In a region of the world that is naturally devoid of color, there exists a culture that more than compensates for their bland environment. Where the ground hardly receives enough precipitation to yield grass, the barren landscape is burnt brown by the sun. Homes are made of cow dung held together with sticks and roofs are thatched with long, dry grass. Though these are very primitive living conditions, the traditional Masai people seem to make it a priority to dress in style. It is an incredible sight to see the bright Red and Orange clothing of the Masai men walking their cattle along the dusty dirt roads. The multi colored necklaces and beaded earrings of the woman dangle and glimmer in the sun. Bright blankets blow in the wind as they wrap around the women carrying their babies and groceries on their backs.
Almost every major city in eastern Africa will host a ‘Masai Market’ where a few locals throw on some traditional Masai clothing and sell touristic weapons, shields, and wood carvings. They’ll sell the bright red blankets worn by traditional Masai and the colorful beaded jewelry that bounces up and down as the Masai women do their dance. Soap stone chess sets are sold alongside ornate carved maps of Africa, both items that would never ever show up in a Masai home, but this market isn’t meant for the Masai. This market is full of over priced souvenirs that, if you are good at haggling, you can argue to a fraction of the ticketed price. The real Masai don’t shop here. Travel 400 kilometers away over the bumpy roads of the Rift Valley and you will find yourself back in a colorful oasis at the market just outside of Masai Mara National Park in the town of Oloolaimutia.
This is the REAL Masai Market. Every Tuesday, the Masai woman covered in vibrant kangas and wearing beads of every color gather to sell and trade their goods. They are not here to buy soapstone chess sets, but fruits and vegetables or maybe some second hand household goods. Rice, maize, and beans are bought in bulk and carried in large bags back to their village. It is honestly one of the most colorful things I have ever experienced. Here in the middle of an African, barren landscape, all sorts of colors are packed into a small, open air market against the backdrop of the Serengeti. It is really one of the most magical experiences. This unique, colorful experience happens only on Tuesdays in this small town just outside the national Park so make sure to plan your trip to Masai Mara accordingly to witness this bright spectacle.