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How would you cope having numerous wives?

Julius in a Maasai hut built by one of the village women.
Julius in a Maasai hut built by one of the village women. Denise Pickering

JULIUS, our Maasai guide, invited us into a traditional village complete with cattle enclosure, outer palisade and mud and cow dung huts.

We met the elders, their wives and families and learnt about the social structure of the homestead, the role of women and many more aspects of their daily life. Interaction and discussion was encouraged. We danced with the warriors and their wives, and they made a fire with stones and sticks.

Tell me about your family. I have two wives and three children. They all live in the village and I join them when I am not working at Camp Olonana.

Two wives - will you take another soon? No, two will be my limit. My father had five but Maasai men are now choosing to have smaller families. I have three children and giving them a good education is my priority.

It must get a little crowded you all living in the one hut. How do you manage the sleeping arrangements? No, each wife has their own hut. When Maasai women marry they must build a hut for their husband.

That's extraordinary. How do they manage to do this? Yes, they build a hut from the ground up from mud and sticks. They carry the water, they do everything except light the fires - that's the Maasai man's responsibility.

How do you split your time between wives. Is jealousy an issue? Oh no, my wives love each other. They care for each other's children and are very happy to share me. If a wife did not like the arrangement I would tell her to go back to her village.

So while the women are building the villages, what do the men do? They look very relaxed. We are Maasai cattle men, so we keep watch on the herds that are free to graze. We walk with the cattle and herd them back at night for their protection from predators such as the lion.

Do you also butcher the cattle for food? Only on special occasions such as a birth, marriage, or death, but we do drink their blood.

Really, how and when do you drink blood? Every day, about a litre, warm and mixed with milk and honey. You must come and try some now.

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