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The warriors are one of the most fascinating aspects of the Samburu.

Their fashion, their battles, their status is so interesting for many people that when looking at the Samburu the morani are all they can see. People are drawn to them.

In society the morani are revered and secretive. Their sole purpose is to protect the sacred cattle, so by association they are revered as demi-gods. Their influence in society is massive; they drive the boundaries of the land, increasing the grazing and protect them for the tribe.

1. morani

The fathers pick their strongest sons from a young age and pay the most attention to whoever he thinks will best listen and learn, and take his knowledge for the cattle.

The cattle are his most valued possession so the most capable boys become his most valued possession from a very young age.

2. moran during ‘month of birds’ warrior initiations

Boys will signify they are ready to become men with scarification. Notching is a really common practice where a thorn is dug into the flesh and pulled out in a curve and cut, and repeated to make a bank of 20 or more.

The elders of one clan (the Masula) will decide when it is time for the next generation of warriors. A generation will last between 10-20 years and the coming of age ceremonies will all happen at the same time. This means that you can be as young as 8 when you become a man or as old as your early twenties. The status is the same, once you are a warrior you are a man and treated like one.

3. a moran with his cattle.

Because warriors have the superhuman strength required to defend Samburu cattle it means they don’t have the trappings of regular mortals. To the community morani don’t eat, drink, sleep, move their bowels or have sex. When a warrior is circumcised he ceases to be part of the community, so his family severs all emotional ties with him until the next generation is circumcised, some 15 years later. If he dies in battle all his belongings are thrown in the bush, his name is never used and he is forgotten immediately.

4. from Chapter 4: Mountain Morani, notched scarification is visible on this moran’s back

Because of the battles and high chance of death Morani are not allowed wives (but they are allowed to ‘bead’ girlfriends*), so when the elders decide to circumcise a new generation of warriors the present warriors are not allowed to marry until there is a new generation.

This is for a reason; once a warrior has retired from the ‘army’ his priority is his family and children, looking after his mother and not going into battle where he may be killed.


These experienced warriors will then be on call to advise and teach the softer new generation for the first years of their time serving the Samburu.

The intricacies of the morani structure is complex, they drive every aspect of society. So in coming weeks we will be focusing on certain aspects, such as how the different age groups work and the structure and characteristics of the different age groups.

In 2007 Julia witnessed the most recent warrior initiation process. She is one of a few people outside of the Samburu to ever see this take place and will be discussing this incredible experience with us over a few chapters.


*the process of morans beading their girlfriends (giving them beads as a sign of their abstinent relationship) is a beautiful process that we want to cover in full in another chapter.


This article is a Samburu Trust collaboration. Please click here for more information.

This Chapter by Sacha Kenyon, Julia Francombe and Moses Lerusion.

All Images and text ©2012 Samburu Trust. All rights reserved.

Image Credits

1,3,4,5,6: S. Kenyon.

2: J. Francombe.

  1. Ambrogio Melosu

    05/04/2012 - 12:31

    Thank you for one other beautiful chapter.

    • Miriam

      26/04/2012 - 06:42

      Hedy Davant This is a lesson to many. No many pploee know anything else that open a tap to get water.I myself can say that I am lucky because as a child we have to go to the well to get our water, did not have electricity either, and that is an advantage rather than a disadvantage .

      • PepeNk

        12/06/2012 - 06:14

        Fatima What an amazing arlctie beautifully written, and compiled with the most stunning photographs. A Big Thanks to everyone who works with the Samburu Trust for putting together this informative arlctie. And of course, my deeper amazement and thanks is also extended to all those who work so tirelessly on the ground to make happy endings like this possible.

  2. Jamie Kenyon

    10/04/2012 - 07:21

    Fantastic! Look forward to learning more about the Morani.

    JK x

  3. Sue Lucas- Sone

    18/04/2012 - 12:15

    Hello Julia. I had intended to visit you all again this year, but have not been able to make it. I plan to next year. I donated to your charity some time ago. I am absolutely appalled and shocked that you are experiencing such devastation and decimation of these elephants. I have walked with them. It is horrible to read that ‘nothing can be done’ to stem the tide of these massacres. I hope to see you and your parents next year. I wish you every possible good fortune in your attempt to care for this species. I will help again soon.
    Sue Lucas- Sone.

  4. Dee

    04/10/2012 - 21:48

    I enjoyed your article. The mission team from my church just returned from Samburu i Sept 2012. We have been setting up churches and drilling wells from the Maasai and Samburu people. We were invited to a Moran village to speak with the tribal elders it was a very enlightening experience to see & hear the signifance of the process to warrior.

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