The Samburu People are a Nilotic clan that inhabits the Kenyan’s northern plains. They are similar to the Maasai People; in fact, they speak the Maa-language.
Like their cousin, the Maasai tribe, the Samburu tribe is a nomadic community that moves from one area to another searching for water and fresh pasture for their cattle, sheep, goats, and camels.
Samburu are considered to be even more remote and traditional than their cousins and have maintained the identity of their culture by following their traditions and resisting modern trends.
Other neighbors of the Samburu People include the Pastoral Borana, Rendille, and Turkana tribes.
History of the Samburu People
Samburu’s history is similar to that of other Kenya’s Nilotic groups. They are believed to have originated from Southern Sudan, settling south of Lake Turkana in the Rift Valley and north of Mt. Kenya.
Upon their arrival in the 15th century, they parted ways with their cousins, the Maasai, who moved further south while they moved north. Samburu tribe was not quite affected by the British colonial government since the British didn’t find their land attractive.
Samburu Social Organization
The Samburu tribe is a gerontocracy community. The power of their elders is linked to the uncompromised belief in their curse, highlighting their monopoly over prearranged marriages and marrying many wives.
This is at the expense of unmarried guys, whose growth up to the age of 30 is in a state of social suspension, extending their adolescent status.
The paradox of their gerontocracy is that most attention focuses on the deviant and glamour activities of these bachelors, which stretches to form a gang disputing between clans, theft of their stock, and widespread suspicions of secret adultery with partners of older men.
A Samburu man wears a cloth which is usually black or pink and is wrapped around his waist in a similar way to a Scottish Kilt. The men also decorate themselves with anklets, bracelets, and necklaces, like the Maasai.
Warriors (members of the moran clan) often wear their hair in huge braids, which they shave when they become seniors. It is often colored with red ochre. Sometimes, their bodies are decorated with ochre.
On the other hand, women wear 2 pieces of purple or blue cloth, the first piece wrapped around the waist, the other one over the chest. They keep their hair short and wear dozens of bracelets and necklaces.
Nomadic Lifestyle of the Samburu People
Like other Kenyan pastoralist communities, the Samburu family rear huge herds of cattle, camels, goats, and sheep, which they graze on their land (land is owned by the community).
Samburu herdsmen as well as their animals stay in a single grazing land as long as it has enough water and pasture, then migrate to new areas once the current site has been exhausted.
Every time they relocate, they build new Manyattas (a mud-walled and grass-thatched hut) to live in and fence their animal compound with thorn.
A classic Samburu village usually contains a few Manyattas belonging to a group of 5 to 10 families.
Samburu Beliefs, Faith, and Religion
Traditionally, the Samburu community believed in one God – Ngai or Nkai – who was believed to dwell in the mountains. The community had diviners who acted as the intermediaries between Nkai and other mortals.
Today, although some people still follow their traditional beliefs, some people have accepted Islamic or Christian faith.
The Food of the Samburu
Milk, blood, and corn (maize) are Samburu’s primary food. Although they don’t slaughter their cattle too often (only in special ceremonies and occasions such as childbirth, circumcision, and marriage), they drink their blood on a regular basis – they pierce the vein of an animal with a knife or spear, draw blood, and then reseal the wound with hot ashes.
When visiting Samburu County, we recommend you interact with the locals to understand their culture, beliefs, foods, clothing, and religion better.
Just like other Kenyan communities, Samburus are friendly people who are willing to teach you one or two things about their way of life.
Elephant Watch Camp has established its camp on the edge of the Ewaso Ng’iro River in the amazing Samburu National Reserve. When in this hotel, you will be able to spot different animals as they graze on the banks of the river.
The county has three constituencies: Samburu East, Samburu West, and Samburu North. The headquarters of Samburu Central is Maralal, Samburu North is Baragoi and headquarters for Samburu East is Wamba. There has been controversy about the headquarters of Samburu East. Some schools of thought proposed Archers Post, a rapidly growing town, while others proposed Wamba town a less rapidly growing town
The Samburu County Government is headed by Governor Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal, referred to within Samburu County as ‘M.K.’. A member of the national Jubilee political party, Lenolkulal was the first governor following Kenya’s devolution to county administrations.
Best Places To Visit In Samburu County
1. Samburu National Reserve
2. Shaba National Game Reserve
3. Kalama Conservancy
4. Reteti Elephant Sanctuary
5. Sera Rhino Sanctuary
6. Maralal National Sanctuary
7. Ndoto Mountains
8. Loroghi Hills
9. Kirisia Forest
Things to do in Samburu
Samburu County is a gem for holiday seekers. If you want to get a feel of what this County is all about, here are nine things that you can do in Samburu Kenya.
Ride a Camel
Samburu’s heart is the Ewaso Ng’iro River, which meanders via Samburu National Park, leaving a trail of green pasture for the park’s hundreds of species. Enjoy a breathtaking camel ride along the bank of this river.
A local guide will guide your camel along the riverbank and into the nearby villages. Alternatively, participate in the Maralal Camel Derby that takes place in Midyear in Maralal (Next Derby will take place between 1st to 3rd September 2018).
Participating in this derby is one of the most exciting things that you can do in Samburu town.
Mingle with the Samburu People
Discover more about the amazing culture of Samburu residence by visiting their villages.
Participate in chores around their homestead like milking goats, making traditional ornaments, and goading cattle into thorn pens and also learn their nomadic way of life.
Also, you can explore the Samburu National Reserve Kenya, Shaba National Park, Maralal National Reserve, and Buffalo Springs National Reserve.
Climb Mount Ol Lolokwe
Travel around the superb Mt. Ol Lolokwe. The five to seven hours hike will reward you with an unrivaled view of Samburu town.
Mount Ol Lolokwe
Attend Limuget Ceremony
Just like the Maasai, the Samburu people host propitious celebrations when the warriors (morans) become elders.
Known as Limuget, this celebration takes place once in every seven years and it’s celebrated by the morans, their families, and friends as well as other friends.
You should visit this county when Limuhet is taking place and experience the Samburu’s culture.
Discover the Singing Wells
A lot of things take place in the wells of Samburu. When the community takes their hundreds of cattle to these wells, they often dig up to water their troughs and call their animals with tunes that the cattle recognize as the family tune.
The community also gathers in these wells to socialize. If you are lucky, you might spot a wild animal that is strolling around the wells to enjoy what is remaining of the dug water.
Ensure that you don’t leave this Samburu County before you witness this side of the community.
After breakfast, your day should begin with a morning game drive. Samburu game reserves offer an opportunity to view rare species as well as other animals including Lions, Elephants, Gazelles, Buffalos, Water Bucks, Cheetahs, among others.
There have been over 400 bird species recorded in this great County of Samburu. The dry, open county offers rewarding birding watching opportunities.
The area features a number of African dry-country birds which it shares with Somali and Ethiopia. They include the Somali Ostrich, White-headed Mousebird, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Somali Bee-eater, Golden Pipit, among others. Migratory species arrive in the parks from November to April.
Samburu Cultural Tour
Samburu National Reserve Kenya was one of the two reserves in which conservationists Joy and George Adamson raised the famous lioness, Elsa. The story was told by the bestselling as well as the award-winning film “Born Free”.
In addition, you will get to learn about the local community when you visit them – interact with them and learn their culture. This is also the best opportunity to purchase some traditional Samburu art, souvenirs, and collectibles.
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