The Maasai Tribe

The Maasai tribe are an extraordinary indigenous ethnic group of semi-nomadic people settled in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Due to their distinct tradition, customs, and colorful garments, the jewelry they wear, the Maasai are among the foremost African ethnic groups that have continued to fascinate tourists making Kenya an iconic African safari destination.

  • History.                                                                                                                                                                       

0ral history says Maasai originated North of lake Turkana in the lower Nile valley. They began migrating south in the 15th century and arrived in the long trunk of land stretching across central Tanzania and northern Kenya during the 17th and 18th centuries. They then covered most of the great lift valley, Dodoma, and mount Marsabit lands.

Maasai people in Tanzania were forced out from their fertile lands between Kilimanjaro mountain and Meru creating enough space for National parks and wildlife reserves, Masai Mara, Samburu, Ngorongoro, Nairobi National Park among others.

  •  Language and culture.  

The Maasai speak Maa language derived from eastern Nilo-Saharan. The Maasai language is so strong and spirited that many other tribes have abandoned their mother tongues in favor of speaking Maa.  They also speak Swahili and English the official languages of Tanzania and Kenya.

Maasai society is firmly patriarchal in nature (men rule) with Maasai men sometimes helped by retired elders to determine major matters of the tribe. Between the ages of about 14 and 30, young men are traditionally known as morans and are isolated in the bush, learning tribal customs and developing strength, courage, and traits for Maasai warriors.

They don’t have formal funeral ceremonies and the dead are left out in the fields for scavengers since it is believed by them that burial is harmful to the soil. Burial has in the past been reserved for great chiefs only.

The Maasai belief system is monotheistic. Their god is called Engai or Enkai. The most important figure is the Laibon a priest and Shaman for traditional healing, divination, and prophecy.

  • Lifestyle.   

Traditionally, all Maasai need to rotate on their cattle which make up a primary source of food. They ate the meat, drank the milk and sometimes blood. Animals were slaughtered for ceremonies and all their clothing, shoes and beddings came from the hides while cow dung was used for building.

In Maasai land, the wealth of a man is measured in terms of children and cattle. Therefore, the more the better. A man with plenty of cattle but not with many children is considered poor and vice versa.

A Maasai myth says that God afforded them all the cattle on earth resulting in the belief that cattle rustling from other tribes is a matter of claiming what is rightfully theirs.

  • Shelter.

Maasai have traditionally relied on readily available materials and indigenous technology to construct their unusual interesting houses. Able-bodied women construct either rectangular or circular houses called Inkajijik.

These impermanent houses were designed because people were always on the move for pasture and water for the cattle. The houses were either circular or loaf-shaped then the villages were enclosed in Enkang (fence) built by men also to protect their cattle from wild animals.

  • Clothing.

This varies by sex, age, and location. Young men wear black for several after circumcision although red is a common color. Black, blue checkered, and striped cloth are also worn together with multicolored African garments.

Visiting the Maasai tribe and learning about their indigenous, remarkable culture is an integral part of many adventure safaris. The warm excited welcome accompanied by Maasai songs and dances which probably you have to join, the explosion of colors and famous tribe will give you all-time memories.

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The Maasai Tribe

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