The Samburu are closely related to the Maasai, the people from whom they mainly descend and with whom they share many customs and traditions. They live in Samburu District in Kenya, a vast area just north of the Equator that is named after this population.
They raise cattle and, in fact, animals are their food, wealth and the central element of Samburu society, like that of the Maasai. Their social structure also resembles that of the Maasai and is divided into age groups. They live in small settlements called “nkang” or “engang”, home to a single family composed of a man and his wives, each of whom is responsible for building and running her own household and performing all the various daily activities. Certain settlements, known as “lorora”, are generally built on hilltops and can comprise up to 20 families.
The Samburu are among the Maa-speaking populations, like the Maasai, but their language is referred to as Samburu. Approximately 95% of the words in both languages are the same. The name Samburu is Maasai in origin and is derived from the word Samburr, the leather bag used and worn by the Samburu to hold various items.
The men and women wear very colourful traditional clothing, paint their faces to highlight their features, and adorn their bodies with jewellery such as colourful necklaces, bracelets and headdresses.