April 10th, 2008
07:21 PM ET

African Warriors in the heart of London

Maasai warriors sit on the 'tube' in London, on their first trip outside of Tanzania. They are in London to run the world famous marathon.


Six Maasai warriors chanting their traditional songs and jumping in their sandals made of car tires, a sight I am used to seeing in Kenya.
But in London?!
It turns out they are here to run the London Marathon, competing in the 26-mile race in their traditional Shuka robes and heavy buffalo hide Elongo shields. Because I've spent time with the tribe in East Africa, I was invited to spend some 'training' time with them.

We first met at Trafalgar Square. Under Nelson's column with the giant lions at its base, their 24-year-old leader, Isaya, directed the chanting that they frequently use to scare off real lions in Northeast Tanzania. I greeted Isaya in his native Kiswahili language, and he was pleased to meet someone based in his homeland.
Since they arrived, the Maasai have become the toast of the town. Fleet Street's reporters have clamored to spend time with them; TV crews have followed their every move. And they seemed tired of the attention. Remember, none had even left their country before, let alone taken a train or a plane or eaten an English breakfast – something the press here absolutely 'ate up'. All a bit overwhelming.



For all the attention, their purpose is to raise money for their tiny village called Eluai, where two out of three children die because of dirty water. They hope to bring in 60,000 pounds (around $120,000) to achieve a permanent water source for their village.

We went with them on their first rides on the subway – called "the tube" here. We admired the tall buildings of the gleaming Canary Warf business area together – they had never seen a building taller than a story or two before their trip.
But all they really wanted to talk about was how they were on a mission. As warriors, or Moran, they have the ultimate responsibility for safety and health in their village. And they are using a pretty spectacular method to secure it.
I asked Isaya though if there's anything else he wanted to do here. Yes, he said, "to see the Queen of England." Perhaps with all the attention they will.
– David McKenzie, CNN Correspondent

UPDATE: Many of you have asked how to help: http://www.maasaimarathon.org/


Filed under: David McKenzie • Maasai
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Michelle, Cincinnati

    My first house cost a little less than the cost for clean water in their village. I hope that this brings awareness to Western Society (America, England, etc…). We have so much wealth; it is the least we can do to give a little help with food and water to Africa. These are basic needs that we take for granted.

    I love this world that we live in. I have my BA in International Studies. I hope that America can see that we live in this world together. We are interdependent and are here to help each other. God did not create us to live alone. When you see earth from space it really helps us to understand that we are one earth and dependent on each other.

    If there is a way to give a donation to this cause then please put it on your web site.

    April 12, 2008 at 10:30 am |
  2. Taj

    I wonder where they get the money for travel, room & board? It is a great education for both.

    April 11, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  3. Barry, IL

    Once we visited Kenya and Tanzania and met the Maasai people. "Warriors" a misnomer for those who do not them. Their spears have more to do with their culture than being aggressive warriors. Maasai people are among the most friendly people one may meet across the world. I never forget their smiles. They received us with smiles from children to elders 24/7, when we were among them.

    April 11, 2008 at 8:18 am |
  4. neecee

    May the spirits of their ancestors guide and protect them on this worthwhile journey.

    April 11, 2008 at 6:34 am |
  5. lizzy

    Habari yako David,

    The Maasai's are beautiful people. I admire their colourful beads and "shuka's" but what I admire most about them is that they still uphold their culture & traditions.

    My regards to you & our Moran brothers. I pray that their mission is a success.

    Asante na kwaheri.

    April 10, 2008 at 10:40 pm |
  6. Jolene

    David: How amazing is this? You must feel very priviledged to be able to join them in their endeavor. I must admit running a marathon in itself is a challenge, let alone doing it in sandals made of tire. I wish them luck and I hope you keep us posted as to how they did.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    April 10, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  7. Suzanne P.

    Their reaction to London makes you look at things with new eyes; the mundane doesn't seem so ordinary anymore.

    I hope they get the money they need – what they are doing to accomplish their goal reminds one that nothing is impossible if you just put your mind and imagination to the problem.

    Suzanne P
    Knoxville TN

    April 10, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  8. Kathylynn

    May God bless them and grant their wishes. Kinda puts things in perspective doesn't it?

    April 10, 2008 at 9:46 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    Hi David,

    I love the picture showing their native dress. It would definitely catch my eye on the subway if they came to the US.

    I hope they achieve their mission; everyone should have a good source of clean drinking water. Is there anyway some of us can contribute to their cause?? I would love to help out. Thanks for telling us their story; its a real upper of a story!!

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 10, 2008 at 7:45 pm |