The Maasai People - Maasai Culture, Maasai Tribe Clothing, & Maasai Tribe Facts
The Maasai people (also Masai, Maasais, or the Maa community) are pastoralist people inhabiting much of Central and Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania. They speak the Maa language and are known internationally for their unique culture, dress, and residence around wildlife reserves.
The Maasai tribe lives around the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The 2019 Kenya National census estimates the Maa population at about 1.2 million. And as of 2011, the total population of Masais living in Tanzania was 800,000.
However, you should note that the number is likely to be underestimated due to their nomadic lifestyle. The community occupies a land area of about 160,000 square kilometers. Most of the land lies in the Great Rift valley, and it is mainly arid and semi-arid.
On a safari holiday in the Mara, we take our guests for a cultural experience in Maasai villages. This visit and other factors make the Maasai tribe the most photographed community globally. You get to learn about their century-old culture, traditions, songs, and for a moment, you experience what it is like to be a member of the Maa community.
Maasai People - How to Contact Us - Phone, WhatsApp, & Email Address
Our Most Booked Kenya Safari with Visit to the Maasai Tribe & Other Itineraries
|Our Most Booked Kenya Safari Packages 2023Price Per Adult SharingThe Detailed Itinerary|
|1-Day Nairobi National Park & Giraffe Center Tour||From USD 119||See the Itinerary|
|1-Day Nairobi National Park & Nairobi Animal Orphanage Tour||From USD 34||See the Itinerary|
|3-Day Masai Mara Camp Packages||From USD 1015||See the Itinerary|
|3-Day Masai Mara Christmas Packages||From USD 1010||See the Itinerary|
|3-Day Masai Mara Easter Packages||From USD 985||See the Itinerary|
|3-Day Masai Mara Festive Packages||From USD 1315||See the Itinerary|
|3-Day Masai Mara Lodge Safari||From USD 995||See the Itinerary|
|3-Day Masai Mara Packages||From USD 955||See the Itinerary|
|3-Day Masai Mara Packages from Nairobi||From USD 995||See the Itinerary|
|3-Day Ol Pejeta Easter Safari||From USD 1175||See the Itinerary|
|4-Day Africa Migration Masai Mara Packages||From USD 1360||See the Itinerary|
|4-Day L. Naivasha & Masai Mara Easter Safari||From USD 1249||See the Itinerary|
|4-Day L. Naivasha & Masai Mara Safari||From USD 1174||See the Itinerary|
|4-Day L. Nakuru & Masai Mara Safari||From USD 1162||See the Itinerary|
|4-Day Masai Mara Camp Packages||From USD 1195||See the Itinerary|
|4-Day Masai Mara Easter Packages||From USD 1235||See the Itinerary|
|4-Day Masai Mara Migration Packages||From USD 1360||See the Itinerary|
|4-Day Mombasa & Diani Safari||From USD 937||See the Itinerary|
|4-Day Mombasa & Diani Valentine Safari||From USD 1405||See the Itinerary|
|5-Day Flying Safari to Masai Mara & Ol Pejeta Conservancy||From USD 3777||See the Itinerary|
|6-Day Kenya Wildlife Safari from India||From USD 1730||See the Itinerary|
|7-Day Kenya Christmas Safari||From USD 3093||See the Itinerary|
|7-Day Kenya Wildlife Safari||From USD 1884||See the Itinerary|
|8-Day Kenya Wildlife Safari||From USD 4413||See the Itinerary|
|8-Day Wildlife & Beach Safari||From USD 1585||See the Itinerary|
|12-Day Kenya Wildlife & Beach Safari||From USD 4216||See the Itinerary|
|18-Day Kenya Family Safari||From USD 5849||See the Itinerary|
11 Interesting Maasai Tribe Facts You Should Know, Tradition, and Culture
You shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit a Maasai village whenever you visit Masai Mara or Amboseli National Park. Here are 11 interesting Maasai tribe facts to get you started.
The Masai Were Cattle Rustlers and Fearsome Warriors
The Maasai were known for their fearsome reputation as cattle rustlers and warriors. They raided cattle as far as Tanga in Tanzania using spears and shields. The Maasais were also famous for throwing clubs (Orinka), which they could throw accurately up to 100 meters.
The Masai never condoned slavery, and slave traders searching for slaves avoided their lands because of their hostile Maasai warriors.
