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They are the closest relations to the Maasai, their language is also of Maa origin. In 1970 they numbered 55,000. Samburu is reputed to mean "butterfly". There is something very butterfly-like about them, the young warriors appear strikingly effeminate, almost fragile in their slenderness.

They seem delicate where as in fact that impression is deceiving. The young warriors create decorative designs around their eyes by applying colours. They wear their hair finely plaited. In front they fashion a visor with ochre and clay. Unlike their fellow Maasai, they don't smear their entire body with ochre, but make triangular designs down their chests and their backs. Their social structure is divided into three groups: the non circumcised boys, the warriors or moran and the elders.

Like the Maasai the passage from one age-set to another is a good occasion for celebration. The warrior group still assumes a very important role of protection. The stock consists mainly of cattle, goats, sheep and few camels. Because of the progressive desertification of the land, the camel will in the future take a more and more important place in the economic pursuit of the Samburu.


Samburu warriors and herdsmen Matthew's range

Samburu warriors in Northern Kenya Kenya 2007

Samburu women on the road near Maralal. Northern Kenya



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Hammerkop Camp  Masai Mara