A Samburu wedding celebration in northwestern Kenya

Our recent safari to Kenya was enriched by the traditional culture of the local Samburu people. Samburus are a Nilotic people who originated in the Sudan. It is believed that they came to Kenya in the 15th century. Unlike their close relatives, the Masai, Samburus chose to stay in an arid part of Kenya. This allowed their culture to remain undisturbed by the British colonialists

We were invited to a local wedding in a village that consisted of three homes. One each for the father of the groom, the groom and his brother. We will show you village life in a later blog.

A tradition in celebrations is for the men to sing unaccompanied by any musical instruments. The song repeats over and over and is a plea to Nkai, the Samburu god, for just enough rain to keep their cattle healthy. Both men and women dance. Those who choose to join the dance are making it known that they are open to sexual relations. 

In the Samburu tradition, a young woman is ready to marry at about 12 years of age. The red necklace signifies that her father has chosen a husband for her. Before marriage, sexual relations are encouraged, but not childbirth. If she becomes pregnant before marriage, she will have to abort. Any boyfriend that she had before marriage will have to be forgotten as she goes to live in the home and village of her new husband, whom she has never met before. 

 The man on the right is the lucky groom. He told me that he is looking forward to a meal prepared by his new wife on the night of their wedding. When I asked if she is a good cook, he said he did not know as he had never met her before. 

This matriarch, as is the tradition, has cut her hair short. Her three earrings tell us that she has three sons. Her beautiful necklace was probably made by her.  Although both men and women wear expensive and labor intensive jewelry, only the women make it.  

The young local lady in the photo had readily offered to let one of us try on her beautiful necklace. She has recently graduated from high school and has decided that an early marriage is not for her. She would like to continue her studies if she can find the financial resources to do so. As she speaks English well, she will probably succeed in getting a good job. 


We found the people very friendly. These young boys go to school where many learn English as well as Swahili and their local Samburu language.

  This warrior was rightly very proud of his carefully coiffed long braids, a tradition among young men. 

He had come on a motorcycle and, surrounded by his friends, looked fierce until I approached to ask to take his picture.

Samburu warriors or morans are in high demand as guards.

This dancer spent much of her time at the center of the dance circle. Her high degree on concentration allowed me to take a close picture of her without disturbing her. 

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  • Glad to see you enjoyed it, Andrea. It was a very touching and learning experience for us.

    • cindy
  • Thanks for sharing your personal experience with this culture and group! How special to see it through your eyes! Loved it!

    • Andrea Gold