Fascinating things to know about the Samburu people of Kenya where men wear kilts like the Scottish

Stephen Nartey January 11, 2023
Samburu people. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Gracenaisimoilema

The Samburu people of Kenya live a semi-nomadic life like the Maasai. Their survival depends on their livestock. The Samburu place a significant premium on their cattle, goats, sheep and camels and weave their life and culture around their livestock.

Historians say the Samburu people are a reflection of their tradition and have not shifted from the ways of their forefathers, according to Siyabona Africa.

The priority they place on their livestock is the reason meat is only served on special occasions among the Samburu tribesmen. They complement their diet with vegetables, roots and tubers, which they use in the preparation of their soup.

The women are the ones tasked with collecting vegetables and roots. They take care of the children and collect water for the home. They are assisted by their girl children who help with domestic chores. In the Samburu culture, it is the elders who rule the tribe and decide for the community. The elders structure the calendar for annual and important ceremonies such as weddings and circumcisions.

The customs of the Samburu state that before a maiden or a young man is ushered into adulthood, they must be circumcised. One is barred from marrying if they are not circumcised. Boys are considered warriors (a Moran) once they are circumcised.

The Samburu are noted for their traditional dresses. They usually adorn themselves in a cloth which they wrap around their waist like a skirt and add a white sash to it. The men typically wear pink or black cloth in a manner similar to a Scottish kilt and adorn themselves with bracelets, necklaces and anklets. The women, on the other hand, keep their hair shaven and wear two cloths. They wear one around the waist and the other around the chest. The women choose either blue or purple color.

The women also wear colorful beaded earrings, bracelets, anklets and necklaces. The jewelry they wear symbolize their status in society.

The Samburu tribe consider dancing a very important aspect of their culture. The men dance in a circle while jumping high from a standing position. They don’t add any instruments while they dance and sing. The Samburu co-exist peacefully and are usually found in the wild of Kenya’s countryside.

They prefer living in locations where there is enough grass for their livestock. They often change their location when the land becomes dry. They construct huts using hide, mud, and grass mats strung over poles.

They build a fence around the mud huts to shield them away from wild animals. Their settlements are called manyattas. The Samburu live in a family of five and ten. The men are the custodians of the cattle and the safety of everyone in the village.

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