny stalls and shops, or just walking around town. We also spent an afternoon visiting one of their villages and learning more about their culture during an epic camel safari on Mount Meru, which is when these photos were taken.

A far-from-nuanced description: Maasai dress in bright sheets, often red, and colorful, beaded jewelry. They use cattle as their main food source, and they build amazing, circular wooden structures to protect their villages and cattle from lions — they are well known as warriors and lion-killers, although the practice is dwindling. Another beautiful piece of their culture and history is their tradition of music and dance, which was a sight to behold.

We also visited an NGO dedicated to educating Maasai women and men on female genital mutilation. I had learned about FGM earlier in college but did not realize the prevalence for the practice in this particular community. Maasai culture is patriarchal in nature, and circumcision is an important rite of passage for both women and men; women who refuse FGM are ostracized by their communities. There are many Maasai individuals, nonprofits, and NGOs that are working to eradicate the practice, and it is technically illegal both in Tanzania and Kenya. To learn more visit here.

I feel very lucky to have met, danced with, and learned from some of the Maasai women and men near Arusha. The United States is built on slavery and genocide — we have done our best to destroy our indigenous populations and stamp out the many African traditions originally brought over by slaves. It is important, if possible, to experience cultures so ancient and traditions so sacred. To stand in awe and wonder at life so rich and sustaining. To walk among Maasai individuals while I lived in Tanzania for a few months was an honor, and one of my most enriching experiences.