Maasai warrior Lempuris Lalasho went to Kenya’s tourist haven Mombasa to find a white woman to marry, but he ended up working as a hairdresser, a profession that is taboo in his culture.
His story opens a window on the strains faced by this ancient tribe as it adjusts to modern life in east Africa’s largest economy, whose Indian Ocean beaches lure thousands of tourists, including women seeking sex.
Maasai warriors, or moran, are a familiar sight on Kenya’s beaches and in its renowned safari parks — dressed in distinctive red robes and wearing beaded jewellery, they often act as guides or work in security.
But sometimes, the eager young men who flock to the coast hoping to make their fortunes — some with dreams of marrying a white tourist — have to go against their traditions.
Lalasho’s status as a moran means he is charged with protecting and providing for his people, and it makes his transgression all the more serious.
Maasai warriors are not allowed to touch a woman’s head: it is regarded as demeaning in the patriarchal culture. Moran who become hairdressers risk a curse from the elders, or could even be expelled from the community.