A day in Talis’ manyatta starts before dawn.

The fire inside the house has been stoked periodically all night and it’s built up again at dawn to make sweet sweet chai. This is delicious Kenyan tea boiled in goat, camel, or cow’s milk with numerous spoons of sugar in every cup.

It’s the great Samburu social pastime, in most houses this is the one time of day a family will get to spend together alone. Many cups of chai are consumed first thing to build up a good sugar high that will last you through the day until your one meal in the evening.

1. morning chai in Talis’ house

The goat kids begin calling for milk when the sun hits the horizon and the mamas free them from their enclosures. All animals are milked and inspected individually before the day’s grazing begins and the same happens again at night. Most people in the manyatta will know every animal individually by sight and character.

2. Lemaan preparing to leave with the goats in the morning

Different groups in the community graze different animals throughout the day. Generally children take care of the goats (they can be as young as 4), older children may take care of calves, sheep or camels.

Donkeys will be grazing if they’re not fetching water and no birds are kept because traditionally the Samburu don’t eat anything that walks on two feet. However this is slowly changing, because of increased droughts many are coming to appreciate how nutritious eggs are for children.

The moraani (warriors) look after the cattle, it’s their sole purpose. Cattle are sacred, much more important than people. They are the family’s wealth and energy source and moraani are obsessed, gladly giving their lives for them.

This is so important that the moraani live secret lives. When a boy is considered to be strong enough he is sent out with the warriors to take care of the cattle. This is a huge moment of pride for the family.

3. moraani with cattle

During the day the elders take care of business and mamas (married women) take care of the children and run the manyatta, it’s a standard patriarchal society.

Around noon most activity will grind to a halt as the heat builds up on the plains. While it is very hot by 10am, in drought (vast majority of the year) the dry heat intensifies through the afternoon as the ground bakes.

The temperature wont reach its peak until 4pm, then at 5pm it will drop tens of degrees in an hour. The ground will still be warm to the touch until early in the morning.

4. Talis’ first wife collecting firewood

In my first few days in the bush I experienced heat properly for the first time. It wasn’t the temperature as much as it was facing up to the incredible distances Samburu calmly travel in such a challenging environment.

So while carefully focusing on the hours of walking ahead and not my dwindling water, heat would form this impenetrable barrier in my mind. Then suddenly degrees would melt away and the landscape would transform into this immense sunset calm.

Arriving back into the manyatta at dusk everything would be coming alive as the social time of day begins. Mamas prepare for the evening and the animals begin to return. Everyone’s focus is on the animals, they are milked and then everything is checked to make sure it’s in safe for the night.

5. Talis’ dad bringing in a new gate for the manyatta

After this the manyatta comes together in small groups to discuss the day. Everyone takes chai and divides into groups to have a meal; generally elders, moraani, and mamas and children.

Eventually the thorny acacia branch gates are closed, everyone peels off to bed and the sounds of the evening bush take over.

6. checking goats under moonlight before being put away for the night


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
1-6: S. Kenyon.

  1. Hedy Davant

    29/02/2012 - 04:22

    Nicely narrated and good pictures too. XXX

  2. Ambrogio Melosu

    29/02/2012 - 05:48

    More i read the story, the more i desire to see in person the Waso. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jessica

      28/04/2012 - 04:42

      .its a really aminazg story u got there love the way its all been put together .the characters, the backdrop, the story telling n attention to details bt still not completely revealing it its all to aminazg .i’m just another ordinary reader bt still gotta admit its really really aminazg . keep up ve good work is all i can say to conclude with . \(^_^)/XD -already a fan, Shantanu

  3. Annie Tempest

    29/02/2012 - 18:24

    Lovely. Enjoyed very much and the pics lovely too.

  4. Jamie Kenyon

    01/03/2012 - 06:18

    I look forward to reading each one, the photos display a story alone. But impressive and interesting writing to accompany each. x

  5. jane griffin

    01/03/2012 - 10:23

    Wonderful reading and amazing vision to compliment. x

  6. Di Hoare

    03/03/2012 - 22:10

    Sasha, I am enjoying reading your Blogs and the pictures are really great. Well done and I hope it is all bringing lots of publicity to the Samburu Trust.

  7. Jacqueline

    21/03/2012 - 13:45

    A better magazine theme will make the blog looks nicer:)

  8. Camilla Luddington Interview

    01/04/2012 - 03:17

    I am extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one these days..

  9. Lu Heinis

    26/04/2012 - 17:39

    I just added this web site to my feed reader, very good stuff. Can’t get enough!

  10. Mackenzie Baskerville

    25/07/2012 - 13:45

    As soon as I observed this internet site I went on reddit to share some of the love with them.

  11. Lekipotencja

    14/09/2012 - 19:08

    Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful post. Thanks for supplying these details.

  12. Wanita Keylon

    07/11/2012 - 22:47

    Useful material, many thanks for sharing them in this posting.

  13. Merle Julca

    20/12/2012 - 02:45

    I love reading through an article that will make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

Post a Comment