The legend of Noonkiyaa

By Phillip J Briggs and Stephanie Dolrenry

Deep in the the Amboseli ecosystem, where the Lion Guardians are based, there is a certain mystical rocky outcrop that draws many to it. Legend has it that this rock formation has deep wisdom. Its human neighbors refer to it as “Noonkiyiaa” meaning “she of elongated earlobes” in the Maa language because it looks like a stretched earlobe rising out of the surrounding flat grasslands. Maasai men and women consider long stretched ear lobes a symbol of wisdom and respect. This rock is the only in the area that bears a feminine name. Perhaps this is due to its smaller size, or more delicate beauty. Perhaps it is because it has witnessed the births of lions, people, inspiration and dreams. 

A  climber sitting at the  top of the rock, whipped by the wind, has the sensation of being able to fly off the rock, lifting up over of the sea of grass below and up to the looming peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the south, then off to the salty waves of the Indian Ocean lapping to the east. The salty sea air and the thin alpine air seem to fuse together on the top of this rock, giving a person a sense of timelessness. Sometimes, from the top of this rock, you can see a clear path to the moon and back.

At night, if you are lucky and all the right elements align, you can hear several lion prides roaring from all around. As the day dawns, you may see the tawny lions as they gather on the rock, bathed in ethereal orange. Noonkiyaa has heard the cries of the human infants born in its cool crevasses. This life-giving rock has also witnessed the first mews of many a lion cub, nestled deep and safe in secret hidden dens  where no person would dare to venture. But what else Noonkiyiaa has heard both day and night, from humankind and lion-kind alike, would be a story too mysterious for we of short earlobes to comprehend.  

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