Redefining the Luxury Safari Lodge
scouting with Issa at the wheel feels a little like riding with a brand-new
stick-shift driver: there are a lot of abrupt lurches and shuddering stops. It
takes a while before I figure out that Issa, who is piloting the car forward
but craning his heavily beaded neck out the side window, is tracking. When he
sees something—the cloven hoofprint of a giraffe, a kudu-shaped depression in
the dirt, a freshly laid turd—the jeep bucks to a halt. Once he’s assessed the
situation, off we go again in herky-jerky pursuit.
grown fond of Issa over the past couple days. Yesterday, he’d taken a group of
guests to visit a local Masai village, which included a look into the homes of
Shompole’s part owners. I had ducked through the baked-mud doorway of a hut and
into thick, smoky darkness, lit only by embers of the hut’s fire pit.
Encouraged to sit on the occupants’ bed (a straw pallet covered in cowhides), I
had listened as Issa pointed out where everyone—including the goats—slept.
this morning, he’d accompanied another group of us on a bush walk, along a dry
riverbed shaded by fig trees. On the way, he’d imparted traditional bush
medicine tips—how certain brewed plants could treat dysentery; how the
pulverized bark from a particular tree drew poison from a snakebite. But he’d also
talked at length about his own personal life: about his one wife and two
girlfriends (Masai men are polygamous); about what men in his village bartered
in order to marry (cows, blankets, and, in his own case, a jug of home-brewed
liquor). Most unsettlingly, he’d spoken about how Masai women (or “mamas”) are
customarily treated as beasts of burden.
women, they have no rights,” Issa had said, a little sheepishly. “They build
our houses, raise our children, fetch wood and water. But they make no decisions.
That is for the men.
changing,” he’d said. “But it will take a long time, because it is in our