Their Language is Called Maa
The name Maasai refers to a person who speaks the Maa language. It is a language primarily spoken and rarely written because of its strong oral tradition. However, the Bible was translated into the Maa language, which uses the Latin alphabet, and there’s also a Maasai dictionary.
They’re Not Exclusive to Kenya
The Maa people have lived in southern and central Kenya for centuries, and due to that, many people believe they are all Kenyan. That is not true; there are over 800,000 Maasai in Tanzania alone.
One thing you might find interesting is that both the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania don’t believe in borderlines. They also have a lot in common, like living in open fields and around game reserves.
Cattle Blood is Part of the Maasai Diet
What? Yes! As bizarre as it sounds, they take the fresh blood of cattle, which is a primary source of their diet. It is a noble act during special events like circumcision or when a lady gives birth.
Today, blood is mainly taken when an animal is slaughtered and forms part of the Maasai tribe food.
Cattle and Children are a Measure of Wealth
Cows are essential in Maasai society and the Maasai culture. The community doesn’t measure valuable materials or money as wealth; instead, a person counts the number of cows he has. A person is considered wealthy only if he has more cattle.
The number of cows the Maasai men own also plays a role when marrying. The number of children one bears also plays a vital role in determining the status of a person in society.
Children are considered a blessing, and the more children a Maasai man has, the wealthier he’s considered.
They Practice Wealth Inheritance
When a man is nearing his death, he calls his sons and divides his wealth among them. Wealth is usually in the form of cattle. What is even more interesting is that whatever the sons get from their father, they give some of the cattle to their eldest brother.
They do so to expel any curse (Engooki) that might come from gaining in their father’s demise at their brother’s expense, who is now the head of the family.
They Practice Polygamy
The Maasai culture allows wealthy men to marry more than one wife. The elders arrange the marriages. Traditionally, men are expected to give their bed to a visiting guest (it is not common today).
The house lady can choose to join the guest in that bed if she wishes. It is worth noting that in Maasai culture marriage, women are much younger than their husbands, even over 30 years younger. There are more windows in the community since women cannot remarry.
Women Build their Homes (Inkajijik)
While the Maa tribe is a patriarchal community, with the elders making all the decisions, the ladies construct the homes (Inkajijik.). These homes are made of mud, sticks, grass, and cow dung.
The women also milk the livestock, supply the village with water, and cook. Men herd the cattle, build protective thorn fences (Enkangs) around the Inkajijik, go hunting, and fight with enemies.
Children are Named after Three Months
Due to the high infant mortality rate in the Maa community, children are only named after they have reached the 3-month mark. The community also has an official naming celebration known as Enkipukonoto Eaji, which means ‘coming out of the seclusion period.’
The mother and the baby are isolated for three months to allow their hair to grow and later shaved during the ceremony. It symbolizes a fresh beginning for the child.
They Used to Hunt Lions
Officially, this practice is illegal in Kenya and Tanzania because lions, like all other precious wild animals, are decreasing at an alarming rate. Over the years, the Maa people took lion hunting seriously (as a rite of passage) before it was outlawed.
Lions were never hunted for fun; it was a way for young warriors to prove their resourcefulness and bravery. This dangerous practice resulted in warriors being injured or killed on rare occasions.
The Maasai Jump Has a Meaning
The Maasais jump (Adamu), performed by men, allows them to showcase their ability and prowess. The Masai Mara tribe believes the higher a man can jump, the stronger he is. Thus, the jump carries a lot of significance in the tribe.
Masai People Origin, History, & Loss of Land
According to their folk literature, the Maasai community migrated from the Nile Valley (present-day South Sudan) in the 15th century. That story is backed up by their Maa language, a Nilotic group dialectal that features idioms spoken in Ethiopia and Sudan.
The tribe arrived at the present-day Maasai tribe location between the 17th and 18th centuries. They displaced and assimilated many of the tribes they came into contact with and gradually expanded their territory.
The Masai territory reached its peak size in the 19th century, with their land stretching across the Great Rift Valley from Mount Marsabit in Kenya to Dodoma in Tanzania.
The 1890s Epidemics (Maasai Emutai)
The period between 1893 and 1902 was marked by contagious rinderpest and smallpox epidemics, which culminated with a two-year drought. According to a German lieutenant, two-thirds of the tribe, 90% of cattle, and half of the wild animals were wiped out.
