The Samburu
Back to tribes

The Samburu

Nomadic pastoralists

Nomadic pastoralists

Awaken your senses on the sun-soaked plains of Africa, where you’ll meet the Samburu community. Escape your daily routine and experience their nomadic lifestyle, as well as their deep connection to the environment and animals that the tribe depends on for survival.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is Central Africa

  • Climate here is Mild

  • The challenge here is Intense

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

Like Kenya's other pastoralist tribes, the Samburu people rear large herds of cows, sheep and other livestock on the communal land. They stay for as long as there is adequate food and water, then move on once the current pasture has been exhausted.
Home

Home

Every time the Samburu move, they build temporary manyattas (mud-walled, grass-thatched huts) to live in with fenced-off cattle yards. A typical Samburu village normally includes several manyattas.

Culture

Social Structure

The Samburu usually live in groups of five to ten families. Men look after the cattle and are responsible for the safety of the tribe while Samburu women are in charge of gathering roots and vegetables, tending to children and collecting water.

Religion

Traditionally, the Samburu believed in one supreme god, Nkai or Ngai, who was thought to reside in the mountains. While many Samburu people still adhere to their traditional religion, some have now adopted the Christian or Islamic faith.

Traditions

Dancing is very important in the Samburu culture. Routines are similar to that of the Maasai, with men dancing in a circle and jumping very high from a standing position.

Language

The community speaks the same language as the Maasai, Maa.

Art

Pieces are made from local wood, livestock skins, bones and more. While some arts are unisex, men tend to make spears, clubs, swords and shields and women produce colorful cotton dresses, bracelets and necklaces.

Celebrations

The Samburu have several important celebrations focused around coming of age. Weddings feature elaborate rituals where great importance is given to the preparation of gifts for the ceremony.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Like the Maasai tribe, the Samburu people are being pressured by the Kenyan Government to leave their nomadic lifestyle and settle in permanent villages. It is a difficult proposal to accept because it would interrupt their entire way of life and it would be difficult to keep the crops in a permanent place.


Cover photo iStock.com/WLDavies

Samburu warrior
iStock.com/Bartosz Hadyniak

Samburu girls
iStock.com/Bartosz Hadyniak

Samburu jumping dance
iStock.com/Bartosz Hadyniak

Samburu woman and baby
iStock.com/hadynyah

Samburu warriors
iStock.com/hadynyah