Page C1.1 . 18 December 2002                     
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    Postcard from Tanzania

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    A Masai house in construction on the Serengeti Plain. Photo: Rob Busby

    Dear ArchitectureWeek,

    While traveling on the Serengeti Plain in Tanzania we visited a Masai village. The village is built in a circle with a large wall around it and several entrances. Every night the Masai bring all their cattle into the center of the village and close up the entrances to protect them from lions and other predators.

    The houses are built by the women of the tribe. They cut down trees that are found in groves scattered throughout the Serengeti. They shape their houses by weaving smaller branches between wood supports stuck into the ground. The women collect cow dung and use it as the surface material for the walls. This practice also serves to clean up the central area of the village. They use grasses and dung for the roof. The smell definitely takes some getting used to! The dwellings are built without a chimney for the kitchen fire. They must depend on the leaks in the walls for cross-ventilation.

    When a man gets married, his wife builds a home for them in his area of the village. When he marries again (he can have up to four wives), the next wife builds her home to the left of the first one. The next wife would then build her home to the right of the first one, and so forth.

    It was a fascinating place to visit.

    On the road in Tanzania,
    Rob Busby

     

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    The typically low entrance to a Masai house. Photo: Rob Busby

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    A Masai tribal leader and his son. Photo: Rob Busby

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    The kitchen area. Photo: Rob Busby

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