Samburu collars. Photo © Pierre Marien.

The Samburu people of Kenya

The Samburu are one of the seven main peoples of Kenya whose origin can be traced back to the Nile region of the Sudan. They are related to the Maasai, but are believed to have broken off from the main Maasai migration around 1600.

The semi-nomadic pastoral Samburu live in the Northern plains of the country, while the Maasai live in the Southern districts. For centuries, they have depended on their herds of cattle, sheeps, goats and camels to survive in the harsh semi-arid environment.

They speak a language of the Maa-group that is closely related to the language of the Maasai and Chamus of Kenya and the Arusha and Parakuyu of Tanzania. In their language the Samburu refer to themselves as Lokop or Loikop, but the etylomogy and meaning of the term is uncertain.

Samburu woman, Kenya. Photo © Pierre Marien.


Samburu woman with child, Kenya. Photo © Pierre Marien.


Samburu warrior, Kenya.


Samburu woman with hat, Kenya. Photo © Pierre Marien.


Samburu warriors, Kenya
Samburu warriors


Three generations of Samburu woman. Photo © Pierre Marien.


Samburu people, Kenya. Photo  © Pierre Marien.


Samburu woman with collar and headband, Kenya. Photo  © Pierre Marien.


Photo credits (top to bottom): all photos © Pierre Marien, except Samburu warrior photos by Retlaw Snellac and bigyahu.