Loss of Land to Colonial and Post-Colonial Governments
Between 1904 and 1911, the community signed two unfair treaties. The agreement paved the way for the British colonial government to evacuate them from their lands to make more room for settler ranches.
Consequently, the Masais lost 60% of their land and were confined to their present-day counties of Narok, Kajiado, Samburu, and Laikipia. In Tanzania, the German colonial government also evicted them from their fertile lands between Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.
In the early 20th century, a considerable chunk of the tribal land was transformed into wildlife reserves and national parks. Over the years, the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments have been persuading them to give up their semi-nomadic lifestyle in favor of a sedentary and farming lifestyle.
Nevertheless, the Maasais have resisted modernization and have continued to demand grazing rights and access to the numerous game parks in East Africa.
AjKenyaSafaris.com Maasai Cultural Tours - Visiting the Maasai Villages
Arriving at the Masai Village –Explosion of Colors
The first thing you’ll notice on your arrival at the Maasai Village is the ambiance of the colorful nature of the Maasai attires. Besides, the sharp contrast between the bright sheets (Shukas) worn and the surrounding landscape (brown and green) make your adventure like no other.
Also, the colorful beaded jewelry–bracelets, necklaces, and amulets adorned by the Maasai people make the world seem so far away.
What to Expect at the Masai Village
Here you get to experience the Masai singing, dancing, and jumping. The experience gets even more interesting because of the rhythmic call-and-response singing during the Adumu dance. Also, you get a chance to join the Adamu dance circle, which makes your trip with AjKenyaSafari.com even more amusing than you would have imagined.
To culminate the experience, you’ll enter inside an inkajijik, where you get a chance to light the fire using wooden sticks. Note that these are small structures of about 3 x 5 meters and stand only 1.5 meters tall.
You’ll be delighted to witness the Maasai women milking the goats. And if you are lucky enough, the warriors might get back from the hunt while you are still in the village and enjoy their Nyama Choma delicacy.
At the end of the tour, a quick visit to the souvenir market is recommended. You won’t be forced to purchase anything, but you’ll surely be amazed by the beauty of the colorful items on display.
You get to meet the most photographed people and learn about their way of life in the African savannah.
How Much You Should Expect to Spend
AJ Kenya Safaris provides you with the opportunity to tour the famous Maasai village. The tour costs around USD 20, payable to the village chief. Of course, we include it as part of your Masai Mara tour.
We advise you to carry extra cash when visiting the villages for donations, tips, buying souvenirs, and other things–at least USD 50.
The Masai Warriors – Meet the Masai Mara People
One of the most critical features of the Maa community is their warriors (morans). The Maasai morans are well trained and are some of the tallest individuals (standing up to 6’3”). The morans keep long hair and wear red shukas, which symbolize power.
The morans are responsible for protecting their community, land, and cattle. They also perform the Adumu dance and may sometimes be involved indecision-making on some crucial matters in the community.
Maasai People Music and Dance
Maa people’s music is interesting because there are no instruments used except kudu horns, used during special events like the Eunoto ceremony. Everything comes from their voices and can sound monotonous to the listener’s ears–you should perhaps participate to enjoy this music during your Masai Mara safari.
The peak season for dancing and singing is during the rainy season and when celebrating certain rites of passage (e.g., circumcision and marriage.) There is a format for playing this music; usually, the Maasai warriors stand to form a semi-circle or a row.
The warriors dance to the music, jumping as high as possible. The other dancers swing their bodies back and forth and take turns jumping.
Maasai Tribe Clothing
The fabric they wrap around their body is called a Shuka. Although red and blue are the favorite colors of the Maasai community, their clothing varies according to place, age, and sex. For example, young men put on black for a few months after circumcision.
The Masai also wear striped and checkered clothes and colorful African ornaments.
Throughout history, the Masai tribe has practiced a nomadic lifestyle. They depend on indigenous technology and readily available materials to build their homes. Their inkajijiks are designed for people who move regularly, and thus, they are impermanent.
These houses are either loaf-shaped or circular and are usually built by women. The village is surrounded by a circular thorn fence (Enkang) made by the men to protect their homes and cattle from wild animals.
The Maasai People Tribe, Culture, Clothing, & Other FAQ
Visiting the Maasai villages and learning about the Maa’s culture, clothing, beliefs, and more is an integral park of Aj Kenya Safari itinerary to Masai Mara National Reserve. Find out more about these Masai Mara people from the FAQ below.
