Sayu Cave and the Shai

The Sayu Cave is one of the three caves found on the Shai Hills Resource Reserve (see Matt’s post below for more information on the reserve). The entrance can be seen in the picture on the left. This and two other caves ¬†on the preserve were used by the Shai as both meeting places and hideouts from enemies. Smaller passageways leading to the cave could be blocked with boulders to prevent access and serve as a safe haven. The high ground presented a strategic advantage for both surveillance and defense.

In the picture on the right, it may look as if Najid Sultan is sitting on a random rock ledge, but the seat is actually where the chief would sit when Shai meetings were held within the Sayu Cave. Located off-picture to Najid’s left is an alcove that once served as the bedroom for the chief and chieftain. To this day, however, the caves still have significant ethnic purpose. During September and October, locals come together for the Manyam festival. The Sayu and the other caves are locations for important rituals during the celebration.