I wake up and have to remember where I am. It’s Day 70 of my trip through Africa and I have seen and done so much that I am starting to lose track of where I am. I open the curtains and look out over a savannah. Oh yeah, that’s right, now I remember: I’m at the Bilila Lodge in the middle of Serengeti National Park. The sun is rising as I walk from the lodge to the main building, where I meet a group of Maasai security guards.
They tell me that they are warriors who are here to protect me from the wild animals at night. After all, we are in the middle of the savannah. “We do the same in our village: we protect the sleeping women and children and the cattle. If you want I can show you our village and the way we live.”
In the village we are received by local teacher Julius, who teaches four-to-10-yearolds Kiswahili, English and maths. He gives me a little lesson in Maasai matchmaking. “Men marry at the age of 27, women at the age of 18,” Julius explains. “All 27-year-old men and 18-year-old women in the vicinity gather during a special ceremony where women choose their husband. The men perform a ritual dance and show off their strength by jumping as high as they can. The higher you jump, the more likely you are to be chosen. After the wedding, the woman leaves her village to live with her husband. The bride’s family receives a dowry of about 30 cows or goats.”
In honour of our visit, a group of men perform an exuberant dance. “Singing and dancing is one of the most important social activities for the Maasai,” Julius says, which explains why we haven’t seen TVs in any of the huts. “I will show you our TV,” Julius says. I follow him along a trail and climb to the top of a rock where he tells us to sit down. We have an unobstructed view of the savannah and the setting sun. “We only have one channel: the wildlife channel,” Julius says with a broad smile.