I remember when I was growing up, we heard stories about the Karamojong. I heard they lived a simple life, drank cow blood and had few possessions– not even clothes. It was really interesting to hear all about this. When I saw them on TV I was intrigued.
A leader of a tribe. Photo by Paul.
My client and two Karamajong warriors.
The Karamojong have survived years of insecurity in north-east Ugan
da where they lived. There were disputes with cattle and herders owning guns to protect their livestock. I remember my teacher telling us the Karamajong believe all the cows
in the world belong to them. The disputes led to violence which led to loss of life. Some left the region out of fear for their safety. It was not until 2005 when the government outlawed guns that peace returned.
There are tons of cows in this region.
Early this year I had the chance to visit the region with a client and it was unforgettable. We broke our journey in two by stopping over Sipi Falls and then continued to Moroto. It is not advisable to travel all this journey in one day. Moroto is a district in Northern Uganda about 405 km from Kampala going via Mbale.
Upon arriving we noticed the style of huts (manyatas) are different. They are small and the entrance is very tiny for security purposes. The Karimojong are naturally tall and skinny so entering their homes isn’t an issue.
The tiny entrance into the Manyatta.
A big food storage pot.
A young boy milking a goat.
The new generation of Karamojongs are clothed. Women wear hand- made woven skirts made from a blanket known as “Nakatukok” with unique jewelry. The men usually tie a blanket around their waistline topped with a vest or nothing above the waist if they feel like it. Their blankets are used to cover themselves overnight when they go grazing and spend the night in the kraal. They also have a special kind of a tiny wooden sitting stool they travel with used as a pillow or sitting.
Animals are very important when you live a nomadic life. There were tons of goats in the compound and the cows were out grazing. Usually livestock is used for transaction purposes. For example, if I want my child to go to school, I might as well hand in some goats instead of cash. The more cows you have, the more your wealth. You may also have more wives hence becoming a chief of the village.
A Karamojong diet includes milk, meat, cow blood and sorghum. Nothing sweet. No oils for cooking. You can’t notice but wonder when you see seniors with strong teeth how much food consumption plays a part in their health.
The men tie a blanket around their waists.
Woven skirts by the Karamajong women.
We were lucky when we arrived, it was the community get to together and dance. The dancing movement required lots of energy with high jumps! It’s kind of similar to how the Masai dance themselves. After 30 minutes we were exhausted!
We were taken to a Kraal where we had to spend a night with some nomadic warriors along with kids aged 4 to 10 grazing cows, sheep and goats. It’s believed teaching these skills to the youth prepare them to be responsible men. With our camp fire lit, we listened to stories while we stared at the sky, the stars were very bright with refreshing air. The next morning we woke up to a gorgeous sunrise behind Moroto Mountain! You cannot miss this. Be sure to be up by 6:20 am at the latest.
Our camp Fire.
A kid having raw milk and fresh blood from a cow.
Sunrise over Mt Moroto.
We rode our bicycles to some other communities with Mount Moroto in the distance. I, myself, am not a good cyclist but we had a wonderful team of leaders who led us through the trails and were very concerned about our safety. It was a great work out for the day.
Having a rest after cycling.
At the end of the trail.
If you have more time, there are trails that you can hike on Mount Moroto where you can immerse yourself into the daily life of the Tepeth community who are believed to be the indigenous owners of the Karamoja savanna. How they’ve built their huts on top of the toppling rocks along Nadukon valley is a marvel.
This Northern part of Uganda is rich in nature inhabited by a people who have not forgotten their humble roots. There is so much to do and experience! You’ll love it!