1. What is the Future of the Maasai Tribe?
The Kenyan and Tanzanian governments have enacted policies to conserve national reserves and parks. These policies have made it hard for the Maasai to maintain their traditional life.
Due to these policies, it might be difficult for the coming generations to learn about the Maasai culture. However, the governments have also implemented projects to help the tribe’s leaders preserve the Masai culture and catch up with the rest of the world.
This includes encouraging children to go to school and the community to shift from the nomadic lifestyle to venture into government roles and businesses. The Maasai still visit major cities wearing traditional cowhide sandals, colorful shukas, and a wooden Orinka.
2. Why Do Maasai Drink Blood?
There are several reasons why the Masai people drink blood, which include:
- During a celebration or when marking special occasions like the birth of a child, circumcision of young men, and a girl’s marriage
- By elders to ease hangovers when they take the traditional beer
- It is considered beneficial to people with weak immune systems, thanks to its high level of protein
3. What Type of Society Are the Maasai People?
The Maasai are a patriarchal society, with the elders making the most important decisions of the community. Retired elders often join them to ensure they make the right decision.
The Maasai people are religious and worship a single god called Enkai or Engai. However, more Maasai have converted to Christianity and Islam due to continued interactions with neighboring communities.
4. Where Do the Maasai Live?
The Maasai tribe dominates the arid and semi-arid plains of the Great Lakes region in East Africa, with the majority occupying the area between Northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya.
That area also hosts the most popular national game reserves and parks: The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti and Ngorongoro in Tanzania. They occupy around 160,000 sq. km. of land and number about 1.7 million people.
Like most tribes living in the Rift Valley, the Masai are pastoral and lead a semi-nomadic lifestyle. They have not adapted to the modern world, and the majority of them still live in rural areas with no formal education.
5. Why Are Maasai so Tall?
Maasai are tall because of the rich calcium diet intake from animal products. They often reach up to 6-foot 3-inch and even seem more elevated than that because of their famous Adamu.
6. What Do Maasai People Eat?
They heavily depend on milk and meat for nutrition. The Maasai people’s traditional diet consists of six foods: tree bark, honey, blood, fat, meat, and milk. Both curdled and fresh milk is drunk. The Maa people take raw milk in a gourd (calabash), often mixed with cattle blood.
7. How Do Maasai Kill Lions?
The Maa would use lethal force to protect their cattle throughout history, often heading out to kill lions that attacked their animals. There were also lion hunts that would act as a rite of passage, symbolizing courage.
They would get armed with spears and head out as early as 5 a.m to start their hunt. The hunt mainly involved tracking the lions and then spearing them to death.
8. Are Lions Afraid of Maasai Warriors?
Lions typically recognize Maasai warriors by their posture, stance, and long stride and often retreat or go into hiding.
9. Why Do the Maasai Jump?
The Maasai jump is called Adamu and is a sort of mating dance. It is a way for a young warrior who has graduated to the warrior group to showcase his strength and attract a potential bride.
10. Where Do the Maasai Get their Clothes?
The Maasai Shuka is a traditional cloth that originated in Kenya and Tanzania. Nobody knows its exact origin because the Masai people used to wear leather-based animal clothing. One theory states that the Shuka came with the Scottish missionaries during the colonial era.
Another one says the Shuka was originally cotton acquired in a trade during the 1960s. They would dye it blue, red, and black with dyes from Madagascar. Today the Shukas are produced in China and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
11. What Do the Maasai Believe In?
The Maasai are monotheistic people who believe in Engai. They believe that their God has a dual nature of both vengeful and benevolent. Laibon is the most important person in their religion.
He is an equivalent of a shaman or a priest, and his roles include prophesying, divination, and healing.
12. What Problems Do the Maasai Face?
Climate change is the number one problem facing the Maasai tribe; it is becoming harder to predict weather patterns and plan their pastoralist lifestyle. Privatization of land is another primary concern for the Maa people, as land is becoming more scarce for their nomadic way of life.
The Maasai people have inhabited East Africa for hundreds of years and have gone against the odds to preserve their old-age rich culture at the expense of modernization. They’re fascinating people, and nothing can be more fun than attending their cultural shows while enjoying a tour in East Africa.